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Kill Bill: Volume One - 'It's a straight ahead, heart pumping, wow that was a night at the movies!'



Feature by: Jack Foley

QUENTIN Tarantino doesn’t do anything by half measures, so when he set out to ‘create one of the greatest, most exciting sequences in the history of cinema’, audiences knew they were in for something special.

Hence, when Uma Thurman, clad in a yellow boiler suit, walks into a crowded restaurant, armed with only a samurai sword, and squares off to 80-plus adversaries, all dressed in black, for the blood-soaked finale of Kill Bill: Volume One, you can almost hear a pin drop, such is the breathless anticipation ahead of what is to follow.

Twenty minutes later, you emerge from the cinema exhilarated and knowing that the director has achieved what he set out to.

For Kill Bill is exactly what Tarantino had envisaged - ‘a straight-ahead, heart-pumping, sit on the edge of your seat, wow, that was a night at the movies kind of thing’, which succeeds in its desire to get audiences off.

And speaking at the London press conference, ahead of the premiere of the movie last Thursday (October 2), with stars Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah and Julie Dreyfus for company, the director remains unapologetic for delivering such a violent, straight-ahead thrill ride.

"It can be said, you know, well, where’s the resonance?" he continued. "And my feeling is that it’s there… but you don’t need it, alright?

"Growing up, when I watched Avenging Eagle, or Five Fingers of Death, I wouldn’t think, ‘where’s the resonance’? I was getting off, man! This was the shit, so that’s where I was coming from. I think it’s there, but it don’t have to be there. It’s there if you want it."

Kill Bill is a movie told in the tradition of the Asian kung-fu movies of the Seventies, as well as the Westerns of Sergio Leone, which centres around The Bride (Thurman), who awakes from a coma, vowing revenge, four years after her former crime boss, Bill, has ordered her assassination during her wedding day.

Split into two parts, Volume One finds her tracking down the first two members of the elite assassination squad responsible for the wedding day massacre, while Volume Two, which follows next February, offers the mouthwatering prospect of her finding, and killing, Bill.

But while the director is understandably cagey about giving too much away concerning what comes next - pausing only to state that, ‘now it’s easy to get lost and to lose your way as far as The Bride’s journey is concerned... things aren’t one, two, three, and real life rears its ugly head into her journey’ - he is understandably excited about being asked to comment on Volume One.

In fact, time spent in the director’s company is almost as exhilarating as watching one of his films, such is the infectious energy he exudes when talking about his work.

Take, for instance, his co-star, Dreyfus, who found out, first-hand, just what lengths Tarantino was prepared to go to in order to get what he wants.

The actress stars as a fringe member of the assassination squad The Bride is going after and, during one of the film’s bloodier moments, loses her arm to a samurai sword, which required plenty of make-up.

Far from allowing the specialists to create the desired effects, however, she quickly found Tarantino, himself, taking over.

"We ended up doing this scene at the last minute, when production had decided to head back to LA with all the American blood," she explained. "The make-up artist was spraying my face, and trying to keep me looking beautiful, and Quentin would be going, like, 'more'.

"So she would put a couple more droplets, and he'd go 'more', and then finally he lost patience and picked up this great big bottle of Chinese blood, which is very different, and poured it on top of my head.

"At first, I couldn't see what I looked like, because I was in the boot of a car, but when I got out, all you could see was the white of my eyes...."

Adds Tarantino, from behind a trademark giggle: "I wasn’t asking for more bass, you know, I was asking for more blood. She just got her arm cut off, for Christ's sake!"

Similarly, Thurman recalls how the shoot for the same sequence had been ‘deceptively expanded’ by the director.

"In normal film world language, when you look on the schedule, or when you look at a 220-page script, and your director says this is going to be a 90-minute film, you start to think that this means this is going to be quick," she revealed, with a knowing laugh.

"On the schedule, that sequence was meant to be two weeks, so in any normal movie, if the sequence were to, say, go a third, or 50 per cent, or double this time, it would be considered a cataclysmic failure on the part of production, so you kind of believe that these are rules that might apply.

"Eight weeks later, when I walked off that set, covered in blood, with my sword and my beautiful fight scene behind me, I fell to my knees, and felt that I had been involved in something, and done something, that was going to break every rule of cinema."

Little wonder, then, that Tarantino deliberately chose to put the sequence together in China, in order to be able to have the time to do it justice.

"I wanted to shoot the Chinese way, which, as opposed to the American way, they don't give a damn about the schedules," he explained. "The films there are cheap enough, and you can just keep shooting until you get it right, as opposed to America, where everywhere schedule is God.

"I wasn't going to settle for anything but one of the best action scenes ever made, and that takes time. I mean, if you're going to make a giant omelette for everyone in the room, you've got to break some eggs."

As tough as filming with Tarantino sounds, however, the rewards are massive - both in terms of audience enjoyment and in reviving the careers of so many actors.

Without question, the director has a flair for the extreme, which also wrapping everything in really dark humour. Hence, from the opening moment of Kill Bill, which finds a bruised and battered Thurman fighting for life, having been shot at her wedding, while Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang, Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down’ plays in the background, audiences know that this is the blackest of black comedies.

"I've been violent before, but I've never done it in such an outrageous way," he agrees. "Not that I have any problem with it when it's not outrageous, but this [Kill Bill] is definitely taking place not on planet earth.

"It actually uses a lot of Japanese film-maker influences, where it's a standard staple in Japanese cinema to cut somebody's arm off and have them have water hoses for veins. So I'm keeping that tradition alive."

So did Tarantino create a wish-list of violent deaths before starting to film the climactic sequence, or do such excesses come naturally?

"Oh yeah, I was trying to think up every inventive, most entertaining way, I could of dismembering and disembowelling, or putting to an end those bastards," he adds, excitedly.

"I was out there trying to create one of the greatest, most exciting sequences in the history of cinema, so I was definitely working overtime.

"What do I want to see? What haven't I seen? It took about a year to write that fight sequence. But one of the things I'm most proud of about it, is the fact that the movie doesn't stop while that scene goes on, I think there is actually storytelling going on in the course of it."

Tarantino now heads back to LA to put the finishing touches to Volume Two, before then turning his attentions to a World War Two epic he has penned.

But one thing is for certain, the director has no intention of slowing down, or reigning himself in, when it comes to dealing with his subject matter, for when asked whether there were any genres he wouldn’t want to tackle, he replied.

"I'm not really a big fan of Victorian movies. They're not my kind of movies. For the simple fact that movies about knuckling under to society, or trying to fight society and being knuckled under because of it, or those that I consider to be movies about people who are following rules, or who are destroyed for breaking rules, they're so polite, and I'm not really interested in that.

"I like movies about people that break rules, or movies about mavericks, and I don't like movies about people who have been pulverised for being a maverick."

So cinema’s own maverick looks set to continue breaking the rules for some time yet, which can only mean music to any film buff’s ears!

 

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