Wednesday, 15 June 2011
With news that the special release promised us long ago with the two movies reconciled into one might actually be on the horizon as Kill Bill- The Whole Bloody Affair my interest has been renewed. Kill Bill Volume 2 was on tv a few weeks ago and I decided to watch it having only seen it once before and last night I rewatched Volume 1, my favourite movie of all time.
Not only are the two very different movies but you don't even need to have seen one to follow two, not really as the plot turns from revenge to a reuniting between a rather twisted family. 2 is good but whilst it has all the plot and deep dialogue it lacks the bloody action and memorable characters that 1 delivered (not that Budd, Elle and Pai Mei are without their charm or Bill for that matter). 1 is a gritty revenge movie narrated coolly by the wronged heroine The Bride whose name is kept a mystery, it opens first with an action filled fight in a living room between Pasadena homemaker Jeanne Bell who is not the simple housewife and mother she appears to be. After the messy fight is interrupted by the return of Nikki Bell from school The Bride treats us to information that reveals why she is attacking this housewife and links up to the opening scene of The Bride being shot. Jeanne Bell was once Vernita Green codename Copperhead one of 6 members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who wronged The Bride.
Most people know the plot of the two movies by now and if you don't wikipedia it. As it is Volume 1 is a treat of chaotic sword fighting with implausible psychotic characters, an excellent anime interlude and action that mostly takes place in Japan. it follows The Bride as she wakes from the hospital without her baby and missing four years of her life and takes her on the start of her revenge journey first to O-Ren Ishii aka Cottonmouth the easiest member to find as she is now leader of the Yakuza clans.
O-Ren Ishii is my favourite character from the movie because we learn the most about her and her past is told in epic anime form courtesy of Production I.G (Blood: The Last Vampire, Blood+, Ghost in the Shell). She is a ruthless character hardened by a brutal childhood in which she witnessed the murder of her father and mother at the hands of Boss Matsumoto and his minions and then took her revenge at 11, when she was able to get close to Boss Matsumoto thanks to him being a paedophile. Naturally this violent upbringing led to her being one of the top assassins by age 20 and no doubt soon after she found her way to Bill.
There is several implications that O-Ren and Beatrix were once close friends, one being that Beatrix knows her colourful childhood history, another being the way they converse particularly with the 'Trix are for kids' line, which seems to be a thing they have then O-Ren's request for forgiveness for insulting Beatrix by making her fight all her minions and the sad expression on Beatrix's face. Of course if they did have such a close friendship why did O-Ren betray her? Despite her apology for insulting Beatrix she offers none for her past actions and shows no guilt unlike Vernita. Either she betrayed Beatrix because she felt Beatrix had betrayed herself and the others (certainly Bill felt this way), she was obeying Bill's orders because her loyalty was to him before Beatrix (he financed her uprise in Japan) or she simply did not care.
O-Ren comes across as a complicated ruthless woman on the one hand you have to feel somewhat empathetic to her cold, bloody nature given her horrific childhood but on the other hand despite such a past she's still an adult responsible for her choices including her role in the Two Pines Massacre. Her gang the Crazy 88 are cocky and immature, bossy around the management of the House of Blue Leaves, and show themselves to be immature and inexperienced given that despite their numbers none of them can best Beatrix or even show a real threat to her, not even their leader Johnny Mo. It shows that whilst O-Ren can govern numbers and discipline them to an extent (even after the first few die by Beatrix's blade the others still willing go to face their death on behalf of O-Ren) she is no good at teaching them manners or making sure that their skills are up to scratch. They are deliquents rather than swordmasters. Even their masks seem a childish show of playing the bad guys rather than a sign of mystery and threat.
O-Ren chooses Gogo Yubari as her personal bodyguard, a seventeen-year-old psychotic schoolgirl who participates in underage driving and drinking and wanton murder. She infamously wields the manriki or chain mace in a brilliant fight scene with Beatrix in which she comes out the loser thanks to an unfairly placed piece of wood with nails in it. Choosing a schoolgirl as your bodyguard seems a tad crazy but given Gogo's ruthless skills with both a tanto and her chain mace you can see why O-Ren trusts her. That and maybe she sees something of herself in her being a murderous schoolgirl once herself. Gogo is my second favourite character and it was good to learn a little more about her from the Kill Bill script, in the original script she had less dialogue and an older sister called Yuki and she was to die fleeing from Beatrix and having a chunk of her leg removed before being killed. Naturally I'm glad Gogo got to say the few words that she did and died a braver death. Yuki would have been nice to see, she was meant to be played by Kou Shibasaki of Battle Royale fame but Kou had to turn the part down.
It would be nice to learn more of Gogo's background and maybe with the rumoured prequels and sequels we might and maybe Yuki will get appearance after all. It would be great to learn more about the other Vipers as well, especially poor Vernita whose role is minimal at best and it would be great to see them altogether before Beatrix left them and they put her in a coma.
Taking a U-turn back to O-Ren Ishii it was pretty great to see her playing tribute to Lady Snowblood, wearing a white kimono and having her finale fight with Beatrix in the snow. Lady Snowblood inspired Kill Bill in that a woman is wronged and sets on a path of revenge chasing up a list of people. Whilst in Kill Bill it is the wronged woman herself going after revenge in Lady Snowblood it is the woman's daughter Yuki who takes up the sword to avenge her family. Kill Bill parallels some scenes from Lady Snowblood including the group shot of the villains, the geysers of blood and the leading sword wielding lady in white (Yuki and O-Ren), the surviving daughter of a slain villain and the ending song. There are more no doubt as one essay sums up along with general points about Kill Bill itself Kill Bill Essay.
Kill Bill like Quentin Tarantino's other movies is essentially a tribute movie, which helped introduce me to Lady Snowblood as one of the movies that inspired it. Kill Bill Volume 1 is a revenge movie with a simple straightforward plot mildly confused by being shown out of order, The Bride is a woman attacked on her wedding day, she is the sole survivor believing the other nine, including her unborn daughter, to be murdered and after waking up from a coma she is shown as a remorseless woman without forgiveness or compassion set on revenge. So she draws up a list- O-Ren Ishii, Vernita Green, Budd, Elle Driver, Bill and works her way through it first with O-Ren then Vernita.
Kill Bill Volume 2 complicates this with the twist that her daughter is alive, not that she knows this and when Elle deprives her of her revenge on Budd she leaves her blind but not dead, thus seemingly abandoning a certainty of revenge. Presumably Beatrix, as she has now been named, assumes Elle will die from the trauma or she thinks being blind is enough of a punishment and revenge for Elle murdering her master Pai Mei. Kill Bill Vol 2 offers more backstory on Beatrix, showing her training with Pai Mei, her close relationship with Bill, finding out she was pregnant and the infamous wedding party, which was actually a wedding rehearsal. We now realise that Bill's arrival to the wedding do was not the surprise we thought, yes it was a surprise but there was dialogue before the massacre, Beatrix knew he was there and talked to him, trusting that he had come in friendship. This shows us that Beatrix loved Bill enough not to see through this facade, and made the mistake of thinking he loved her enough not to kill her.
The conclusion is poignant and sad for all his evil deeds you almost want Bill to live and have a family with Beatrix and B.B and the idea is presented when Beatrix finds B.B with Bill and he is unsurprised to see her and unafraid as he thinks B.B will fix everything. For a while Beatrix stays with her daughter and the revenge is prolonged but the movie is called Kill Bill and he is the last to go so it is only right to complete the film in that manner.
Thus we have Kill Bill summed up as movie of revenge, revelations and broken hearts as Beatrix turns from wronged bride to deceived mother who goes from wanting to destroy everyone who wronged her to seeking a life with her daughter. A life which Kill Bill 3 will presumably ruin when Vernita's wronged daughter Nikki comes looking for her own revenge.