Quentin Tarantino, Andrei Tarkovsky, Béla Tarr, Jacques Tati, Bertrand Tavernier, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, André Téchiné, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Johnnie To, Jacques Tourneur, François Truffaut, Tsai Ming-liang, Tsui Hark, Tom Tykwer



Tabakman, Haim


EYES WIDE OPEN (Eynaim Pekukhot)            B                     84

Israel  France  Germany  (90 mi)  2009


Shot entirely in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, this is literally an exposé on the profound social effects a same sex love affair between two men living as Orthodox Jews has on a small, close-knit Orthodox community in Jerusalem.  The film is relentless in its near documentary depiction of religious study meetings with the rabbi in a yeshiva, a Torah study group including songs of prayer, where they discuss the meaning of faith and God’s existence, as well as what it means to be an Orthodox Jew.  This entire community consists only of ultra pious citizens where everyone knows everyone else’s business, where together they all feel connected to God’s will.   With the hats, the beards, the coats, and the constant prayers in common, there is little doubt that the practice of religion all but consumes the daily lives of these citizens.  Zohar Strauss plays Aaron, a humble, humorless, and straightforward man who takes over his father’s kosher butcher shop after his father passes.  He’s married with four children where home life resembles the modest manner of the American Amish, where everyone dresses plain and wears a cover for their hair.  On a rainy night, (Israeli singer and celebrity sensation) Ran Danker as Ezri shows up out of the blue but is unable to contact his friend who refuses to speak to him, so he’s stuck most of the evening at Aaron’s meat shop, eventually staying on as the butcher’s assistant sleeping in a storeroom upstairs.  Despite the community outrage over this new arrival who is seen as scandalizing the entire community, Aaron refuses to send him away and instead falls in love with him.  Initially Aaron felt they were strong enough to resist temptation, to acknowledge restraint, to maintain his religious identity, but ultimately they become lovers.


Both men regularly attend the study groups, but they draw the ire of the community’s Decency Police, a morals committee usually led by the rabbi and several respected members of the community when they believe someone is no longer in adherence to God’s law, where they take all necessary steps to eradicate any departures from the norm.  Aaron even participates in a visit when the group is forced to intervene with a man who is romancing a young girl who is engaged to another.  In this case, it was the girl’s father who initiated the action by pleading to the rabbi for some relief.  But when this same group without the rabbi starts making intimidating visits to Aaron, threatening to close down his shop, starting rumors his meat is not kosher, the two become ostracized.  This couldn’t be more underplayed, as the rhythm of the film is established through daily routines that become more familiar over time, where the interaction between people is quiet and soft-spoken, where even the husband and wife sleep in separate beds which are joined together for conjugal intimacy.  This film doesn’t fully address the subject of gay love within the Orthodox community, as Aaron is by no means gay, he’s simply found someone he loves who makes him feel “alive,” but it certainly paints a witchhunt mentality of righteousness and moral indignation, casting out those who dare to defy the norm, leaving the ending a bit ambiguous, but certainly the painful struggle within Aaron’s family and his own internal conflicts of unending self incriminations are evident.  The musical score by Nathaniel Mechaly has the classical feel of an organ and violin concerto that offers a wall to wall sound design that borders on the mournful and the sacred.  


Historically, the Torah does not consider homosexual attraction sinful, only acting upon it through intercourse is forbidden according to Levicticus 18:22, calling it an abomination, a deviation from the natural way.  Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits in the original release of the Encyclopedia Judaica writes:


Jewish law [...] rejects the view that homosexuality is to be regarded merely as a disease or as morally neutral.... Jewish law holds that no hedonistic ethic, even if called "love", can justify the morality of homosexuality any more than it can legitimize adultery or incest, however genuinely such acts may be performed out of love and by mutual consent.


However, these views are currently undergoing a more modern revision, where at least a small number of modern Orthodox rabbi’s have viewed homosexuality as an accident beyond one’s control, therefore not subject to prosecution.  Though largely rejected by the majority, it’s important to consider that essential elements of Judaism include compassion, sympathy, empathy, and understanding, all of which are forgotten by the so-called Decency Police, whose actions themselves are called into question.  


I made an inquiry to my Jewish nephew whose relatives all live in Israel who is currently studying for his Ph.D. in Yiddish:


As to the status of homosexuality in Jewish law and in the Jewish community, it's important to remember that there are many such laws and communities. There is no Jewish pope and no central authority for deciding things, so every community pretty much does its own thing. The Reform Jews don't even formally accept the legitimacy of Jewish law, they have a thoroughly modern and democratic (you might say secular) concept of ethics. The Conservative movement pays lip service to Jewish law, but in general they are able to reinterpret most anything to make it fit a modern worldview. 2 or 3 years ago they began accepting openly gay rabbinical students.

The Orthodox are divided into modern and traditional. Many modern Orthodox have no problem with homosexuality, though they are probably still a minority. There are some gay Orthodox rabbis on the liberal wing. Many would say that homosexuality is officially a sin, but that it's a minor matter and they don't have anything personally against it. The ultra-Orthodox are sticklers for the traditional interpretation of Jewish law and they take homosexuality very seriously. But they don't hack off hands or physically punish people - they just ostracize. As long as gay people keep their habit quiet, just as men visiting prostitutes or other nefarious dealings, most are willing to look the other way

At least that's my take on it.

Alec Burko


User comments  from imdb Author: larry-411 from United States

I attended the North American Premiere of "Eyes Wide Open" at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. This is a somewhat provocative yet understated examination of what it's like to be gay in the Orthodox Jewish world. In his first feature, director Haim Tabakman, working from a Merav Doster script, introduces us to Aaron (Zohar Shtrauss) and Ezri (Ran Danker). Aaron runs a Kosher butcher shop that's been in the family for generations. Ezri is an outsider, already under suspicion for questionable behavior, who enters Aaron's world with possible intentions beyond purchasing a hunk of meat. There's a joke there but I'll resist. The cultural constraints placed upon gays, or anyone who is different, are painfully drawn out as the neighbors decide what actions to take. The Orthodox Jewish community sends in its own goons (enforcers of God?).

This character-driven film is haunting and poignant. Like many foreign films, natural lighting is predominant. The cinema verité style, without regard to shadows, is much more powerful than images in traditional Hollywood movies -- provided the images aren't too dark -- a problem I've seen here with some films. The score is used sparsely, only to punctuate the more emotional moments. The pace is slow and deliberate, while long takes with little dialogue allow the actors to speak with their eyes, facial movements, and body language.

The collision of religion and sexuality is a common theme at every film festival. What is the meaning of restraint? Are we really being true to God if we destroy ourselves in the process?

Eyes Wide Open (Eynaim Pekukhot)  Dan Fainaru at Cannes from Screendaily, also here:  Screen International (Dan Fainaru) review

A highly controversial theme, homosexuality in the Jewish Orthodox world, gets an earnest but strangely tame, still-life treatment in Haim Tabakman’s debut feature about a Jerusalem butcher (Strauss) who falls for his new hired hand (Danker), scandalising the entire community around him. Originally intended as a 50-minute TV drama, this is neither the passionate male love story it purports to be nor the portrait of a serious moral and religious dilemma it could have been. Still it may well generate interest due to its controversial subject matter.

Homeless Ezri (played by Israeli teen idol Ran Danker), wanders through the alleys of Jerusalem’s ultra-religious quarter in the pouring rain, ultimately washing up in butcher Aaron’s (Zohar Strauss) shop, asking for a job. A phone call he makes to a former lover clearly establishes Ezri as being gay, but Aaron, married with kids and a highly respected member of the community, has no inkling of that. He hires Ezri as his assistant, lets him sleep in the shop’s back room, invites him to join the family’s Friday night dinner and even attends religious lessons at the nearby yeshiva with him.  

But Ezri, abandoned by his previous partner, wants more. He tempts Aaron into joining him for a traditional naked dip in a freshwater pool. And instead of cleansing him, it corrupts the butcher’s already dissatisfied soul and lights a fire that he will not be able to extinguish.

The rest is painfully predictable. Since Aaron doesn’t make much of an attempt to hide their affair, the result is inevitable. First in a friendly manner, than threateningly, he is told to get rid of Ezri. Aaron takes the abuse on board but does not respond, even when his shop is stoned, and he is visited by the Decency Police, real-life squad of thugs which tries to keep Orthodox problems out of the eyes of the world and the secular police. Aaron’s wife never reproaches him but her suffering is more eloquent than any protest.

Tabakman never attempts to tackle front-on the moral, religious and social problems generated by the gay central relationship, focusing first and foremost on the personal drama. But since what really draws his two characters together is lust -  love is not in evidence here – and as they are never too concerned with the clash between their faith and their actions, interest in these two individuals sadly runs aground. Aaron’s pangs of conscience, at least concerning his family, are visible, but Ezri seems immune to any internal conflicts.

Tabakman, who edited David Volach’s much awarded My Father My Lord takes on a similar downbeat, minimalist approach. For large parts of the film, however, no clients enter Aaron’s shop; his children rarely feature; the streets are empty and deserted. It all seems unreal, a feeling which is strongly reinforced by the two protagonists, who seem often at loss navigating their parts. Strauss, whose role is more complex, should be able to convey more, but leaving the audience to provide the answers isn’t enough here.

Matt Bochenski   Little White Lies

Cannes. "Eyes Wide Open"  David Hudson at Cannes from The IFC Blog, May 24, 2009

Variety (Alissa Simon) review  at Cannes, May 20, 2009

A Festival of Auteurs  Manohla Dargis at Cannes from the Arts Beat section of The New York Times, May 24, 2009

LGBT topics and Judaism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Homosexuality and Judaism - ReligionFacts


My Jewish Learning: Homosexuality and Halakhah   Rabbi Michael Gold


Homosexuality: Is There a Unique Torah Perspective  Rabbi Benjamin Hecht


Initial Religious Counseling for a Male Orthodox Adolescent ...  Initial Religious Counseling for a Male Orthodox Adolescent Homosexual, by Joel B. Wolowelsky and Bernard L. Weinstein


Homosexuality and Lesbianism  Kosher Sex


Tabío, Juan Carlos



aka:  Plaff! or Too Afraid of Life

Cuba  (90 mi)  1988


Chicago Reader (Ted Shen) capsule review

Who's been throwing eggs at Concha? That's the central mystery in this goofy 1988 social comedy from Cuba about a superstitious woman still in love with her dead husband and resentful of her brainy daughter-in-law. Concha's paranoid behavior, especially when triggered by either her ardent suitor or by Clarita, the efficient chemist who married her son, is supposed to get us laughing at the absurd extremes of the communist system. But the broad strokes of director Juan Carlos Tabio weaken the plausibility of each encounter. The editing seems deliberately slapdash, and the postmodern irony that has a director on camera wryly manipulating his story and actors talking to the crew is misplaced. Daisi Granados as Concha, however, is so right on in her hyperventilated neuroticism that she brings to mind an Almadovar caricature. The film's rough-hewn construction and effervescent spirit, along with the faded beauty of a Havana barrio, make this more than the sort of innocuous slice-of-life skit one might see on Saturday Night Live.

Time Out review

Tabio's screwball soap opera takes us into the lives and loves of a family in the middle-class suburbs of Havana. It's tacky, it's wacky, it's, well, serious too. Widowed Concha (Granados) distrusts the alliance of brawn and brain when her beloved baseball-player son marries a girl engineer with her own ideas (about bureaucratic impedimenta, the role of women, and Concha). Concha has problems enough: made wary of men by the philandering of her dear departed, she distrusts the charms of taxi-driver Tomas, so is forced to take comfort in the spells of a Santeria-cult priestess. When the young marrieds move in, splat! - eggs start to fly. Tabio leaves no doubt that this is farce, not so much admitting the presence of the camera as flaunting it. Every mirror reveals the camera crew, props are thrown onto the set, the film cranks to a halt for apologies about missing scenes. The sight gags, absurd histrionics and hyperbolic use of sound communicate an infectious sense of fun, but the film can't quite hide a deathly conventional morality which, sadly, hauls it back into sanity and nauseating good faith.

The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review


7 DAYS IN HAVANA (7 días en La Habana)

France  Spain  (128 mi)  2012   directors:  Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, Juan Carlos Tabío, Laurent Cantet


7 Days In Havana  Fionnuala Halligan at Cannes from Screendaily

From Soy Cuba to Soy Turista: the 7 Days In Havana portmanteau project features seven directors who have more in common with the Cannes Film Festival, where the film premiered, than the Caribbean political hotspot where it is set. The result is a bouncy and uneven bop through this most seductive of cities, which should attract the curious but won’t rehabilitate the somewhat bruised reputation of the film anthology. It’s also arguable how well Havana itself is serviced by the hookers, music and nightclubs that predictably populate these pieces.

But Havana, capital of the self-described Socialist Republic of Cuba and now run by Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, is a survivor; a city with an enduring global cachet, a magnetic fascination which should exert a pull on audiences which have already responded to the Paris and New York anthologies. Running at 128 minutes, 7 Days In Havana’s collective pedigree could outweigh some tonal troughs with an upscale demographic, and there’s always the salsa fanbase, not to mention the Hunger Games fans of Josh Hutcherson, who stars in Benicio del Toro’s opening short El Yuma.

With each piece set on a consecutive day of the week, some, in particular Cuban native Juan Carlos Tabio’s Bittersweet and The Fountain by Laurent Cantet, successfully dig under the surface to convey a little of what it means to be Cuban today. Gaspar Noe’s contribution is the most contemporary and cinematic. Elia Suleiman’s schtick may be as deceptively simple as ever, but his warmly familiar routine helps underscore some of the film’s more perceptive points.  The longest, Julio Medem’s Celia’s Temptation, adopts a bafflingly cheesy tone, however, which sets it at jarring odds with its colleagues.

El Yuma, which is slang for yankee, casts Hutcherson as a visiting actor caught up in a drunken night in the city with taxi driver Angelito (Vladimir Cruz). Del Toro’s opener sets the look of the film, all brashly jeweled tones and smoky orange interiors, and cinematographer Daniel Aranyo takes credit here and on the shorts made by Medem, Suleiman and Tabio. Diego Bussel took over on Cantet’s and Trapero’s films while Noe memorably works his own camera.

Trapero’s Tuesday film, Jam Session, stars Emir Kusturica as himself, a drunken Serbian film director arriving in Havana for the festival but instead spending a night at a jam session with the fabulous trumpeter Alexander Abreu. Kusturica is a sympathetic actor, and even though this short continues the theme of a tourist wandering around the corridors of the Hotel Nacional, it’s a sweet mix of sights and sounds for Argentina’s Trapero.

Medem’s Cecilia’s Temptation, meanwhile, with its lounge-lizard soundtrack and overdone soft-focus colours, tells the story of a chanteuse torn between the Madrid nightclub owner (Daniel Bruhl) who offers her a job and her baseball-playing boyfriend. Elia Suleiman, waiting for an appointment at the Palestinian Embassy, has to work his hardest to pull the audiences out of Medem’s baffling piece, and he sets the viewer up nicely for Noe’s sexually charged Ritual, about a lesbian schoolgirl and a santoria exorcism.

Tabio and Cantet finish the piece with their closely-linked domestic dramas, pulling 7 Days In Havana into the strange everyday world of a Havana tenement slum with all its humour, poignancy and - yes - Cuba’s ever-present musical rhythms.

Cuban writer Leonardo Padura and his wife Lucia Lopez Coll are credited with co-coordinating the screenplay for the entire piece, and he collaborated on most of the shorts (except for Suleiman, Noe, and Cantet, who wrote their own). Viewers looking for a hard political view on Cuba will go unsatisfied, with Havana taking a genial, accommodating perspective with the occasional raised eyebrow. Suleiman’s piece is the only one to make direct reference to Fidel, with the one of the dictator’s extra-long speeches amusingly punctuating his piece.

7 Days in Havana: Cannes Review - The Hollywood Reporter  Jordan Mintzer, May 23, 2012

Josh Hutcherson stars in the Cuban film directed by Croisette alumni including Laurent Cantet, Gaspard Noe and Elia Suleiman, as well as Benicio Del Toro.

Like a mojito that overdoes it on the lime juice, the omnibus film 7 Days in Havana (7 dias en La Habana) has a few veritable sweet spots but winds up leaving a rather sour aftertaste. Made by a cortege of Croisette alumni including Laurent Cantet, Gaspard Noe and Elia Suleiman, as well as Benicio Del Toro in his directorial debut, the seven shorts offer up some vibrant bits of local color and plenty of great music, yet seem to mostly scratch the surface of a place that rarely gets the time of day in contemporary cinema. Still, the impressive settings and line-up of auteur all-stars – not to mention an appearance by The Hunger GamesJosh Hutcherson – should ensure solid offshore play following a premiere in CannesUn Certain Regard.

Oscillating between a sightseer’s tour of the island (now in its 53rd year of Castro rule, with Raul having officially replaced Fidel as of 2008) and a more intimate portrait of some of its denizens, the ensemble of short films are structured to fit in a single week, with one movie per day and a handful of characters who reappear in several of them. If the patchwork of stories captures the many layers of life in Havana – from the desolate 4-star hotels to the shabby dwellings of its huge underclass – the overall effect is that of a fun-filled vacation that reveals nothing extremely new or original about Cuba, and tends to steer clear of any direct political commentary.

The more touristy fare kicks off with Del Toro’s El Yuma, which follows a young American actor, Teddy (Hutcherson), during a wild and crazy night that includes plenty of beer, rum, girls, hookers and eventually a transvestite that he unwittingly takes back to his room. If there are no major surprises in the short – whose title is Cuban slang for “American” – the long and drunken trip is an easy enough ride, especially since Teddy seems to remain fairly aloof to all the poverty and prostitution around him.

A similar premise is proffered in Pablo Trapero’s Jam Session, which follows two-time Palme d’Or winner Emir Kusturica as he accepts an honorary prize from the Havana Film Festival in between bouts of drinking and schmoozing with local musicians. While nothing really special happens throughout the romp, it features some catchy handheld footage, including an extended sequence-shot that follows the Serbian director from the pits of a down and dirty nightclub to the city’s breathtaking shores.

Of all the Lonely Planet-esque works, the strongest one is Elia Sulieman’s Diary of a Beginner, in which the Palestinian filmmaker applies his trademark combination of Keaton and Tati-style humor to explore the world in and around his upscale hotel. There’s plenty of irony and some powerful compositions in these telling vignettes, and the one where the director watches tourists and prostitutes mingle beside a life-size bronze of Hemingway is perhaps the most memorable in the whole series.

As for the more socially conscious fare, things initially take a turn towards pure kitsch in The Temptation of Cecilia, where Spanish director Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia) tackles the dilemma of a local singer (Cristela de la Caridad Herrera) with all the subtlety of a Telemundo series. A decent cameo by Daniel Bruhl can only partially redeem the only short to specifically deal with Cubans trying to flee their homeland, but the overlit photography, slow-motion sex scenes and weepy ballades don’t do the story any service.

Native Cuban Jean Carlos Tabio (Guantanamera) fairs better with Bittersweet, in which his favored actress Mirta Ibarra plays a mom working overtime as both a baker and a shrink, trying to make ends meet during one disastrous afternoon. Likewise, French director Laurence Cantet (The Class) offers up a more realistic view of local life in The Fountain, a very documentary-style portrait of the residents in a ramshackle Havana building who team up to build an altar to the Virgin Mary.

Never afraid to raise eyebrows, Gallic bad boy Gasper Noe dishes out the most edgy entry with Ritual, where a teenage girl is subjected to the freaky mojos of a local witch doctor after she’s caught in bed with a girlfriend. Featuring an opening sequence that depicts the sort of booty-bopping usually seen in a Sean Paul video, and an extended voodoo scene where the underage victim is stripped down in a swamp, this provocative exercise provides minor aesthetic thrills.

Songs and on-screen performances by talented local musicians, including Kelvis Ochoa (Habana Blues) and trumpet player Alexander Abreu, supply a welcome musical backdrop to what’s ultimately a pleasant but somewhat forgettable Havana holiday.

Tahimik, Kidlat


WHY IS YELLOW THE MIDDLE OF THE RAINBOW? (Bakit dilaw aug gitna ng bahag-hari?)            A                     99

aka:  I Am Furious…Yellow

Philippines  (175 mi)  1981 – 1993


How are we going to finish this film?  We could just wait for the spaghetti to run out.

—Kidlat Tahimik


This rare film was originally scheduled to be screened at the downtown Drake Hotel in Chicago as part of the Prak-sis New Media Art Festival, a three-day conference offering artistic responses to the legacy of Cold War-era social upheaval in southeast Asia, but the 16 mm print, the only surviving copy in the world, repeatedly stuck in the projector, inflicting severe print damage causing the celluloid to burn, so the screening was re-scheduled a week later to the School of the Art Institute, where only a handful of people were fortunate enough to see this remarkable film.  Kidlat Tahimik, a Tagalog translation of “silent lightning,” remains an obscure underground filmmaker, considered the “Father of Philippine Independent Cinema,” but is also a writer, artist and actor who was born Eric de Guia in Baguio City, Philippines, who grew up in a life of privilege in a summer resort community located in the presence of several U.S. Military bases, an experience that heavily influenced his films, which tend to be scathing critiques of the aftereffects of colonialism.  Graduating from the University of the Philippines in Speech and Drama, Tahimik studied at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, earning a Masters degree in Business Administration, working as a researcher for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris from 1968 to 1972, an organization committed to spreading Western technology to lesser-developed countries, where he wrote fertilizer distribution reports while working on a farm in Norway before returning home to become a filmmaker.  Tearing up his diploma and changing his name, Tahimik lived in various artist communes, including one in Munich that attracted the attention of Werner Herzog, who cast him in a small part in THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER (1974). 


Bryan L. Yeatter describes Tahimik’s life during the 70’s in his book Cinema of the Philippines:


Tahimik traveled to Europe where he was going to try to make a living selling trinkets, but somehow along the way he managed to make contact with Werner Herzog, and using borrowed equipment, outdated film stock, and stock footage, he put together his first film [in 1977], Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare) for a mere $10,000—a remarkably low cost even in its time. The film mirrored his own experience as Tahimik played the lead, a young man who dreams of escaping the stifling existence of his isolated rural community and seeing the modern world. Through an American acquaintance, he travels to Paris to run a gumball concession, and later ventures to Germany, ultimately concluding that the modern world may have much to offer, but has also sacrificed much of importance in the process of its development.


Under Herzog’s tutelage, he took up filmmaking, making his first film, PERFUMED NIGHTMARE (1977), a mixture of documentary, diary film, fictionalized autobiography, cinematic essay and ethnography, and winner of three awards at the Berlin Film Festival, where Tahimik is appalled by the massive expansion and pervasive influence of Western technology while raging against the colonialist impulses that led France and then the United States to make the Philippines their own exclusive property, where the economic model was much like the slave trade, using cheap exploited labor to ravage the nation’s resources in order to enhance the quality of living in America while leaving the Philippines in dire economic straits.  Screened by Tom Luddy (Telluride Film Festival co-founder) at the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley, Tahimik met American director Francis Ford Coppola (who distributed the film in the United States) just about the time he was envisioning shooting his film APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) in the Philippines.  Commonly associated with the Third Cinema movement that rejects the Hollywood model of making films as escapist bourgeois entertainment, Tahimik was a pioneer in embracing indigenous culture, redefining Philippine art in personalized terms that goes far beyond the nation’s social history.  Co-founder of the Baguio Arts Guild, integrating indigenous and avant garde subjects into his aesthetic, making technically unpolished films, Tahimik’s work as writer, director, editor, actor, and cinematographer has led the path for an independent Philippine cinema for over thirty years. 


More than a decade in the making, this is nothing less than revolutionary filmmaking, where the film “defies summary simply because of the sheer volume of ground it covers,” according to author and professor Christopher Pavsek, becoming a magnum opus that questions what it means to be a post-colonial Filipino, where the director had to wait until his oldest son was old enough to narrate a large portion of the film, creating an epic film diary spanning the decade of the 1980’s as seen through the eyes of Tahimik and his family.  What is singularly unique about this film is the pervasive use of children, whose point of view is the focal point of the picture, as the film is a coming-of-age essay that coincides with a child growing up, curious and inquisitive, asking questions about the world around him, where the director acts as a father-figure narrator, where the film is largely a dialogue between father and oldest son, Kidlat de Guia (now a talented filmmaker in his own right), who ages noticeably as the film progresses leading up to his entrance into high school.  Tahimik met his wife Katrin de Guia, who is also an artist and writer, while in Germany, seen throughout making stained glass artworks, where they also have two younger children, Kawayan and Kabunyan de Guia, where art defines how this family expresses itself.  Calling the film a “celluloid collage,” we watch the family on overseas vacations, participate in school projects, and capture a child’s first steps, while also using a series of newspaper headlines and archival television reports to delve into national stories.  Tahimik seamlessly blends the two together, where the personal becomes the political, all corresponding to a progression of the director’s life as a Filipino father.  Using surreal imagery that often challenges the logic of the narrative, this three-hour diary incorporates contemporary history of the Philippines, Tahimik’s own family, found footage, newspaper headlines and TV broadcasts, home movies, travel footage, and documentation of public events and political demonstrations, where documentary footage is mixed with scripted performances.  The film begins in Monument Valley, the site of many John Ford westerns beginning with STAGECOACH (1939), where the family is seen posing for pictures at John Ford's Point while rousing Hollywood music plays for what the director calls spaghetti movies, as the filmmaker and his son hitch a ride with (the unidentified) Dennis Hopper in his old Cadillac, which raises the question of how Indians were portrayed in the movies, continually shown in stereotype as the archenemy of the original American settlers in the West, where Indians were portrayed as savage creatures who were less than human, yet this was their land that was being trampled upon and stolen from them, where they had to be pushed aside by force to make way for the advancement of the “white man.”  Following a similar theme, Tahimik identifies the Philippines as a Third World country (Third World definition - Third World Traveler) that was formerly colonized by First World nations, where the differentiation between the two can be expressed in their use of machines, as First World nations use machines to perform much of the work that in the Philippines is still performed by human labor, what Tahimik proudly tells his son is “people power.”   


"Towards a Third Cinema"  Towards a Third Cinema, by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino:


The anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples of the Third World and of their equivalents inside the imperialist countries constitutes today the axis of the world revolution. Third cinema is, in our opinion, the cinema that recognises in that struggle the most gigantic cultural, scientific, and artistic manifestation of our time, the great possibility of constructing a liberated personality with each people as the starting point — in a word, the decolonisation of culture.


Tahimik is an unusual sort of film pioneer, relying upon gentle humor and a sharp wit, not to mention spashes of avant garde, experimental cinema used  in a playful manner, with inspired musical choices like Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana Carl Orff - O Fortuna ~ Carmina Burana - YouTube (4:51) and surprise appearances from unidentified film artists like Francis Ford Coppola, Werner Herzog, and Andrei Tarkovsky (the only time he came to America in 1983 for the Telluride Film Festival), as Tahimik points out the vast economic divide between the rich and the poor, offering a sharp critique of capitalism and Western technology that refuses to recognize the human value contributed by each individual, where society becomes slaves to technology and machines, including industrial advancement that exploits the poor with low wages and poor working conditions.  In the mountainous region of Baguio City where this family lives, the indigenous community co-exists with the locals, even though their ways and understanding of their own history may be different, where the director seems to take great pleasure profiling local craftsmen and women, offering images where people power is seen moving massive rocks and boulders into a line to build a bridge across the river.  Expanding on the historical confusion, the local community is seen embracing the colonial influence of the United States, where the presence of American military camps are scattered everywhere, including nearby Camp John Hay which always celebrates the 4th of July with fireworks and family games while distributing ice cream for all the kids, where Filipino’s also grew up thinking this was the Philippine Independence Day as well, as it was one of the few holidays everyone celebrated together and overshadowed their own country’s national holiday (Araw ng Kalayaan).  Like John Ford and his movies, this is the Hollywood version of colonialism where fantasy and fiction outweigh reality.  Tahimik adopts the view that a modern society could learn from remembering “the old ways,” suggesting they represent an untapped resource in terms of conservation and ecology, calling it “an inbuilt brake system” where the negative effects of technology are slowed, where artists are like shamans, suggesting that following the First World is not always the path to happiness.  One of the continuing narratives recounted throughout is the relationship between the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his navigator Filipino slave, where Magellan attempted to convert the “savage” natives of the Philippines to Christianity, by force if necessary, a plan that backfired as Magellan was killed by a spear attack in the Battle of Mactan and was unable to complete the first circumnavigation of the earth.  Rather than view minorities through an adverse power relationship, like the racially superior beliefs of the colonial powers, Tahimik identifies with the indigenous people for the cultural and artistic value they can bring to anyone’s life, including extremely imaginative children’s folktales, where it influences his own decision as a parent where he doesn’t allow his children to play with guns, or see movies that accentuate Hollywood’s love affair with guns and violence, claiming it’s a foolish imaginary world that depicts Indians as better off dead, seeing little difference between John Hay and John Ford, claiming they’re both the same thing. 


According to Raya Martin, arguably Philippine’s greatest filmmaker, he calls this film the best Filipino movie ever made in an October 26, 2012 article he writes for Moving Image Source, while also pointing out:


Kidlat Tahimik’s cinema is best summarized by a scene in the film. Footage from his infamous unfinished-to-date Magellan project, an epic retelling of the explorer’s expedition to the Philippines, narrates: “Magellan taught his valet the rudiments of chess. Not only does he carve his own pieces and learns their movements, he picks up easily the thinking patterns of being a winner. The master realizes, for the first time, the slave is a thinking animal capable of plotting his own moves.” “Checkmate,” says Kidlat Tahimik, who acts as the indio slave in the film.


And as the whole film is a constant self-referential to Kidlat, the filmmaker, trying to make sense of his footage on the editing table, the celluloid on a flatbed spills all over a printed text by the Spanish scholar Antonio de Nebrija: Language is the perfect instrument of Empire.


“Is it any wonder that the indio now behaves like his master?”


One of the abrupt shifts of the film is newsreel footage reporting the assassination of Presidential candidate Benigno Aquino (assassination of Ninoy Aquino) as he arrives at the Manila airport, reportedly shot by “communists” say the initial reports, though more likely the murder was carried out by the bodyguards assigned to protect him by the Marcos government.  Sitting President Ferdinand Marcos, closely aligned with American President Ronald Reagan, ruled as a dictator for over twenty years, the last ten under a declared martial law, where he is believed to have looted billions of dollars from the Filipino treasury.  The outrage surrounding the Aquino murder catapulted his widow Corazon Aquino into the political spotlight, leading her to run for President under the banner of the People Power Revolution, which eventually led to the common perception that Marcos stole the election, declaring himself the winner, where as many as two million Filipinos fled into the streets wearing the color “yellow,” sustaining a campaign of civil disobedience, which eventually turned the military against Marcos, leading to his exile to Hawaii where he died soon afterwards while “Corrie” Aquino was proclaimed the legitimate President of the Philippines.  There is a tone of true elation as Tahimik, along with all the local parents, teachers, and school kids, design yellow signs and posters for the street demonstrations, where a sea of yellow captures the mood of a nation, where Tahimik’s own 1986 footage is reminiscent of Oratorio for Prague (1968), Jan Nĕmec’s street footage of an equally euphoric Eastern European nation that believed they were on the verge of democracy before Soviet tanks started occupying the streets of Czechoslovakia.  But people power prevailed, where this film is an outgrowth of the artistic freedom associated with that lifting of a blanket of corruption and the repressive measures of living under a military dictatorship.  The feeling is similar to Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness (Bei qing cheng shi) (1989), which also reflected an exuberant artistic expression that was suddenly free to explore its own nation’s history after the lifting of the ruling party’s martial law that had been in effect for forty years.  It is probably no accident that this sudden artistic surge of the first liberating signs of freedom reveal these directors at the height of their powers.  Little did the director know that this euphoria would be followed by the startling revelation that the late dictator Marcos built the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant directly on an earthquake fault line, where it had to be disassembled, which was followed by a series of military officials on trial for corruption, the devastating impact of the 7.8 magnitude Luzon earthquake of 1990, Luzon on July 16, 1990, killing over 1600 people, causing nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in damages, an event that caused massive crippling of the economy and may actually have precipitated the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo Mount Pinatubo Eruption (June 1991) covering the region in ash, leading to devastating floods, where it seemed the country was besieged by an apocalyptic fury of nature.  The uniqueness of the film is experiencing it all through the personalized vantage point of a father teaching his son, widened to include literally hundreds of school children as well, where Tahimik distinctively captures them all singing Whitney Houston - Greatest Love Of All - YouTube (4:50) while exploring the local community as well as his nation’s history.  According to Tahimik:


[the filmmaker can either follow] the dictum “time is money,”…or allow time to be his ally and open up to cosmic inspirations provided by a relatively free time frame.


My footages are like tiles in a mosaic…You shuffle them, change them around. In my process, nothing is permanent.


Making a film is like taking a long trip. The film voyager can load up with a full tank and bring a credit card along to insure completion of the voyage in as short a time as possible. The voyager can also load up with a few cups of gasoline and drive until he runs out and scrounge around for subsequent cups of gas to get to his destination, without worrying about how long it takes to complete his voyage… The length of the trip […] is a matter of choice depending on the combination of ingredients – inspiration, resources, tools, working materials available, personal circumstances like family or emotional disturbances, etc.


According to Christopher Pavsek, associate professor of film at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC and author of The Utopia of Film: Cinema and Its Futures in Godard, Kluge, and Tahimik, Why Is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow? - BAM/PFA - Film ...: 


It is impossible to describe Kidlat Tahimik’s virtually unknown masterpiece, the diary film I Am Furious Yellow (or Why Is Yellow Middle of Rainbow?), that chronicles Tahimik and his young son’s lives as they traverse the tumultuous decade of the 1980’s in the Philippines, so let’s just list a few of the things you’ll see in the course of its three hours (which go by far too quickly): a great democratic revolution deposes a dictator; a massive volcanic eruption covers the world in ash; a huge earthquake levels a whole city and social class distinctions as well; Magellan’s slave Enrique circumnavigates the globe (and wins a princess’s heart); storms rage over the gorgeous landscapes of the Philippine cordillera and Monument Valley in the U.S. Southwest; the filmmaker and his son hitch a ride with Dennis Hopper in his old Cadillac; and a tooth is pulled out of little boy’s mouth by a very big toe. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of this vastly rich film, which at once demonstrates just how vital and compelling cinema can be as well as how vital and compelling our very existences can be despite all the disasters and catastrophes—both human-made and natural—that loom from every angle. In an age of rising seas and collapsing economies, [the film] shows us how to be furious at all the injustice in the world but also how to face that injustice with the utmost joy. There are indeed few, if any, films like this in the world. 


Sunday 27 th May 2012 - Le peuple qui manque

Kidlat Tahimik is the filmmaker who has developped the diary film most extensively within a discourse of postcolonial cultural critique. His distinctive filmmaking technique pries apart the various levels of self-representation so that the primitive, the native, and the premoderne are ironically constructed within a discursive bricolage centered on his own subjectivity. (…) Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow? (1981-1993), three-hours diary, incorporates history of Philippines, Tahimik’s own family, found footage, newspaper headlines and TV broadcasts, home movies, travel footage, and documentation of public event and political demonstrations.  Documentary footage is mixed with scripted perfomances, and he continually reverses expectations of First and Thirld World cultural scenes.  His movement between cultures casts him as an exemplary Inappropriate Other.  (Catherine Russell, Experimental ethnography, 1999)

Lessons from the School of Inattention [Oggs Cruz]

Perhaps because of its length, which is an hour more than the typical Hollywood fare that Filipinos have gotten chronically used to seeing, Kidlat Tahimik’s Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari? (Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow?, 1994) is criminally under-seen, and is therefore severely underrated. The film, which is effectively Kidlat Tahimik’s account of his personal life from 1981 to 1993, is perhaps the most personal work of the director whose films are intimately intertwined with him, his history, and his beliefs.

Because the film is essentially a collection of footage from various points of Kidlat Tahimik’s life during the timeline, the audience becomes openly familiar with the director’s private life: learning of the intricacies of his family, joining him in his creative and social endeavours, and reflecting with him on the political events that have been unfolding alongside his personal growth. It is perhaps the multitude of facets of an artist, all portrayed with the distinct generosity and modesty that Kidlat Tahimik is most famous for, that makes Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari? such an invaluable and special film.

With the film, Kidlat Tahimik discusses alongside the difficulties of fatherhood, the birth pangs of the newly founded artists’ community he helped form in Baguio City, and the initial highs and impending disappointments of post-Ferdinand Marcos democracy. Considering the ostensible epic scope and ambition of the film, Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari? never feels burdened with self-importance.

The film moves and feels like a diary that he selflessly opens to his viewers, and in that sense, it never overreaches but instead comfortably sits in the midst of what Kidlat Tahimik is most knowledgeable of. Moreover, the film is laced with tangible authenticity. Shot and presumably made sans any script or creative intervention, the film evokes a sense personal, cultural and national histories unfold through the eyes of an active participant. In a sense, the film shows history as it is being made, raw but never confrontational, tender but never cowardly.

Afterimage: The Films of Kidlat Tahimik, Indigenius - BAM ...  Jason Sanders

Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1980–94). Filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and author Christopher Pavsek in conversation. Tahimik's virtually unknown masterpiece chronicles Tahimik and his young son's lives as they traverse the tumultuous 1980s and early 1990s in the Philippines—a great democratic revolution deposes a dictator; a massive volcanic eruption covers the world in ash—and asks how one might build a new and better future out of the disasters. (174 mins)

- - - -

An idol of iconoclasts worldwide, a pioneer of the postcolonial essay film, and the grandfather of the Philippine New Wave, Kidlat Tahimik has made a career of—as he puts it—“straying on track.” Born Eric de Guia and educated at the Wharton School of Business, Tahimik renounced both career and name to become Kidlat Tahimik (roughly translated as “Quiet Lighting”) and embrace a filmmaking aesthetic unabashedly personal and defiantly political, filled with both warmth and fire.

Tahimik’s postcollege sojourn in Germany resulted in a friendship with Werner Herzog (who cast him in The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser), a marriage, and a deceptively ramshackle debut film, Perfumed Nightmare (1977), whose easygoing interrogation of neocolonial identity, Philippine culture, and global economies turned it into a surprise international “hit.” Praised as “the joyful discovery of blasé film buffs from Berlin to Belgrade and beyond” (SF Chronicle, 1980) and “likely to become some sort of classic” (Village Voice, 1980), the film is now heralded as a key text of both Third World Cinema and the personal essay film, offering a pairing of politics and pleasure that has continued throughout Tahimik’s oeuvre. Never shying away from embracing a proud, postcolonial identity, yet always grounded in personal observation and a quiet, understated humor, Tahimik’s works take special joy in highlighting the indigenous cultures and history of the Philippines and beyond, whether honoring Tahimik’s beloved bahag loincloth, profiling local craftsmen and women, or recounting tales of Magellan’s Filipino navigator/slave. Assembled from countless hours of filming, drawn from months and years worth of work, “my footages are like tiles in a mosaic,” he writes. “You shuffle them, change them around. In my process, nothing is permanent.”

“My best friend always mispronounced the word ‘indigenous,’” Tahimik noted in an interview in the book Philippine New Wave. He’ll say ‘indigenius.’ I would always call it cosmic mispronunciation. . . . The genius of the indigenous culture is still within us. We just have to recognize it, and let it flow out.” Committed to documenting the “indigenius,” yet always iconoclastic enough to “stray on track” to capture the wonder of life around him, Kidlat Tahimik is one of cinema’s true originals.

Behind the Bamboo Camera with Kidlat Tahimik - Harvard ...  November 2 – 4, 2012 

A sui generis mixture of documentary, diary film, fictionalized autobiography, cinematic essay and ethnography, Kidlat Tahimik’s 1977 debut, The Perfumed Nightmare, became an instant classic of sorts, announcing the arrival of a pioneering filmmaker. But Tahimik remains a very unusual sort of pioneer. His cinema’s sharp critique of the divides between rich and poor, capitalism and community, developed nations and the developing world relies on gentle humor, everyday experiences and childlike play. Weaving this material into knowing and heartfelt looks at life in the Philippines, Tahimik uncovers the ways in which the country’s postcolonial status places it at the center of contemporary concerns about the retreat of tradition in the face of a global marketplace dominated by an all-encompassing, ever-growing technology.

There is little in Tahimik’s early biography to indicate the career he would eventually choose. He was born Eric de Guia in Baguio in 1942 to an engineer and a woman who would be the first female mayor in the Philippines. After receiving a master’s degree from the business school at Wharton, he worked for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris in 1968. Uninspired by the research he was called upon to perform, he left his job to sell memorabilia at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Afterwards, rather than returning home, he joined an artists’ commune in Munich and eventually attracted the attention of Werner Herzog, who cast him in a small part in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974). Under Herzog’s tutelage, he took up filmmaking and premiered The Perfumed Nightmare at the 1977 Berlin film festival. The film quickly traveled the world, championed in the US by Francis Ford Coppola and Susan Sontag.

Since then, Tahimik has created a string of documentaries and one fiction feature film, all of which demonstrate his love of wordplay both silly and sophisticated and his ability to blend politics and the imagination in surprising and revealing ways.

Why Is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow?
(Bakit Dilaw Ang Kulay ng Bahaghari, AKA I am Furious… Yellow)

Directed by Kidlat Tahimik
Philippines 1980-94, digital video, color, 175 min. English and Tagalog with English subtitles

Tahimik’s magnum opus, Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow? is an epic film diary spanning the 1980s. Though each of Tahimik’s films is unique, this one defies summary simply because of the sheer volume of ground it covers. While telling the story of a family –overseas vacations, school projects, children’s first steps – it also serves as an introduction to Filipino history and geography. Yet most arresting is the way the film moves seamlessly from the personal to the political as Tahimik’s camera documents the events leading from the assassination of Benigno Acquino to the fall of the Marcoses and progresses to hurricanes and earthquakes. “In an age of rising seas and collapsing economies, [the film] shows us how to be furious at all the injustice in the world but also how to face that injustice with the utmost joy. There are indeed few, if any, films like this….” (Christopher Pavsek)

We Are Colonial by Raya Martin - Moving Image Source  Raya Martin, October 26, 2012

This essay was originally written for the book Kidlat Tahimik, published by the Jeonju International Film Festival in 2011 for their Tahimik retrospective.

"How are we going to finish this film? We could just wait for the spaghetti to run out.”

To call Kidlat Tahimik’s Why is Yellow the Middle of Rainbow? (Bakit Dilaw Ang Kulay ng Bahaghari) (1994) the best Filipino film ever made is severely contentious. For one, Kidlat has remained an underground filmmaker throughout his entire career, in a country where the basis of significance is mirrored in the recall of a mass audience. Rather than an "other," he is understood as “that” person in the local arts world. The identity of Kidlat is similar to what his name alludes to: an impermanent flash of performances, mostly of himself dancing in only a G-string, an image of the national native that represents both pride and ridicule to the perception of arts in the Philippines. Everyone remains glued, in striking awe, to the show, but almost quickly dismisses and forgets.

In the span of a decade, from 1981 to 1991, Kidlat put together a "celluloid collage" mostly inspired by and made with his eldest son and namesake, Kidlat de Guia, now a talented filmmaker in his own right. Alternatively known as I Am Furious Yellow, an early incarnation of this epic project, it transformed into a collection of other “colored” episodes, each corresponding to a progression of his life as a Filipino father. Finished in laboratories between New York and Manila, the film is a concise pronouncement of the Philippines' historical romanticized image as a colony of multiple masters.

The film is a showcase of artists: co-cameraman Boy Yniguez, best known as the cinematographer of Jeffrey Jeturian’s Kubrador (2006); the late Santiago Bose, one of the most important Filipino contemporary artists, whose collective works are representative of the post-colonial consciousness  characteristic of artists from the mountain province of Baguio. Some footage was shot by Trinh T. Minh-ha, and there are cameos from the late Andrei Tarkovsky, on the way to the Telluride Film Festival in 1983, and even Kidlat’s close friend Werner Herzog. This is the world of Kidlat Tahimik.

That world is born out of a smaller bubble: Baguio, home to a wilder, label-resisting community where both the indigenous ease and artistic complexity harmoniously co-exist. This is where a naiveté is created. The isolation forces its inhabitants to embrace their city’s colonial origins as the American’s summer capital in the Philippines, with their camps scattered almost everywhere. The memory of childhood on this Disneyland of sorts is far removed from the usual Filipino's—celebrating Fourth of July as the real Independence Day, lining up for ice cream on the occasion. Kidlat, the father, is adamant about symbols in his household. Violence is taboo, and the kids are not allowed to play with guns. When they go through the newspaper to check out which movies to see, his son points to front-page images of the military’s war on rebels. That’s not a movie, he’s told.

It’s all Hollywood, anyway. Even when Kidlat pieces home movies together with his more fictional footage and movie shots from elsewhere, there's a struggle against moviemaking as we are watching. We partake in the struggle to make sense of our identity determined by our screen image as a minority. We are celluloid existential, (re)visiting John Ford's Point on a snowy day while Hollywood music escalates our self-analysis. The journey is all euphemized, Filipinized. We are good Indians and we are better off dead.

The film could not be timelier. The political situation in it, spanning from right after the Marcoses’ overthrow to the late Corazon Aquino’s regime, to the attempted coup d’etat during her time, parallels that of the new presidency of her son, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, and the reversal/return to power of the Marcoses with ex-first lady Imelda having been elected as congresswoman in her late husband’s province, as well as her two children, Senator Bong-Bong Marcos and Governor Imee Marcos. More disturbing parallels are the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant that had been erected and left directly on a fault line by the late dictator, and the recent earthquakes threatening the region; the celebration of new graduates from the Philippine Military Academy (where the best leaders emerge, as Kidlat’s mother points out), and the current investigations of military officials involved in corruption; the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and the unforgettable earthquake in the early '90s that left most of the country’s economy crippled, and the recent devastating floods in Manila that highlighted controversies in the government’s distribution of relief funds. The Filipino reality becomes an endless litany of pleas, a curse that seems impossible to lift.

And yet Kidlat proposes “that,” coming directly from a nativistic proposal. Artists are moved to be like shamans in keeping touch with the old ways. In the bubble of it all, the artists are not constrained to museums or theaters. They exist where nature exists. Even when the absurd seems a contradiction, there is an unpronounced nationalism in the post-television aesthetic with which Kidlat presents the episodes of his film. It is told like any imaginary tale of the pre-colonial: from wondrous to disastrous, to tragic, and finally a rebirth. Until then, we are left to deal with the realities of our national mirage. It will be the same story decades later anyhow.

Why is Yellow the Middle of Rainbow? is a curious story of colors. One is reminded of a folktale for children written by Mexican Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos, La Historia de los Colores, inspired by his encounters with the Mayans, whom had tried to convince of a proletarian uprising. It tells the story of the origins of race, through a toucan, who narrates about the gods’ wishes to deliver more color to the world. Subcomandante Marcos was then left with another perspective on struggle and diversity. We are all cultural minorities fighting to protect our differences. History is determinedly human.

Kidlat Tahimik’s cinema is best summarized by a scene in the film. Footage from his infamous unfinished-to-date Magellan project, an epic retelling of the explorer’s expedition to the Philippines, narrates: "Magellan taught his valet the rudiments of chess. Not only does he carve his own pieces and learns their movements, he picks up easily the thinking patterns of being a winner. The master realizes, for the first time, the slave is a thinking animal capable of plotting his own moves." "Checkmate," says Kidlat Tahimik, who acts as the indio slave in the film.

And as the whole film is a constant self-referential to Kidlat, the filmmaker, trying to make sense of his footage on the editing table, the celluloid on a flatbed spills all over a printed text by the Spanish scholar Antonio de Nebrija: Language is the perfect instrument of Empire.

"Is it any wonder that the indio now behaves like his master?"

The film ends twice. Kidlat’s son massages his father’s back, who has now fallen asleep while editing on the flatbed. The startled father rouses from his sleep, saying he had imagined making a film about his son, but the images had just taken over. An epilogue follows where a devastating earthquake has claimed the joyousness of Baguio, which was the hardest hit. The earthquake had destroyed the editing room, and in the dark the kids try to look for their father. They call out to him. Moments later, he appears from the celluloid rubble and enthusiastically says, I've found the ending.


After writing this essay, I go outside of my air-conditioned room. The housemaid is silently cleaning the corners of a house built from the marriage of my father’s activism and my mother’s corporate hard work. I smoke a pack of imported cigarettes in the garden, contemplating my tepid petty bourgeois existence. I notice the efforts of my father’s gardening, arising from his frustrations in farming. It is half-finished. Wild grass has taken over most of it, and he is in the computer room, “working” and practically retired to playing Farmville online. There seems so much work to be done, and yet...

It’s the age of disillusionment. The naiveté of Kidlat Tahimik has never resounded more profoundly.

The Manila Review | Cinema Moralia  Robert Nery 


<em>The Utopia of Film: Cinema and its Futures in Godard ...  Patrick Reagan from Screening the Past


Chicago's crash course in Filipino art cinema continues this ...  Ben Sachs from The Reader, September 17, 2014


กิดลัต ตาฮิมิก (Kidlat Tahimik): ภาพยนตร์ฟิลิปปินส์และการจาริก ...


Documenting his own reality: The films of Kidlat Tahimik  Conor Stuart from Erenlei magazine, November 2, 2010


Why Is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow? - BAM/PFA - Film ... 


KIDLAT TAHIMIK: Tagahawan ng landas ng Philippine ...




Parallax ViewThe View Beyond Parallax… more reads for ...  Bruce Reid from Parallax View


Kidlat Tahimik - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Kidlat Tahimik Retrospective at UP Film Institute | PinoyFilm ...  biography


Kidlat Tahimik | Online references |


Tajira, Rea


STRAWBERRY FIELDS                           B+                   90

USA  (90 mi)  1997


An award winning director of the documentary film, KOCHIYAMA:  PASSION FOR JUSTICE, this is her first feature, a sweet but raw-edged look at a young woman growing up in Chicago in the early 1970’s, experimenting with sex and drugs in search of her self-identity, which leads to the Arizona desert where she comes face to face with her own past, in the shape of her dead sister and the tortured past of her parents, who once lived on this same plot of land in a Japanese internment camp.  This is a truly moving work with a strong sense of history, memory, and the inherent power of stark imagery, in this case, forbidden photographs taken by her parents in the camps, which they never wanted their children to see, repeatedly going up in flames on screen until one gets the message that so did many Japanese at the hands of the atomic bomb and their memories were equally obliterated.


Harvey S. Karten


Asian American Film Festival: schedule--Saturday  Rice University Media Center


User reviews  at imdb Author: Casey Machula from Flagstaff, AZ


Strawberry Fields (1997 film) - Alchetron, the free social ...


Strawberry fields | Rankly


Strawberry Fields (1997 film) - Wikipedia, the free ...


Rea Tajiri – Producer, Writer, Director  (pdf)


Takasa, Masahiro


HONEY AND CLOVER                                          B+                   91

Japan  (117 mi)  2006


To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee.  Emily Dickenson


Unlike Shunji Iwai’s ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU CHOU (2001) where there was little distinction between the blurry secondary nature of the brooding high school characters due to the overpowering stylistic flourish which drew all the attention to itself, and not nearly as inventive as Katsuhito Ishii’s brilliant film THE TASTE OF TEA (2004), another off-the-charts charmer that dazzled the heart along with the senses, this film is much less ambitious yet ultimately proves to be surprisingly successful as it actually does a superb job showcasing the diversive nature of each of the characters.  While hardly a profound film, based on a Chica Umino manga comic strip from 2000 that has fed multiple TV variations in Japan, from animation to the immensely popular live action episodes that continue to this day, the simplicity of the form is deceptive, all wrapped up in what resembles another one of a seemingly endless line of Japanese teen alienation movies, this features instead a comically alluring, sweet-natured charm where there’s a deep seeded concern for others that is the heart of this film.  While each of the main characters goes through a series of personal dilemmas, it’s not ultimately about them, as they each discover a larger world around them that takes on greater significance. 


Set in a university art school, we are soon privy to familiar self-centered college habits where kids are uniformly trying to stand out but failing miserably, both in class and with the opposite sex.  Takemoto (Sho Sakurai) is a young architecture student, a friendly sort who also works dressed up in a giant cat outfit for a local supermarket, who along with his somewhat morbid, bespectacled friend Mayama (Ryo Kase) are sent upstairs from a communal class party in search of more beer when Takemoto’s eyes fall upon another young art student, the gorgeously delicate Hagu (Yû Aoi from LILY CHOU CHOU) who is completely immersed in her work, where Mayama sees his friend fall in love right before his eyes, surrealistically expressed by a stream of colorful flower petals that gently flow from her canvas.  She turns out to be the Professor’s niece, a gifted student who specializes in brilliantly colorful abstract paintings that breathe a special air of radiance.  But this revery is interrupted by the crashing, disruptive entrance of an older student Morita, Yusuke Iseye from Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s AFTER LIFE (1998), who is immediately impressed with her work.  Morita always seems to be the center of attention, no matter the occasion, always bragging about his own considerable talent above all others, so it comes as quite a shock that he paid anyone a compliment.  Mayama meanwhile, a promising design student, has his own obsession, falling hopelessly in love with his boss Rika (Naomi Nishida), while failing to notice he’s become the object of another strikingly beautiful student’s affections, Ayumi (Megumi Seki), whose look resembles that of a classic Japanese doll. 


Once the characters have all been introduced, there’s a wonderfully gentle interplay between them, not the least of which includes fascination and rejection in love, where their moods rise and fall with each passing day, but there’s always someone there to listen to them.  While Professor Hanamoto (Masato Sakai) asks Takemoto to look after his niece, she in turn is more impressed with Morita’s prowess as a sculptor.  When he decides to paint a giant canvas outdoors, she joins him, and together they are an utter joy to watch, eliciting applause from bystanders.  While discussing Hagu’s apparent lack of discipline, a fellow professor seems disappointed by her unwillingness to conform to the requirements of specific art competitions, but Professor Hanamoto has the last word, suggesting sometimes professors need to let some students do the dreaming for all of us.  These intimate moments are held together by a soft, inventive musical soundtrack by Yôko Kanno, also exquisite art direction from Momoko Nakamura that prominently accentuates architecture and painting, and an inventive trip to the ocean, which for Hagu seems to be for the very first time.  Their enthusiasm on the trip is infectious, their genuine camaraderie is highly appealing, and it is here that Morita begins calling Takemoto by the knickname Mr. Youth, as he speaks so earnestly about the significance of youth.  Everyone stumbles along the way, but the development of relationships is effortless, always underplayed, occasionally utilizing an interior narration to accentuate innermost thoughts.  There’s nothing showy about this film, which also features the continuing presence of a computer generated black cat, which playfully enters and exits the screen, even over the end credits.  Perhaps it feels a bit contrived by the ending, as it doesn’t measure up to the rest of the film’s promise where a novelistic brush heightens our appreciation for all five of the central characters, but the tone of this film is set at the beginning, where there may not be any rhyme or reason for why things happen the way they do and what lies beneath the surface cannot always be expressed, but the journey, the search itself, not necessarily the answers we find, may become more meaningful in the end simply because of the elevated impact of sharing it with others around us. 


Honey and Clover  Andrea Gronvall from the Reader

Based on Chica Umino's best-selling manga and hit anime TV series, this 2006 teen romance from Japan tracks five attractive collegians with budding art careers. Pop star Sho Sakurai plays an architecture student who's smitten with winsome painter Yu Aoi (All About Lily Chou-Chou) but soon upstaged by hotshot hipster Yusuke Iseya (After Life). Unrequited love accounts for so much of the movie that the narrative almost sputters from inertia, but production designer Momoko Nakamura conjures up a visual feast of sets, costumes, and artwork. Masahiro Takata directed. In Japanese with subtitles. 116 min.

Time Out Chicago (Ben Kenigsberg)


Adapted from a popular manga series—which also has been reworked into both anime and live-action TV shows—Honey and Clover is another Japanese coming-of-age drama that goes heavy on whimsy. (See also 2006’s The Taste of Tea and the festival mainstay A Gentle Breeze in the Village.) Set in and around an art school, the movie is the antithesis of Art School Confidential; the title is derived from Emily Dickinson: “To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee.” Although the film has its share of funny-true moments—as when a student imagines himself arrested for stalking his crush—the mawkishness grows tiresome over the long haul.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer [Sean Axmaker]


Five college-age students in art school fumble through life lessons in Masahiro Takada's gently meandering adaptation of Chica Umino's manga romance. Sho Sakurai centers the film as "the least arty art student at the school," a genial young man who becomes the hub of a loose-knit fellowship of friends and artists (including rising Japanese star Yu Aoi of "Hula Girls" as the object of his affections). The gentle conflicts and easy rhythms and small triumphs over personal adversity are low-key almost to a fault, and the smitten stares and unrequited crushes and creative crises suggest high school melodrama as much as young-adult drama, but that restraint also is part of its comfortable charm. It's cute and sweet without getting saccharine and avoids the contrived complications of American stories of students charging the emotional and sexual minefields of adult relationships and responsibilities (no one here even makes out, let alone sleeps together). That in itself is a minor triumph in a generally contrived and sentimental genre.


Honey and Clover  Facets Multi-Media


Takemoto (Sho Sakurai of boy band Arashi) is an art student under the tutelage of Professor Hanamoto, whose parties brings him and art students Mayama and Yamada together. At a party in the opening scene, Takemoto is introduced to Hagu, Hanamoto's cousin's daughter, who recently entered the school on a scholarship, whereupon Takemoto falls instantly in love. However, trouble occurs in the form of Takemoto's neighbor Morita, a popular, talented, and temperamental older student who has just returned from a long trip. Morita is instantly impressed by Hagu's abstract paintings, and Hagu, in turn, begins to admire Morita's sculpting skills. Meanwhile, Yamada has become infatuated with Mayama, who is hopelessly in love with his boss Rika, even to the point of stalking her and collecting her personal possessions. Even when Mayama rejects Yamada, she remains in love with him for some inexplicable reason. The five come together for Morita's gallery opening, but an impulsive trip to the beach threatens to change a few things about their lives... Based on the hit Japanese comic, Honey and Clover is a romantic comedy that is the latest entry in a long line of Japanese manga adaptations. The lives of these five art university students and their romantic complications is their rite of passage to make sense of the relationship between life and art, in this bittersweet love story of young love. Directed by Masahiro Takasa, Japan, 2006, 35mm, 116 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.


Anime News Network   Carlo Santos


Second-year art student Yuuta Takemoto lives the typical college life: sleeping, eating, and dealing with troublesome apartment mates like eccentric Morita and ladies' man Mayama. Life gets interesting when Hagumi Hanamoto, the gifted niece of Professor Shuuji Hanamoto, comes to school and surprises everyone with her talents (and unusually young appearance). Takemoto wants to make friends with her, but Morita always seems to make the first move; Hagu-chan, meanwhile, is afraid of the boys and prefers the company of pottery student Ayumi Yamada. Gradually they all warm up to each other, learning the ups and downs of college life and beyond.


Was it ever supposed to get this good? Honey and Clover began life as the debut series for Fuji TV's "Noitamina" (read it backwards) lineup, a new anime block aimed at older female audiences. The simple but daring plan worked—young women who would never normally watch anime got into it, and the manga now breaks the Top 10 sales list regularly, sitting alongside blockbuster titles like Prince of Tennis or Bleach. But even viewers outside the target demographic attest to its greatness, pointing out its heartfelt storytelling and unique visual style. It was supposed to be just good enough for sophisticated female viewers—and it ended up being good enough for everyone. Funnier than most comedies and more touching than most dramas (even the live-action ones), Honey and Clover has emerged as one of the best shows of 2005.

Like a true slice-of-life series, it begins right in the middle of things—Takemoto in his second year of college, Mayama nearing graduation, and Morita stuck in seventh-year hell. When Hagu-chan shows up, there's hardly any "please welcome the new student" pomp; she simply joins the cast, and the drama-go-round begins. There is no epic quest to fulfill, no convoluted conspiracy to unlock, no childhood friend to win over—it's just a bunch of college kids figuring out what to do with their lives, and it is fascinating. Every character gets a moment in the spotlight, with story arcs transiting flawlessly between each other. Even Takemoto, who spends most of the series as a neutral observer, closes things out with an inspiring personal triumph. The mood of the show switches effortlessly from madcap comedy to utter heartbreak and everything in between, yet nothing feels out of place. Within a single episode, a game of Art School Twister takes humor to new heights, and yet minutes later, Takemoto muses upon the meaning of friendship.

Like all good shoujo, Honey and Clover succeeds because of its characters' complex personalities. Morita emerges as a quick fan favorite with his bizarre antics and affinity for money, but to focus on him is to miss out on the intricate relationships between everyone else. In particular, Ayumi's unrequited attachment to Mayama is sure to arouse plenty of indignation about the portrayal of women in Japanese entertainment. But maybe that anger is because Ayumi openly reveals everything we hate about themselves: weakness, insecurity, and the tendency to do really stupid things in the name of love. She is the most human character in a cast of incredibly human characters.

Despite this realism on the emotional level, however, the artwork in the show is decidedly surreal and dreamlike. The character designs match the manga almost perfectly with big, expressive eyes, ultrathin lines, and characteristic hatch marks. Even the coloring style adheres to the comic; you may never again see an anime that looks like it was watercolored (there are a few exceptions, like SaiKano). The animation is equally adept, with moments of broad physical comedy being rendered just as smoothly as subtle scenes of close-up dialogue. And of course, no discussion of Honey and Clover is complete without the infamous "food" opening, where spinning plates of food behave in very un-foodlike ways. This 90-second homage to stop-motion auteur Jan Svankmajer is just the first of many artistic touches, proving that the animators—like the art students depicted in the series—treasure creativity above all else.

If music is the language of emotion, then few shows speak it as eloquently as this one. With just a few studio instruments, the soundtrack is able to express the gamut of emotions that each character runs through. The energetic opening theme by YUKI converts into a gentle piano solo, and even Morita's bouts of insanity are accented by charming comedic themes. The most effective emotional tools, however, are the insert songs by singer-songwriter Suga Shikao and rock group SPITZ. Playing a poignant song over internal monologue is hardly a new thing, especially in angsty teen dramas, but to hear it used in an anime makes the technique fresh once more.

If Honey and Clover has any faults, it's that you want it to keep going after it's over. It ends just like it begins—right in the middle of things, with so much more yet to be experienced. Without realizing it, you've become part of that circle of friends: you've shared their heartbreaks and triumphs, walked alongside them as they poured out their feelings, and watched each one of them learn a little bit more about themselves. Whether in school or not, who hasn't asked themselves at some point: "What do I want to do? Who do I want to be?" Honey and Clover may not have the answers, but it's all about trying to find them.


DVD Talk theatrical [Jamie S. Rich]


Cinema-Repose  M. Douglas


Lunapark6 flawed but enjoyable film


The Seattle Times (Jeff Shannon)


Arthouse films :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Movies  Bill Stamets


'Honey and Clover' (based on the comic by Chica Umino) -- 3 stars ...  Maureen M. Hart from the Chicago Tribune [Luiz R.]


Takita, Yôjirô


DEPARTURES (Okurobito)                                 B                     86

Japan  (130 mi)  2008


Taking the Japanese spot of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s masterfully understated TOKYO SONATA (2008) at the Academy Awards this year for Best Foreign Film, which was not only the best Japanese film of the year but among the best released anywhere in the world, this film continues the Japanese obsession with death, much like Israeli films deal with the Holocaust, though if I had to pick a film, IKIRU (1952), MABOROSI (1995) or SUZAKU (1997) would certainly come to mind.  The subject here is the work of a nokanshi, who performs a highly ritualized sacred family ceremony by preparing the bodies of the deceased for their departures into the next realm, as the bodies are cleaned and dressed discreetly in front of the family, the bare skin never exposed, all done with the utmost care and precision showing a kind of quiet reverance and tranquility in the performance of the job which requires meticulous attention to detail.  In America, the job is done by the funeral home behind closed doors before the body is available for viewing.  Not so with this custom, which even in Japan may be somewhat rare and old fashioned, becoming outdated, like many ancient Japanese rituals.  This film suggests it’s a way of paying one’s last respects, recognizing the finality of life by honoring the dead, which oftentimes evokes painful memories that might otherwise have long been suppressed.  Though the film is dramatically affecting, featuring some excellent secondary characters, it’s also something of a weeper, a highly idealized portrait of grief, always showing a family that is greatly moved by the experience and extremely thankful and appreciative afterwards, oftentimes offering special gifts (though one ceremony amusingly ends in a near riot).  With young and old sitting on the floor in close proximity, this becomes an extremely personal family memory. 


Masahiro Motoki plays Daigo, a young cellist in the Tokyo Orchestra that announces it cannot continue due to financial obligations, leaving him and his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) in a state of limbo, eventually deciding to sell his valued cello and move back to his deceased mother’s home in the village where he grew up.  Responding to a want-ad on “departures” where he thinks he’s entering the travel agency business, he is surprised to discover things are not as they seem, especially when he’s hired on the spot after a single question (“Are you willing to work hard?”) as the apprentice to his new boss, the stone faced Tsutomu Yamazaki as Sasaki, where he’s both revolted and awed by his ability to strike such a special connection with the dead.  Initially the job is horrifying, where he’s too embarrassed to even reveal it to his wife, shown rather humorously where he can’t stop cleaning what he perceives as the smell of death from all but encircling him wherever he goes.  In this manner, he reconnects to a piece of his past, where he’s welcomed back to the local bathhouse where he used to come as a boy, still run by the same woman who remembers him, now getting older, having lost her own husband.  Once Mika discovers the truth, she can’t accept that line of work, believing working with the dead is unclean and undignified, as do many friends in the community.  But they don’t see what we see, which is a profound contemplation and near surgical precision needed to perform this work, much like the artistry of playing the cello.  In fact, there is a similar mindset used in each to reach a state of grace. 


What’s interesting is the instrinsically Japanese and highly personal nature of this ritual, which is shown alongside another custom of public bathhouses, both of which still exist in Japanese culture but may be losing their significance in a faster paced modern society.  This metaphor of death is equivalent to the idea that life changes, where the idea of leaving things behind takes on a special significance as the film develops, from leaving the body behind as the spirit ascends, to leaving certain stages of one’s life behind, such as childhood or adolescence which we outgrow, or physically living in different towns and locations in the course of one’s life, to thoughts or recollections that we once felt we knew or understood, yet our opinion changes or evolves over time, which includes the shifting perceptions of our own memories.  Much of this film touches on memory, showing how seemingly insignificant details become magnified over time, or grow clearer, where instead of a flood of experiences to choose from all of which ends up in a blur, this becomes whittled down to where only a precious few stand out. 


Despite the evocative nature of the film, which clearly reaches emotional heights, there’s also a kind of Disney-ized simplicity to it as well, where any and all obstacles can be overcome, and where there’s an extreme degree of repetition, especially the Joe Hisaishi musical themes that just play over and over again, as do fleeting birds in flight imagery, or a man and his cello playing by a riverbank in front of a giant mountain, where the salmon swimming upsteam section is simply a case for cloying sentiment.  Everything becomes homogonized building to this perceived ideal of death as a gate of ascension to a new life, always suggesting a peaceful passing.  Never do they encounter car wrecks with mangled, deformed, disfigured, or burned bodies.  Never is one of them suspected of indecent advances or accused of rape, as is the case in Almodóvar’s TALK TO HER (2002), a much more artistically adventurous film that features the loving care provided to a corpse-like woman in a lengthy coma.  Instead the film builds to a neatly packaged, Hallmark card harmonious picture of bliss and contentment, perhaps similar to Buddhist priests who still practice purifying rituals, but they are subject to harrassment or even political exile by the Chinese government in Tibet.  While the ritual itself is impresive to see, the exclusively fictionalized aspect shown here is missing the documentary authenticity or historical perspective needed to immerse this custom within a living society that is also shown in great detail.  Instead it depicts an idealized relationship with the dead that is glorified not by its acceptance within society, as it seems to remain a specialized, somewhat outsider custom, but by its depiction of tearful family close ups, intense glances, and somewhat sappy piano and cello music that continually surges to new heights before the same themes are recycled again and again.  


DEPARTURES (Okuribito) (d. Yojiro Takita; Japan) *** 3/4  Ken Rudolph


Two years in a row, the Japanese have sent wonderful, challenging films which arrive under the radar and absolutely amaze.  Masahiro Motoki is a revelation, playing a cellist in a Tokyo orchestra who returns to his home village when the orchestra folds.  He finds a job of low repute, but immense personal satisfaction as sort of a ritualized undertaker, lovingly preparing bodies for what his boss calls departures (not a travel agency as he originally expected when he answered the want-ad).  This is an exquisitely evocative film, one which illuminates Japanese culture and aesthetics in an emotionally and intellectually satisfying way.

Time Out Hong Kong [Edmund Lee]

Raised in a broken family, Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) is a disillusioned cellist who has recently lost his job in a Tokyo orchestra. Upon moving with his wife (Mika, played charmingly by Ryoko Hirosue) back to his tranquil hometown in Yamagata prefecture, Daigo answers a job ad (‘working with departures’) thinking it’s a travel agency, only to learn that the well-paid task actually refers to the unenviable trade of ‘encoffining’: the Japanese ritual of cleaning, clothing and applying make-up on a deceased’s body in front of family and friends, before sending him or her off to a peaceful departure. “It should have read ‘working with the departed’”, his boss (Tsutomu Yamazaki) stoically remarks on the misprinted advert.

With his camera lingering at length on Daigo’s elegant ‘performances’ at a series of funerals, and with Joe Hisaishi’s gently affectionate score pulling on audience’s heartstrings, Yojiro Takita’s deeply affecting Oscar winner gets its viewers into mourning mode, and never lets go. Admittedly, fate does show its flair for tear-jerking drama here; fortuitously-timed deaths provide Daigo with the opportunity to win over his wife and childhood friend – who both disapprove of his new trade – once they witness the respect and tenderness he shows the departed. That said, the emotional resonance triggered by this unflinching study of grief (and grieving) goes way deeper than its borderline manipulative tactics hint at. Departures’ belief in love and forgiveness is lyrical, and hauntingly moving.

The Hollywood Reporter review  Maggie Lee

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- An out-of-work cellist finds a new lease of life as a corpse cosmetician when he develops professional pride and respect for the dead in the heartwarming and humorous "Departures." Yojiro Takita, who directed enduring commercial hits like "The Ying Yang Master" and "The Yen Family," has made a popular gem -- thematically respectable, technically hard to fault, artfully scripted to entertain and touch.

This Oscar-entry from Japan won the Grand Prix at Montreal World Film Festival and has made several festival rounds. Cinemas catering to semi-mainstream, artistically-inclined audiences would be a likelier overseas outlet than elite arthouse.

Following his orchestra's disbanding, Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) resettles in his deep north hometown with his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue). He responds to an ad for "Journey Assistant" thinking it's for a travel agency. After some droll beating around the bush by boss Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), he finds out that they are in the "encoffinment" business. "Departures" invokes the quintessentially Japanese "artisan's soul" -- a work ethic of utmost devotion to any profession. The attentive and ceremonious manner in which makeovers is performed before bodies are placed in their coffins is eye-opening. The film gently satirizes modern society's denial of the physical aspect of death through Daigo's initial shame and squeamishness about his job, and the social disdain he experiences. The scene of him wolfing down fried chicken suggests his appetite for life is eventually whetted by confronting mortality daily -- a reconnection with nature's cycle.

The film can be taxed with being a little too long and too sentimental. Joe Hisaishi's score is unabashedly romantic and the cinematography is ravishing, but there are few moments of inner contemplation. Even when Daigo is alone playing the cello, the scenes are heavily embellished with swooping shots, a heavenly countryside backdrop and rhapsodic strings.

This is compensated for by some skillful comic relief and warm rapport among the cast, especially the filial relationship Daigo develops for Sasaki who stands-in for his absent father. Motoki's performance is rich with nuance, but Yamazaki takes expressiveness to a new level, remaining unperturbed, inscrutable and affectionately condescending at all times.

Departures  Tony Rayns from Film Comment, May/June 2009  

The members of the Academy who gave Departures its Oscar must be feeling their mortality. The movie tells the story of a second-rate cellist who loses his job when an orchestra is disbanded but finds inner peace and fulfillment working as a nokanshi, ceremonially preparing the bodies of the newly deceased before they are placed in coffins for cremation. Maybe the Academy’s elderly voters appreciated the way that the man’s newfound serenity guides him to an emotional rapprochement with his hated father, who abandoned him with the gift of a pebble when he was a small child. But it seems more likely that their enthusiasm was triggered by the lengthy demonstrations of the nokan ceremonies themselves: the discreet sanitizing of the dead body, the arrangement of limbs, and, especially, the dressing and application of makeup. The movie is a paean to the good-looking corpse.

The scripting of Departures (by Kundo Koyama, the one-man TV-drama writing factory who nurtured such delights as Iron Chef) is embarrassingly clunky and obvious: the movie’s essential hollowness reveals itself with unusual starkness. Protagonist Daigo Kobayashi is maneuvered into the undertaking profession through a series of feeble narrative contrivances. He conceals the true nature of his job from his young wife (the script has laboriously established that he’s done such things before), and so she walks out when she discovers what he actually does after discovering an instructional video in which he plays a corpse and has gauze stuffed up his anus to prevent seepage. However, women being the simple creatures that they are, she returns as soon as she discovers that she’s pregnant, and it takes only one attendance at a nokan ceremony to reconcile her to hubby’s line of work and then to take the initiative in helping Daigo overcome his hatred of his absent father. All of this takes place against a backdrop shift from the bustle and glitz of metropolitan Tokyo to the rural tranquility of Yamagata Prefecture, conveniently home to the wild geese whose migratory patterns so poetically symbolize the departing soul.

Daigo is played, quite adequately, by Masahiro Motoki, who has trodden these paths before. His claim to stardom dates from the early Nineties, when he not only posed for a volume of nude photographs by Kishin Shinoyama but also starred in two movies by Masayuki Suo, Fancy Dance (89) and Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t (92), in both of which he played hip young slackers discovering their inner maturity through immersion in Japan’s ancient traditions, Buddhism and sumo wrestling respectively. Departures is a virtual rerun of the same scenario, and so Shochiku didn’t need to scratch their corporate heads long over the casting. They didn’t have much trouble with Daigo’s mentor figure Sasaki either; the eccentric but kind-hearted old man, who started a nokan company after the death of his wife, is played by the grizzled Tsutomu Yamazaki, who has been trading in characters like this at least since Tampopo (86). Choosing the director must have been a cinch too. Over a long career which started in soft porn in the early Eighties, Yojiro Takita has distinguished himself by never imposing any ideas of his own on the scripts that companies have thrown at him; Shochiku evidently turned to him again because the lumbering samurai movie he made for them in 2003, When the Last Sword Is Drawn, sold relatively well overseas. None of this matters, of course, and Departures will be forgotten tomorrow. Ironically, though, two of 2008’s best films were made in Japan: Ryosuke Hashiguchi’s All Around Us and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking. They, however, remain unreleased outside Japan.


Departures” is the rare film that successfully combines aspects of a commercial film, art house film, light comedy & heavy drama (pertaining to family & death). The film recently received a surprise boost in recognition by winning the “Best Foreign Language Film” at this year’s Academy Awards. The film already achieved stellar box office results when it first screened in Japan this past September and is currently screening for the second time in Japan after winning the Academy Awards. U.S. distributor Regent Releasing is also planning to distribute the film in select U.S. cities starting this May.

Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) is an aspiring cellist newly hired by a symphony in Tokyo. No sooner than Daigo’s first performance with the orchestra he receives the devastating news that the orchestra will be disbanded. Daigo made the fateful decision to mortgage his future by purchasing a cello that cost well over $100,000. Now he has to break the news to his faithful wife (Ryoko Hirosue). When she asks Daigo what his plans are now, he suggests they move back to his rural hometown Yamagata and start over again. Daigo’s wife smiles and agrees to follow him to Yamagata.

After the couple settles into their new home, Daigo looks for a job. He finds a listing in the newspaper advertising a position that requires little hours, no experience, and centers around helping out others on their journeys. Daigo assumes the position is for a travel agent, but when he arrives at the office, he realizes the job is for an “encoffineer” (Nokanshi) - similar to an embalmer in the U.S., but requires the encoffineer to work in front of the deceased in a ceremony steeped in tradition. The job of an “encoffineer” is not a popular one in Japan and people often look down on the job as dirty. Daigo tries to keep his job secret, but soon rumors spreads around the small town. When Daigo’s wife learns of his new job, she gives him the ultimatum to quit his job or she’ll leave him.

“Departures” isn’t a heavy film per se, but it does eloquently examine the effects of death as it relates to those closest to the deceased. The film also respectfully showcases the art found in the encoffineer’s work. This is particularly important to the Japanese, as the movie portrays the common perception of these workers as people who are reviled. Masahiro Motoki always uses his hands as gracefully applying make-up on the deceased as he does when playing the cello. The message that comes out loud and clear is that the work performed by encoffineers are as artful as classical music. Departures also brings to light the importance of living life to the fullest as well as the importance of forgiveness. In one particularly moving scene, Daigo Kobayashi and his wife watches from the distance as a lady he has known all his life ends her journey, while a worker at the funeral home remarks that it feels like her journey is about to begin.

Performances all around are excellent, with nary a single shabby performance found in the movie. Masahiro Motoki obviously takes center stage and impresses throughout the movie (especially so when you compare his brilliant performance in “Departures” with his lifeless turn in last year’s “The Longest Night in Shanghai”). Ryoko Hirosue is cute as button in the film and the manner in which she always accepts Daigo’s ways until placing her placing foot firmly down when it comes to his new job works wonderfully to drive home the stigma carried by encoffineers. Tsutomu Yamazaki also brought out a lot of color, without ever saying a whole lot, in his supporting role as Daigo’s mentor and boss. At times, Tsutomu Yamazaki’s character felt like a continuation of his role from “Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World.”

Although it would have been so easy for “Departures” to lay on the sappiness, the picture always opts for the graceful route as it tells its powerful tale about life, death, and awakening. A large cross-generational group of viewers will likely find the movie inspirational. Although I don’t feel “Departures” is even the best Japanese film of the year (my vote would go to Tokyo Sonata), it’s still nice to find the Academy Awards bring to light such a strong Japanese film for the masses.

Asia Pacific Arts [Bryan Hartzheim]


A Nutshell Review  Stefan S.


Slant Magazine review [3/4]  Joseph Jon Lanthier


Cinematical [Eric D. Snider]


CompuServe (Harvey S. Karten) review


Village Voice (Ella Taylor) review (Chris Cabin) review [2/5]


Movie Martyr (Jeremy Heilman) review [2/4]


Critic's Notebook [Robyn Citizen]


New York Magazine (David Edelstein) review


Film School Rejects [Robert Levin]


Christian Science Monitor (Peter Rainer) review [C+]


Variety (Eddie Cockrell) review


The Japan Times [Mark Schilling]


San Francisco Chronicle (Walter Addiego) review [3/4]


Los Angeles Times (Betsy Sharkey) review


Chicago Tribune (Michael Phillips) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]


The New York Times (A.O. Scott) review


Tamahori, Lee



New Zealand  (99 mi)  1994

Time Out review


An emotionally raw, visually stylish first feature, with the intensity of the best social melodrama, about the indomitable spirit of battered Maori wife Beth Heke (Owen) as she struggles to hold together her disintegrating family. Husband Jake (Morrison) is a violent yet charismatic bully, the sullen eldest son is already a gang member, the youngest is in care, and only gifted daughter Grace (Kerr-Bell) offers hope for the future. A gritty human drama evoking the residual vibrancy of a threatened culture.


Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review

"Once Were Warriors" is an uncompromising, emotionally draining drama that presents the urbanization of New Zealand's Maori as a cultural disaster, one that is mirrored in the shards of a shattering marriage. This explosive first film by director Lee Tamahori focuses on the transformation of a battered wife, but its story is fueled by the machismo of the disenfranchised Maori male.

Warriors deprived of societal and spiritual guidance all too often wind up like Jake Heke (Temuera Morrison), an unemployed bruiser who spends most of his time drinking with his cronies at the neighborhood pub. If his wife, Beth (Rena Owen), questions his wasting money on booze, Jake answers with his fists.

The morning after, he rubs salt in her terrible wounds by complaining of her ugliness. But in time the bruises fade, the swelling subsides and Jake seduces her all over again. The Hekes would know all the stops of "A Streetcar Named Desire," though Jake's volatility and boxer's build also recall another cinematic Jake, in "Raging Bull."

The hard-drinking Beth is no angel herself. Indeed, she puts spin on the ugly cycle in one of the movie's most brutal scenes. When Jake orders her to make an omelet for a drinking buddy, the tipsy Beth literally eggs him on by smashing the carton. Jake retaliates violently as the kids cower in their beds upstairs.

In spite of everything, Beth is still sexually attracted to her husband, but she is beginning to realize what drink and violence are doing to her children. Although one son joins a gang and another is taken to a state home for delinquent boys, there is still hope for her three youngest children, especially the luminous and vulnerable 13-year-old Grace (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell). As Beth's nurturing instincts grow and her lust wanes, Jake becomes threatened and drives the family nearer the edge of destruction.

The actors, many of them of European-Maori descent, are wonderful to look at. They also deliver authoritative yet sympathetic performances that get at the roots, or rootlessness, of their characters. Owens is a Carmen of the kitchen sink as Beth -- as destructive in her way as Morrison's Jake, a warrior who cannot recognize, much less defeat, the enemy all around him.

Adapted from Alan Duff's gritty bestseller, Maori writer Riwia Brown's screenplay does not flinch from the ugliness of the Hekes' home life. It does, however, hold out some hope for Beth's future and her children's, but only if they return to their Maori homeland. The lesson, as in Australia's "The Fringe Dwellers": Colonialism continues to poison indigenous peoples.

Scott Renshaw review [8/10]

Critics are often heard complaining about the lack of originality in American filmmaking, about remakes, TV-retreads and tired concepts dominating the multiplexes. When Hollywood does decide to show the audience something it has never seen before, it is usually technology leading the way (JURASSIC PARK, TERMINATOR 2). ONCE WERE WARRIORS is a wonderful example of what the movie-going experience can teach us given the opportunity. As an examination of the Maori culture in contemporary New Zealand, ONCE WERE WARRIORS showed me a world I had never seen before, and up until its overly melodramatic final half hour, it is a fascinating and unsettling drama.

ONCE WERE WARRIORS is the story of the Heke family, people of Maori descent living in present day Auckland. Beth (Rena Owen), a stoic homemaker, faces tremendous family pressures, most dangerously from her unemployed and frequently abusive husband Jake (Temuera Morrison). The children also present problems: oldest son Nig (Julian Arahanga) has left home in favor of the company of a Maori gang; middle son Boogie (Taungaroa Emile) has frequent run-ins with the law and may be taken away by social services; daughter Grace (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) dreams of being a writer but is discouraged by the culture's traditional roles for women. These pressures continue to build, until a family tragedy forces Beth to decide if she can continue to live the same life.

The first image in ONCE WERE WARRIORS is an idyllic landscape, which is quickly revealed to be a billboard over a busy highway and a Maori "ghetto." Director Lee Tamahori sets up his story as one far removed from a perhaps-mythic past, and defined by a warrior culture in a land where the war for survival is fought against less tangible enemies. Often poor and treated with disdain by white authority figures, the Maori turn their aggression inward, in pointless and explosive barroom brawls and domestic violence. ONCE WERE WARRIORS has become a massive box office success in New Zealand for addressing this culture which accounts for almost 10% of its population, but it doesn't require a stretch to recognize that it is a story which translates all too well to stories of America's economically disadvantaged minority cultures. It is a specific story, but in many ways it is also a universal one.

The specific story is most effective thanks to several powerful performances. Rena Owen's Beth is a proud woman whose beauty still appears in a bright smile on her weathered face, though nearly twenty years of marriage have beaten her down. Her love for Jake is as genuine as her frequent fear and hatred of him, and that conflict drives the film. Temuera Morrison is even more complex as Jake, because he makes a violent drunk appealing enough during his good moments to make the relationship convincing; he is Fred Flintstone with a serious attitude. Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell, as the ever-more- pessimistic Grace, is also good, as is Taungaroa Emile as the troubled Boogie.

While it is frighteningly real violence which drives ONCE WERE WARRIORS for much of its running time, pathos unfortunately takes over in the third act. There is a drawn-out sequence which gives everyone a chance to cry and make a speech, and characters start to speak in platitudes like, "You're still a slave, Jake ... a slave to your fists" and "I'll wear my (tatoos) on the inside." By the end, I was wondering whether Tamahori was taking his cue from Hollywood, providing a feel-good resolution which tied up loose ends far too neatly, rather than sticking with the harsh realities of the world in which he has placed us. This takes nothing away from everything that has gone before, however. ONCE WERE WARRIORS is filled with memorable images, solid acting and a keen sense of place and character, but without even realizing it, Tamahori has also told a story about urban sub-cultures far from his own home.

DVD Times [Gary Couzens]


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [3.5/4]


Movie Reviews UK review [5/5]  Damian Cannon


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Tanne, Richard


SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU                                       B                     87

USA  (84 mi)  2016  ‘Scope


Acknowledging the paucity of black filmmakers coming out of Hollywood today, perhaps it’s only natural that the writer and director behind this project is a white Jewish guy from New Jersey who has the audacity to make a fictionalized film about the first date of the sitting President of the United States and the First Lady while they are still in office.  If the film came out of Hollywood, it would be announced with plenty of fanfare and hoopla, perhaps playing to a political base or a targeted demographic.  Instead this came out of Sundance nearly unannounced, without a major ad campaign.  As is, it’s actually a quiet and remarkably understated character piece that focuses on the intelligence of both characters, who are perhaps blown away at meeting someone of the opposite sex that is as smart, ambitious, and deliciously charming as they are, both black overachievers.  It’s not often we see that in the movies, so audiences may be mixed on this one, as the world of film doesn’t often get to tell these kinds of stories, real or imagined.  Perhaps the best of its kind is Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy  (2008), an unassuming first date picture between two highly intelligent black independents in their 20’s from San Francisco, where the film spends 24 hours with them, much of it in real time, as they feel each other out discussing race and the low percentage (just 7%) of blacks living in San Francisco, spending the day visiting the Museum of the African Diaspora, an affordable housing coalition meeting, before watching a concert.  It’s a surprisingly similar scenario to the Obama first date, visiting an Afro exhibit at an art museum, having lunch in a nearby park, visiting a community meeting at a local church, before heading off to see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), where in each the evolving personalities take center stage.  No one writes naturalistic dialogue as well as Richard Linklater, whose conversational trilogy Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013) documenting the personal exploration of two characters over time stands near the apex of his artistic achievement, all perhaps drawn from Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (1954).  While those may be masterworks, this, by comparison, is a small but unpretentious film that just happens to tell a real story about one day in the life of Barack and Michelle Obama when they were just ordinary people, before they were a couple or really knew one another, and before the spotlight of their lives became scrutinized as public figures. 


To its credit, the film is not a biographical account of what happened, where they are impersonating existing lives, but is instead an imaginary journey of what might have happened, including invented conversations of what they may have said, grounded in a reality of events that took place in Chicago, gathered from what we already know from two books written by Obama, all envisioned through the eyes of a first-time director.  Surprisingly, he does not embarrass himself, which could permanently derail his career, and instead presents an impressionistic mosaic of shifting mood swings, where much of their dialogue is a battle of wits, with the more reserved Michelle (Tika Sumpter, who is also an executive producer) continually deflecting Barack’s (Parker Sawyers) openly expressed interest.  Both were employed by the same corporate law firm, Sidley & Austin, the only two black people in the firm, where in 1989 he is a summer associate, having just completed his first year at Harvard Law School, while she is a second year associate, having already graduated from Harvard Law School, making her Barack’s advisor at the time.  To her, their friendship is strictly a professional relationship, not wishing to blemish her reputation at the firm, while the seemingly more relaxed Barack, cigarette always in hand in those days, seems to have other inclinations.  Both are from starkly different backgrounds, where she comes from a solidly South side, working-class background, still living at home with her parents, with her father developing symptoms of multiple sclerosis, while Barack has traveled the globe, living for a time in Indonesia, raised by white grandparents in Hawaii, presumably for a better education, where he’s largely been absent from his own parents.  As a result, there’s some emotional distance to cover, where the other provides something uniquely different for each of them to understand.  Initially, however, it’s Michelle who is caught off-guard, thinking this young upstart might be trying something slick, Southside with You Movie CLIP - This is Not a Date (2016) - Tika Sumpter Movie YouTube (1:06).  Both exhibit a fiery spirit, where their eloquence with words gives the other pause, with both playing a kind of cat and mouse game, each taking personal jabs at the other, reaching into one another’s private inner sactum, where thankfully there are plenty of silences to allow the changing moods to sink in.  As the day progresses, they still remain together, though there are ample opportunities to cut it short, yet to their credit, they maintain the intensity levels, keeping their charm and wits about them, even as this is perceived as something of a marathon date.  While the director acknowledges it all happened, it’s likely that the visit to a community meeting may have taken place on another day, with the director claiming poetic license.  


The film opens with a certain apprehension and anxiety in the air felt by both before what is obviously a significant event, with Michelle downplaying it in front of her parents, but fooling neither one, while Barack fends off a phone call from his grandmother informing her this is a girl with a darker complexion, suggesting prior white girl issues.  Arriving in his beat-up yellow Datsun with a rusted-out hole on the floorboard of the passenger’s side, with the music blaring Janet Jackson, Janet Jackson - Miss You Much - YouTube (4:20), the chain-smoking Barack is customarily late, which she takes issue with, visiting an exhibition at the Art Institute, which was off limits for shooting, so instead it was shot down the street at the Chicago Cultural Center (, featuring a vibrantly colorful Afrocentric art exhibit by Ernie Barnes, having a discussion standing in front of the painting Room Ful’A Sistahs, Southside With You "Not As They Appear" Featurette - Now Playing in Select Cities! YouTube (1:13).  Barack points out his artwork was featured on the television show Good Times (1974 – 79) as well as Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album cover of “I Want You.”  Stick around for the duration of the end credits, as his work is gorgeously featured there as well.  While it’s a beautiful setting, so is the walk in the park afterwards, actually filmed in the lush greenery of Douglas Park on the city’s West side, offering her a slice of pie (“Who doesn’t like pie?”), but she prefers ice cream, where they actually start to open up to each other, Southside With You "Grade School" Featurette [HD] Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers YouTube (1:27), hearing the music of a conga circle nearby, where a young black girl picks Michelle to come dance with her, easily the most exquisitely liberating moments of the film, before finally heading to the community meeting at the Altgeld Gardens public housing project on the far south side, one of the city’s oldest housing projects, isolated from the rest of the city and nearly 5 miles to the closest police station.  The scenes were actually shot at the historic Quinn Chapel (Original file), one of the oldest black churches in the country sitting atop one of the freedom stops on the Underground Railway, a site where speeches have been made by Frederick Douglass, W.E. Dubois, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Susan Anthony, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, along with noted preachers Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Jesse Jackson, as well as President Barack Obama.  The walkway to the meeting site is through a yellow brick tunnel where the names of gunshot victims are written on the walls, a relic from the past that is as pertinent today as it was when it happened, where the couple moves through this walkway in total silence, as if observing a shrine to the past.  Once inside, the meeting has the ring of a lovefest for the young Obama, having worked as a community organizer in Altgeld Gardens before entering law school, where women can’t wait to share feel-good stories about him to Michelle, where he’s treated like a returning hero.


The meeting holds a central place in the film, as it’s the first time Michelle is completely taken aback by the startling power of his innate qualities, where she gets a chance to see him in his own element, holding court in a room full of angered low income housing residents who are used to being frustrated by an apathetic system that perpetually denies their funding requests and leaves them completely out of the process.  Billboards and pamphlets that advertise the city’s prowess as a “city that works” do not include these residents, who are often viewed by the rest of the city as a dumping ground of discontent, a jobless community so depressed that whatever money flows through their coffers appears to go down the drain, as every year it remains a major crime area filled with out-of-control gangs.  It’s hard to get your hopes up when everyone’s dreams are dashed.  Like a scene out of John Ford’s YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939), Barack has an inspiring nobility about him, refusing to be deterred by constant setbacks, offering his view that they’re actually in a better position than they’ve ever been, pointing out the nature of how difficult it is in a democracy to change the minds and hearts of those sitting in power, who have to continually be reminded of the resourcefulness coming from dispossessed communities.  He gives a great speech, literally changing the mindset of those in the room, deflecting the fury, offering the prospect that they can ultimately succeed if they refuse to back down, reassess their interests, and perhaps utilize a less confrontational, more inclusive strategy that suggests what’s best for them is actually better for the city overall.  It’s an impressive display of Obama’s grassroots organizing skills, where he is asking residents to withhold their judgments (a lesson he attributes to his newfound friend) about what seems like a corrupt and contaminated system until they have a chance to see it through, as the building blocks of progress are made in a series of achievable accomplishments that others around them eventually come to recognize and respect.  While Michelle is not exactly blown off her feet, she finds it suspiciously clever that he invited her to a community meeting where he happened to be the central speaker.  Not yet ready to call it a day, they have drinks in Hyde Park, though it’s actually a bar near Douglas Park called The Water Hole Lounge, Southside with You Movie CLIP - Make A Difference (2016) - Tika Sumpter Movie  YouTube (1:19), where the two spar over a beer about which is the best Stevie Wonder album, with Michelle making the case for Talking Book while Barack is an Innervisions kind of guy, before heading out to watch the controversial Spike Lee film where brutally excessive police tactics cause an innocent death, leading to a furious state of rage on the street that is broken by an incendiary turn of events that has divided audiences for decades, a literal standoff between the non-violent teachings of Martin Luther King and the “any means necessary” of Malcolm X.  Most black audiences instinctively understand the ending, while whites inevitably tend to question the use of violence to fight violence, having never endured the same oppressive conditions.  Bumping into a senior partner from their law firm after the film, both employees act embarrassed and defensive in his presence, as the film perhaps unnecessarily strives to make that same point.  By the end of the night, a visit to the neighborhood Baskin-Robbins shop for ice cream seems to seal the deal, creating a well-earned truce between their harboring doubts about one another, nothing that a brief kiss can’t overcome in a nanosecond.  It would be three years before they’d marry, but this little indie film sets the tone for a romantic spark.  


Review: Southside with You - Film Comment  Jeff Reichert, July 5, 2016

Prior to his election as America’s 44th President, we the people learned a great deal about Barack Obama: of his troubled mixed-race parentage, the exotic locales of his youth, his chain smoking, his powers of verbal persuasion. These factoids are dutifully trotted out in writer/director Richard Tanne’s Southside with You with a clockwork regularity that suggests a faithful screenwriter blissfully untouched by inspiration.

The framework for Tanne’s feature-length information dump is Barack’s storied 1989 first date with Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), in which the pair took in an African art exhibit, went on a long walk, caught a late show of Do the Right Thing and managed a chaste first kiss over ice cream. The meet-cute romantic framework allows Michelle to act as audience surrogate and gradually coax the life history from her loquacious suitor.

As Barack, Parker Sawyers knows to keep one hand tucked comfortably in his chinos at nearly all times, so that the other can move freely through space, and occasionally come to rest behind an earlobe, as he talks and talks in that familiar rhythmic cadence. Yet as a director, Tanne’s feel for the Southside is as bird’s-eye pedestrian as a satellite image. His needless use of a ’scope frame only serves to highlight the film’s paucity of any real ideas.

One wishes for any glimpse of a raison d’être for the film, even a hint of hoary, patriotic sturdiness that would mark this as something like Barack Obama in Illinois. It sadly never arrives.

Building the Obamas in Southside with You | Chicago magazine ...  Novid Parsi from Chicago magazine, August 2016

For Richard Tanne, it began with a silent exchange. As Barack and Michelle Obama rose to national prominence, the filmmaker became fascinated with “that look they give each other,” he says. “It’s a look of love and longing, and it’s rare—and even rarer in public figures.”

Intrigued, Tanne began researching the couple and found himself drawn to one particular moment in the Obamas’ lives: their first date. “What struck me about it was Michelle was not interested at first and Barack had to prove himself over the course of one day,” says Tanne. “It had the makings of a movie.”

So in 2013, Tanne decided to take a stab at a script. He spent months culling material from interviews, articles, and videos to create a fictional account of the 1989 date between 28-year-old Barack Obama and 25-year-old Michelle Robinson. The result is Southside with You, Tanne’s feature directorial debut, which opens nationally on August 26. “It’s almost like a superhero origins film about how they became this great American couple,” says one of its producers, Robert Teitel, a Chicago native whose Chicago-set films include Barbershop and Soul Food.

Though just 85 minutes, Southside leisurely presents a credible portrait of two people learning about each other, both pulling away and drawing closer as they exchange personal disclosures: Michelle living with her parents to help care for her father, who has multiple sclerosis; Barack still grappling with his resentment toward an absentee dad. If it’s unusual for a movie to follow two people just talking, it’s even more so when they’re African American. “There are far too few black romances onscreen,” says Tanne, who’s white.

Southside incorporates real-life details from that first date (Barack and Michelle catch a screening of Do the Right Thing and kiss for the first time in front of a Baskin-Robbins in Hyde Park) while taking plenty of creative liberties. Tanne couldn’t find out what the couple viewed while visiting the Art Institute, for example, so he came up with an artist he admires, Ernie Barnes, known for the paintings which appeared in the Chicago-set ’70s sitcom Good Times. And although Barack took Michelle to a community meeting during their courtship, Tanne thinks that probably didn’t happen on the first date. “But it made sense dramatically, so I put it in the movie,” says Tanne, who shot Southside last summer in just over 15 days on a budget of about $1.5 million.

It’s in that community meeting scene where the film most clearly shows the makings of Barack the politician. He entreats residents frustrated by a drawn-out battle to build a community center to set aside judgment and instead embrace empathy. “It’s an attempt at what a younger, less formed Obama might have sounded like,” says Tanne. Indeed, the united-we-stand message could have come from speeches President Obama has delivered this year.

But Tanne says any partisan reading of his film is one that viewers project onto it. “You’re going to have your own politics, and you’ll bring to the movie whatever relationship you have to the president or the first lady. Whatever you take away from it says a lot about you—it tells you what you think about the Obamas’ time in the White House,” says Tanne. “First and foremost, I wanted to tell a love story. This movie is a completely apolitical animal.”

Though Tanne insists he “really tried to stay away from any foreshadowing and any linkage to President Obama’s ideals,” the film still reads like the creation myth of the world’s most powerful political couple. And given the timing of its release during the twilight of Obama’s presidency, it’s impossible not to see the film as more than a love story. It’s also a love letter—one written to a president who promotes compassion and unity during an election cycle marked by malice and divisiveness.

Tanne thinks that reading will shift with time. “If I had sat down to write it in 2008, when I first had the idea, it would’ve been perceived as propaganda for the 2012 election,” he says. “And that leaves me with a question: Will people’s reactions to this movie change over time according to their perceptions of the president?”

Review: Southside With You's Presidential Spark -- Vulture  David Edelstein

Southside With You is a dramatization of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, in 1989, during which the Kenyan-born pretender took his future bride to a mosque and the two bonded over plans to make Whitey suffer — either by establishing sharia, legalizing gay marriage, or doing both at the same time, however contradictory that might be.

I kid. This movie actually peddles the version concocted by Bill Ayers for his second “Obama” book, The Audacity of Hope. In this version, Obama (who has just finished his first year at Harvard Law School) is a summer associate at a Chicago corporate law firm, where he’s advised by a second-year associate, Michelle Robinson. He really likes her, but, because of their professional relationship, she’s reluctant to go on an official “date.” He asks her out so many times, though, that he wears her down.

It’s weird to watch a biopic in which the subjects aren’t just alive but in the White House, and in which everything they say and do is freighted with politics. There might even be people out there who think the first paragraph of this review isn’t sarcasm — Donald Trump’s definition of sarcasm having turned out to be rather elastic. Other people might wonder at the possible political ramifications of having Obama admit onscreen (as opposed to in elitist print) to spending high school in a “cloud” of weed.

Southside With You plays as if the young writer-director Richard Tanne felt compelled to parse every word his characters say, which means they don’t cut loose the way the characters do in fictional date movies like Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight. It’s all a little wholesome for my taste. But that might well be how it was. And the movie’s mix of romance and politics — both African-American and feminist politics — has a naïve kind of charm. The movie is charming even when it’s stilted, and it’s often stilted.

The dramatic hook is that Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle (Tika Sumpter) are from very different worlds. He’d spent much of his childhood with his white grandparents in Hawaii, while she’s from a tight, working-class South Side black family, with whom she still lives. So what does he propose for a first date? They go to an Afrocentric art exhibit, a meeting in a local church where he’d spent time as a community organizer, and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. That’s quite an Afro slate!

It’s too bad that director Tanne dances around the idea that this intensely African-American date is Barack’s attempt to prove to Michelle that he’s not some white-bred, Harvard-educated, corporate lawyer-type — that his identity and his future rest with the black side of his heritage, and that pursuing her after a life of dating mostly white women is a sign of where his true heart is.

You can infer that from some of the stories the movie’s Barack tells, but it’s fuzzy. To understand the seesaw of his life — Indonesia, Hawaii, Columbia, three years as a Chicago community organizer, a trip to Africa to meet his late father’s relatives, and Harvard Law School — you’d be better off reading Obama’s painstaking dissections of his own motives in his (or Bill Ayers’s) first book, Dreams From My Father.

Southside With You is not quite a hagiography. For one thing, you see that the young Obama smoked like a chimney. He lights up in the first and last scenes and in nearly every scene in between. I hate that, frankly — I’m with the people who say that when glamorous characters smoke in movies it can’t help but glamorize the poison itself, and that’s a terrible message. But the truth is the truth. (Obama has allegedly quit, although some people suspect he’s still a closet smoker. Some people also suspect he founded ISIS. I don’t know — it’s what some people say.)

At least Parker Sawyers makes that smoking a character point: It’s how this Barack steadies himself, chills himself out. There’s a lot of smart thinking in Sawyers’s impersonation. He captures Obama’s odd rhythms, especially those confident stammers, during which we wait for him to craft the exact right phrases and marvel at how sexy self-restraint and logic can be. I’m sure that’s Obama’s hope anyway — that he’s the sexy Mr. Spock. Michelle does everything she can to appear skeptical or at least unmoved. Sumpter seems arch in some of her early scenes, but she gives the movie its fiercely honest center: We see Obama through her appraising eyes. And we know that she’ll have battles of her own to come, in a profession where she first has to prove herself as a woman and then has to start all over as an African-American.

My only problem with Parker Sawyers is cosmetic. He’s dark-skinned, the same as Sumpter’s Michelle, and so he doesn’t visually evoke a man who comes from two worlds. Since so much has been made about Obama’s race and ethnicity, I’m curious to see if Sawyers’s complexion is distracting to anyone else. Let me burn my boats and say I wish Sumpter had been taller, too. Michelle is nearly six feet tall; in heels, she is eye-level with her spouse. Throughout her life, her tallness made her stick out. (And while we’re at it, I still can’t accept the diminutive Tom Cruise as the six-foot-six-inch Jack Reacher.)

In the movie’s central sequence in the church/community center, Michelle is surrounded by middle-aged women who tell her how great Barack is and, in one case, how he mentored and inspired a woman’s young son to escape the violent streets and join the military. It’s a borderline campaign commercial when Obama gets up to speak and makes the case — when confronted by the anger of residents over lack of funding — for a non-confrontational approach, for putting oneself in one’s opponents shoes. Then again, that really was the place where Obama honed his considerable political and rhetorical skills. And the scene is somewhat lightened by Michelle’s realization that it’s a setup to win her over. She thinks he’s too smooth by half — but the half, at least, is on the side of the angels.

The last part of Southside With You is a botched opportunity. Barack and Michelle are blown away by the cops’ murder of Radio Raheem in Do The Right Thing, but outside the theater there’s a poorly written scene in which they bump into a senior partner at the firm and Barack eases the clueless white man’s discomfort over the climactic riot with a bit of flimflam. (He lies that Mookie’s throwing the barrel through the window was an attempt to save Sal and Sal’s sons from the mob’s inevitable wrath.) What we don’t see is Barack and Michelle engage with Spike Lee’s central conflict, between the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King (which we’ve heard espoused by Obama at that community meeting) and the angry militancy of Malcolm X, which Lee implicitly endorses. This isn’t just a quibble: The movie seems to be leading up to that discussion. Instead there’s a fight over the senior partner’s unconscious sexism and then, finally, a kiss.

Is that a spoiler — that they kiss? For all its many clunks and wobbles, something comes through vividly in Southside With You: These two kids have terrific chemistry. Michelle for Senate in 2018?

Barack and Michelle Obama first date movie Southside with You ...  Dana Stevens from Slate                        

The biggest question raised by the release of Southside With You, writer-director Richard Tanne’s debut feature about the 1989 first date between young Chicago attorney Michelle Robinson and a summer associate at her corporate firm by the name of Barack Obama, is: Are you just trying to rub salt in the wound, Richard Tanne? In the final months of the second term of this country’s first black president, we’re careening toward an election that’s proving to be, in ways unforeseeable by this film’s producers when they undertook the project years ago, a painful referendum on our country’s lingering divides over race and gender. What are we supposed to do with a tender, intelligent microbiopic about a single afternoon and evening in the life of the president and first lady, years before they ever conceived of the notion that they might be anything of the kind? How is this going to help us with our sorrow about the imminent departure of the first family from the public eye?

We don’t need an origin story to remind us of why Barack and Michelle (again, placing politics aside for a moment) have been the premier first couple of our lifetimes. In addition to their being handsome and funny and well-dressed and truly, unfakeably fond of each other, there was the simple and merciful fact that no whiff of intra-Obama scandal occurred during his eight years in office. No interns to depose, no first-daughterly misbehavior to cluck over. (OK, there was the alleged incident of Malia taking a puff of weed at a concert this summer, but that was an after-school-special script of a scandal in comparison with the partying of some White House teenagers. And anyway, it’s basically senior week of the Obama presidency.) Nor has there been any diva-esque behavior on the part of the first lady, who despite her avowed distaste for life in the spotlight has stood squarely under its white-hot glow for eight years—doing the Dougie; entertaining foreign dignitaries; serving as a forceful advocate for underrepresented populations; and as if ‘twere nothing, embodying the nation’s new, more muscular idea of feminine good arms.

You get the picture. Some of us already ’ship FLOTUS and POTUS enough to have read up a bit on their first date. Why would we require a fan-fic re-enactment, faithful but for one important scene that in fact happened a bit later in their relationship, to appreciate what we had while we still have it? Isn’t it too early for this kind of nostalgia?

But Tanne’s achievement is that he neither wreathes his famous characters in the rosy haze of hagiography nor attempts to paint them in dark, sordid tones simply for the sake of making his story more dramatic. Southside With You is fan fiction of the least invasive, most psychologically astute variety. Though it’s barely 84 minutes long, this buoyant yet reflective movie captures the ever-shifting mood of a daylong encounter that changed both its protagonists’ lives.

Not every moment of the day that the ambitious, slightly prim Michelle (Tika Sumpter, who co-produced in addition to playing essentially the film’s main character) spends in the company of Barack (Parker Sawyers) is romantic, fun, or even especially pleasant. Twice over the course of their time together, one confronts the other with an important truth that he or she has been unwilling to face. (When that happens two times on a first date, you know you’re either made for each other or you’d better run as fast as possible in opposite directions.)

In addition to making each other laugh and think and swoon, the young Barack and Michelle occasionally make each other suspicious, or judgmental, or annoyed. When he shows up a few minutes late to pick her up (in the beat-up yellow Nissan with a rusted-through hole in the floor the first lady has affectionately described in speeches), Michelle crisply reminds her temporary colleague that, after all, it’s her job to notice if he arrives late—the way he did his first day of work. Ouch! But movie Barack, played with confidence and grace by the lanky Sawyers, soon makes clear that, like the real-life dude in the Oval Office, he’s not all that easy to ruffle. He performs a sneaky bait-and-switch as to the nature of their outing: The community meeting she’d agreed to attend at a South Side church won’t actually be starting until a bit later in the afternoon. Wouldn’t Michelle be willing to see a nearby art exhibit, grab lunch, and then attend the community event?

Michelle’s initial resistance to identifying this collegial meetup as a “date” gives rise to one of the movie’s best speeches: As the firm’s only black female associate, she reminds her laid-back colleague that she can’t afford to take any chances with her reputation. Later that same resistance becomes a running joke between the two of them, with her never-say-never suitor finally agreeing to call it a date when and only when she thinks it is.

After that exhibit of Afrocentric art (featuring the vibrant paintings of Ernie Barnes, which also figure in the gorgeous closing credits), there’s still time for sandwiches, sodas, and self-revelatory conversation in the park, followed by that long-promised community meeting where—to no one’s surprise except Michelle’s—her not-date gives an impromptu speech that turns a disgruntled roomful of residents from a nearby housing project into the kind of politically energized crowd we know Obama to be capable of inspiring. It’s all very grassroots and sexy. Michelle is duly impressed at his off-the-cuff eloquence, but she also calls him out on his vanity in bringing her to an event at which he knew he was likely to get a chance to shine. From there they go on to share beers and favorite Stevie Wonder albums at a local bar (she’s a passionate advocate for Talking Book; he’s more of an Innervisions guy), then see perhaps the best-ever first-date movie for a pair of future White House integrators, Do the Right Thing.

One of the pleasures of the gentle and unpretentious Southside With You, along with its sprightly pacing and nicely evoked Chicago locations, is the film’s near-complete lack of traditional suspense. Knowing as we do how Michelle and Barack’s story turns out, we can be sure the developments in this mild-mannered romance will be small-scale and intersubjective, the kinds of shifts in perception of self and other that happen every day in real life and, on occasion, have the capacity to change us.

Over the course of one long summer afternoon, the outwardly swaggering, inwardly insecure Barack begins to suspect he’s found a woman who’s not only his intellectual equal but who sees parts of his character no one else yet has. Even more gradually, Michelle comes to realize that she is not only on an official date but in the presence of a man who may become the first great love of her life.

Sumpter and Sawyers are remarkably playful and loose in their evocations of figures so well-known it would be difficult to render them as anything but stiff impersonations. Creating an individual character is an especially tough job for Sawyers, given how familiar Obama’s speech patterns are to us and how closely the actor physically resembles a younger version of the president, right down to the small, round, prominent ears. Sumpter is much less physically similar to Michelle Obama—though like the first lady, she can pull together a look like nobody’s business. Michelle, on whom the movie both opens and closes, is first seen dressing and primping with a valedictorian’s attention to detail: peach blouse, tight white skirt, high platform wedges, not a hair out of place. Sumpter nails the first lady’s air of warm but reserved composure and the slow, careful way she enunciates her words, as if putting an extra measure of thought into choosing each phrase.

Even so, at times Michelle seems to be arriving at her future husband’s thoughts before he does. As Barack struggles over a stein of beer to put into words the exact shape of his still-formless ambitions, he talks about maybe wanting to write books or go back to community organizing when he completes his law degree. “Politics?” she asks, and he shrugs, answers “Maybe,” and quickly changes the subject. It’s those offhanded moments of understatement that make Southside With You feel less like salt in the wound of the Obamas’ looming departure than a welcome homeopathic balm.

The Authentic Joy of “Southside with You” - The New Yorker  Richard Brody


Southside with You: Race, Class, and the Obamas | National Review  Armond White


How True Is 'Southside with You?': Fact-Checking Barack and ...  Jen Yamato from The Daily Beast


Review: 'Southside With You' turns the Obamas' first date into something larger  Drew McWeeny from Hit Fix


In 'Southside With You,' Barack Obama Is a Young, Smooth-Talking ...  Zach Schonfeld from Newsweek


Review: Great Casting and an Emphasis on ... - Shadow and Act  Nella Fitzgerald


'Southside With You': Sundance Review | Reviews ... - ScreenDaily  Tim Grierson


Southside With You · Film Review The Obamas get their own Before ...  A.A. Dowd from The Onion A.V. Club


“SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU”  Donald Shanahan from Every Movie Has a Lesson


Collider [Adam Chitwood]


Southside With You - IndieWire  Eric Kohn


Southside With You Review: Before Sunrise via the Obamas - Film  Angie Han from Slash Film


Slant Magazine [Kenji Fujishima]


Southside with You Review - Den of Geek   Don Kaye


Movie Review: 'Southside With You' Tells the Story of Barack and ...  David Sims from The Atlantic


Review: Barack and Michelle's First Date, Imagined, in Southside with You   Stephanie Zacharek from Time magazine


The Audacity of Love: 'Southside With You' Imagines ... - Village Voice  April Wolfe


Southside with You's Filming Locations Explore the Hidden Sides of Chi   Elizabeth Stamp from Architectural Digest, August 19, 2016


'Southside With You': The True Story Of The Obamas's First Date ...   Genevieve Van Voorhis from Movie Pilot


'Southside With You' Chronicles Barack and Michelle Obama's Steamy ...  Lorraine Swanson from Patch Media


'Southside With You,' About The Obamas, Has Us Asking: Where Is ...  Leah Donnella from NPR [Brian Orndorf]


The Film Stage [Jordan Raup] [Mae Abdulbaki] [Drew Stelter]


'Southside With You' Movie True Story: Facts About Barack And ...  Julia Glum from International Business Times


What Barack and Michelle Obama Think About Southside with You ...  Julie Miller from Vanity Fair, Janury 25, 2016


Meet the Proxy Obamas of Southside With You -- Vulture  Stacie Wilson Hunt interview, August 26, 2016


'Southside With You' director Richard Tanne, on breaking the rules on ...  Lisa Bonos interview from The Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2016


Black Movie, White Director: Richard Tanne on the Obamas First-Date Movie, Southside With You  Rich Juzwlak interview from Jezebel, August 26, 2016


'Southside With You': Sundance Review | Hollywood Reporter  Todd McCarthy


'Southside With You' Review: Barack and Michelle Obama's First Date ...  Justin Chang from Variety


Southside with You review: Obamas' first date is ... - The Guardian  Jordan Hoffman


Southside With You, review: Politics, race and ... - The Independent   Emma Jones [Travis Hopson]  also seen here:  Punch Drunk Critics [Travis Hopson]


Metro US [Matt Prigge]


When Barack met Michelle - The Boston Globe  Peter Keough


Does 'Southside With You' get Michelle Obama right?  Bethanie Butler from The Washington Post, August 26, 2016


Meet Barack meeting Michelle: The Obamas' first-date biopic opens ...  Fred Barbash from The Washington Post, August 24, 2016


The movie about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date is actually pretty good  Stephanie Merry from The Washington Post, January 27, 2016


When Michelle met Barack  Liza Mundy from The Washington Post, October 5, 2008


Movie review: 'Southside With You': Date with Obamas doubly romantic  Mick LaSalle from The Columbus Dispatch


Austin Chronicle [Steve Davis]


'Southside With You' drops in on the cute beginning of a beautiful Obama partnership  Kenneth Turan from The LA Times


How the love African Americans have for the Obamas emboldens 'Southside With You'   The LA Times


Southside With You Movie Review (2016) | Roger Ebert  Odie Henderson


Review: In an Obama Biopic, the Audacity of Hagiography?   Manohla Dargis from The New York Times


Watching the Obamas' First Date, and Feeling a Little Uncomfortable ...   The New York Times


Southside with You - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Southside with You full movie   Watch Full HD Movie here


Tanner, AlaIn


Alain Tanner - Director - Films as Director:, Publications  Dennis Nastav from Film Reference

Alain Tanner's involvement with film began during his college years. While attending Geneva's Calvin College, he and Claude Goretta formed Geneva's first film society. It was during this time that Tanner developed an admiration for the ethnographic documentaries of Jean Rouch and fellow Swiss Henry Brandt, an influence that continued throughout his career. After a brief stint with the Swiss merchant marine, Tanner spent a year in London as an apprentice at the BFI, where, with Goretta, he completed an experimental documentary, Nice Time , which chronicled the night life of Piccadilly Circus. While in London he participated in the Free Cinema Movement, along with Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson, and Lindsay Anderson. Through Anderson, Tanner made the acquaintance of novelist and art critic John Berger, who would later write the scenarios for Le Salamandre, Middle of the World , Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 , and Le Retour d'Afrique. Upon returning to Switzerland in 1960, Tanner completed some forty documentaries for television. Among these were: Les Apprentis , which concerned the lives of teenagers (and created using the methods of Rouch's direct cinema); Une Ville à Chandigarh , on the architecture designed by Le Corbusier for the Punjab capital (the narration for this film was assembled by John Berger); and newsreel coverage of the events of May 1968 in Paris. This last project provided the ammunition for Tanner (once again with Goretta) to form Groupe 5, a collective of Swiss filmmakers. They proposed an idea to Swiss TV for the funding of full-length narrative features to be shot in 16-millimeter and then blown-up to 35-millimeter for release. The plan enabled Tanner to make his first feature, Charles, Dead or Alive , which won first prize at Locarno in 1969.

The film tells of a middle-aged industrialist who, on the eve of receiving an award as the foremost business personality of the year, discovers his disaffection for the institution-laden society in which he finds himself. Following an innate sense of anarchism that Tanner posits as universal, he attempts to reject this lifestyle. His retreat into madness is blocked by his family and friends, who compel him, by appealing to his sense of duty, to resume his responsibilities.

All Tanner's films follow a similar scenario: individuals or a group become alienated from society; rejecting it, they try to forge a new society answerable to themselves alone, only to be defeated by the relentless pressures of traditional society's institutions, whose commerce they never cease to require. This theme receives its fullest and most moving expression in Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000. Here the failure of the collective and the survivors of 1968, who come together at Marguerite's farm outside Geneva, is not viewed as a defeat so much as one generation's attempt to keep the hope of radical social change alive by passing on the fruits of its mistakes, that is, its education or its lore, to the succeeding generation.

Tanner's style is a blend of documentary and fable. He uses techniques such as one scene/one shot, a staple of cinéma-vérité documentary, to portray a fable or folk-story. This tension between fact and fiction, documentary and fable, receives its most exacting treatment in Le Salamandre. Rosemonde's indomitable, rebellious vitality repeatedly defeats the efforts of the two journalists to harness it in a pliable narrative form. After Jonah , Tanner introduces a darker vision in Messidor, Light Years Away , and Dans la ville blanche. The possibility of escaping society by returning to nature is explored and shown to be equally provisional. The tyranny of physical need is portrayed as being just as oppressive and compromising as that of the social world.

Director's Portrait Alain Tanner - Swiss Films  The subtle subversion of Alain Tanner (pdf)


Alain Tanner - Strictly Film School  Acquarello


Alain Tanner - Movies, Bio and Lists on MUBI


Alain Tanner: a film poet between utopia and realism   Christian Dimitriu, 1991 (pdf)


Michael Rowin on Alain Tanner - / film  Michael Rowin from Artforum, April 12, 2010


Film, Marxism: Tanner, Berger, Jonas | Z e t e o  William Eaton from Zeteo Journal, October 13, 2015


Videos about “alain tanner” on Vimeo


Alain Tanner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


THE SALAMANDER (La Salamandre)   

Switzerland  (124 mi)  1971


Time Out

A journalist recruits a novelist friend to help him rustle up a quick TV script based on a news item in a local paper about a man who accused his niece of shooting and wounding him. She claimed the gun went off while he was cleaning it; eventually dropped for lack of evidence, the case was never resolved. The novelist (Denis) sets out to create the script from imagination, while the journalist (Bideau) goes after the facts. But dedicated to a celebration of instinctive revolt, the film is less concerned with what happened than with the girl herself; and Bulle Ogier conveys volumes in the part as the film counterpoints her view of society with its varying view of her. There is, for instance, a scene where she has a job as sales-girl in a shoe shop, and without warning begins to caress the legs the customers present to her: it's a gesture that's at once funny, profoundly erotic, incongruous, and deeply shocking, and one that places both Rosemonde and the world she finds herself living in. A rare treat, infused with a rich and unforced vein of quiet humour.

Movie Poster of the Week: "La Salamandre" on ... - Mubi  Adrian Curry

Swiss director Alain Tanner, who turned 80 last December, is one of the forgotten men of European art cinema. Though his films were regularly distributed in the US in the 1970s and ’80s, Tanner has not had a film released here since 1987’s A Flame in My Heart, though he's made 10 films since (his last, Paul s'en va, was made in 2004) and not a single one of his films is available on Region 1 DVD. But, in a nice piece of serendipity, Anthology Film Archives in New York is hosting a Tanner retrospective this week, the same week that his longtime distributor, New Yorker Films, is opening for business once again. A double cause for celebration.

La salamandre (which plays on Sunday evening and I urge all New York film lovers to see it) was Tanner’s breakthrough hit in 1971. Written with English art critic and novelist John Berger (the first of three collaborations), it is the story of two men, a journalist and a fiction writer, investigating a young woman (Bulle Ogier, stunning) charged in a shooting incident. Ogier’s character, who drifts from job to job, finds work in a shoe store (where she fondles the feet of her customers), hence this wonderful British poster designed by the great woodcut artist Peter Strausfeld.

I was hard pressed to find many other particularly striking Tanner posters, though I like the cut-and-paste, two-color, no-expense-spared simplicity of New Yorker’s poster for his biggest hit, Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000; and the Middle of the World (Le Milieu du Monde) poster is suitably Godardian, with a splendid ’70s typeface.

The first screening of La Salamandre last night clashed with Film Forum’s delightful evening with Scottish director Bill Forsyth (another somewhat forgotten man and another great humanist filmmaker). In another piece of serendipity I just discovered that, in the same year, 1999, both directors made sequels to their best loved films: Forsyth with Gregory’s Two Girls (“He’s back—and he’s got some serious explaining to do”) and Tanner with Jonas et Lila a demain, which indeed found Jonah aged 25 in the year 2000. Neither film was ever released in the US or, as far as I know, even screened at festivals here. Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with a good thing. (David Lynch and Nikita Mikhalkov take note).

La Salamandre (1971)  James Travers from Le Film Guide

Pierre, a writer, enlists the help of a friend, Paul, to investigate a real-life story in which a young woman, Rosmonde, was tried for the attempted murder of her uncle. The courts accepted Rosmonde claim that her uncle accidentally wounded himself whilst cleaning his rifle and she was acquitted of the alleged crime. Intrigued by the rebellious young woman, Pierre and Paul gain her confidence and try to discover whether she did indeed try to kill her uncle.


Despite being made on a modern budget and with what was, even at that time, pretty crude technology, La Salamandre stands as a landmark European film. It comes from a time when the Swiss film industry was beginning to gain international interest for the first time, thanks to the emergence of a wave of talented young directors. The film is both a wondrously tongue-in-cheek assault against the staid phoney morality of the Swiss bourgeoisie and a timely ironic riposte to the well-meant offerings from the politically minded French New Wave film-makers of the time.

The events of May 1968 was still fresh in most people's minds when this film was made, with most of Western Europe experiencing a dramatic cultural and political transformation. Whilst some European directors (most notably Jean-Luc Godard) were actively promoting the cause of left-wing politics in their films, others - such as Alain Tanner - were more preoccupied with loss of individuality as society became increasingly homogeneous and regimented, helped by American-led consumerism and the power of big business.

In this, the second of his full-length films, Tanner shows how rebels are regarded in his native Switzerland. In that most conformist of states, where everyone is expected to conform to the letter, there is no place for eccentricity or a rebellious temperament. The film implies that anyone who fails to toe the line in this most ordered of countries is either mad or a criminal. Tanner is of course being provocative, but his observations are not too far removed from reality, and the film offers an insight into Swiss society in the early 1970s as well as being an entertaining piece of satire.

In what is very probably her most memorable film role, the incomparable Bulle Ogier skilfully portrays Tanner's vision of a free-spirited rebel who is constantly abused and taunted by a mindlessly ordered society. Her commanding performance - pitched somewhere between Nikita and Eliza Doolittle - allows us to sympathise with the plight of her character, even if she appears flighty and dangerously unpredictable. Along with her two exemplary co-stars, Jean-Luc Bideau and Jacques Denis, Bulle Ogier is clearly having a great deal of fun, something which gives the film a feeling of warmth and light-heartedness which is noticeably lacking in Tanner's subsequent work.

The search for individual freedom and the need to rebel against a cold mechanistic world are themes which Alain Tanner returns to again and again, with increasing pessimism, in his later films, but never as playfully and obliquely as in La Salamandre.

Alain Tanner: a film poet between utopia and realism   Christian Dimitriu, 1991 (pdf)


Return from Africa   The Long Way Home, by Bernard Weiner from Jump Cut, 1974


The Middle of the World   The Long Road to Liberation, by Ying Ying Wu from Jump Cut, 1975


Ways Of Seeing   Against Kenneth Clark, for John Berger, by Peter Steven from Jump Cut, May 1979


“The Salamander” (1971) by Alain Tanner - Acting-Out Politics  Victor Enyutin


• View topic - La Salamandre (Tanner, 1971) -


La Salamandre  Clarke Fountain from All Movie Guide [Roger Ebert]


New York Times  Vincent Canby 


The Salamander (1971 film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


RETURN FROM AFRICA (Le Retour d'Afrique)

Switzerland  France  (108 mi)  1972


Le retour d'Afrique | Chicago Reader  Don Druker

Charming and perceptive—not a bad combination for a film with a rather direct political position as its operative mechanism. Alain Tanner's witty 1973 study of what it really means to be disengaged, isolated, and unmindful of the third- world problems that can easily crop up in one's own backyard moves with the same narrative grace as La salamandre. Despite a tendency toward polemic near the end, this tale of two would-be Swiss emigrants to Africa (who “return” without ever having left) ably demonstrates the truth of the narrator's observation: “Words can be an act in themselves, or they can be a substitute for action.”

Le Retour d'Afrique, directed by Alain Tanner ... - Time Out

Stifled by the alienating dead weight of Genevan conventions, a young Swiss couple hatch heady plans to move to Africa and 'work for the Third World'. A last-minute hitch, however, leaves them stuck in their own stripped flat, to come to terms with their own world. Their articulate self-awareness precludes the sort of instinctive, freewheeling revolt of Tanner's La Salamandre, but never leads them into the mere cypher roles of Godard's analogous couple in Le Gai Savoir. Instead, they explore a claustrophobic environment of ideas which is the landscape of Messidor in miniature, and emerge with an optimistic vision of personal politics of the sort worked through later in Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000. Surprisingly warm didacticism.

Alain Tanner: a film poet between utopia and realism   Christian Dimitriu, 1991 (pdf)


Return from Africa   The Long Way Home, by Bernard Weiner from Jump Cut, 1974


The Middle of the World   The Long Road to Liberation, by Ying Ying Wu from Jump Cut, 1975 [Roger Ebert]


Film: 'Retour d'Afrique' - The New York Times  Vincent Canby


THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD (Le milieu du monde)

France  Switzerland  (115 mi)  1974


The Middle of the World, directed by Alain Tanner ... - Time Out

Tanner's most achieved film to date is also his most apparently conventional, the story of a love affair between a café waitress and an ambitious (married) local politician which comes to a catastrophic end. But the subject matter (a woman struggling for independence) and formal structure (including 'empty' shots of a bleak winter landscape) come together with breathtaking lucidity. The tone is compassionate, and for a truly '70s tragedy the ending is curiously upbeat.

Le Milieu du monde (1974) - Alain Tanner - film review  James Travers

Paul, a high-flying engineer, is proud to have been born in a Swiss town the locals refer to as the Centre of the World. He is running for a local election when he meets Adriana, a young Italian waitress in a café. Although he is married, Paul starts to have a passionate love affair with Adriana, and is soon prepared to give up everything for her. However, the young waitress realises that it is not she that Paul loves but a self-made fantasy...


The bleak unpopulated landscapes of Alain Tanner's films express the emptiness of his protagonists' inner lives but never more so than in Le Milieu du monde, a grimly realist character study centred on a man slowly waking up to the futilty of the delusions on which he has built his life and career.

Portrayed with extraordinary conviction by Philippe Léotard, the hero (if we can call him that) believes he has found his perfect soul mate in an Italian waitress. But as he imagines a new future for himself with his belle idéale (who is, ironically, one of the foreigners that his political party desires to oust from the country), he is merely constructing a fantasy which, if it were to come about, would be no more satisfying than his present life, a heap of burned out illusions that add to up to precisely nothing.

By denying the possibility that dreams can ever bring happiness but are merely egoistical fantasies that will inevitably crumble to dust Tanner leaves us with his most pessimistic assessment of life so far, one that he would solemnly reiterate in his later film La Vallée fantôme (1987). Even love is shown to be a delusion, perhaps the biggest delusion of them all - a fiction we create for ourselves to satisfy our obsessive craving for acceptance and which will inevitably burst like a balloon once the ugly realities it tries to conceal have hit home. And if love is inherently delusional, what else is left? Tanner's answer is pretty clear-cut: precious little. Without dreams we are nothing.

Alain Tanner: a film poet between utopia and realism   Christian Dimitriu, 1991 (pdf)


The Village Voice [Molly Haskell]  October 17, 1974  (pdf)


The Middle of the World   The Long Road to Liberation, by Ying Ying Wu from Jump Cut, 1975


Alain Tanner's "Le Milieu Du Monde" [1974] | Thirstyrabbit


Le Milieu du monde AKA The Middle of the World (1974)  World Cinema


Jupiter Films - Middle of the World

                              [Roger Ebert]


Le-Milieu-du-Monde - The New York Times  Vincent Canby, also seen here:  Movie Review - - At the Film Festival:'Ali':Fassbinder Explore ...


Dave Kehr's Top Ten Lists 1974-2006 - Caltech  listed as #2 in 1975


JONAH WHO WILL BE 25 IN THE YEAR 2000 (Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000)

France  Switzerland  (116 mi)  1976


Chicago Reader [Dave Kehr] (capsule review)

Alain Tanner's affectionate study of a group of 60s radicals trying to make the transition to the 70s. Tanner combines Godard's intellectual responsibility with Renoir's faith in the resiliency of the human spirit, resulting in a film that is both enlightening and encouraging. Funny, moving, and instructive, Jonah is that rare thing: a political film that speaks to the heart as well as the mind. Recommended (1976).

Time Out

Through circumstance, coincidence and necessity, eight characters find themselves drawn together. In various ways they're all irrevocably marked by the spirit of May '68, individually representative of the diverse political utopianism operating in the annus mirabilis of which Mailer wrote, 'One had the thought that the gods were back in human affairs'. Tanner gives us a Trotskyist journalist, an anarchic shopgirl who steals food, a transcendental mysticist, an educationalist; and labourer Mathieu Vernier (Rufus), who accommodates his friends' philosophies but realises that their enduringly optimistic visions can only be achieved through class struggle. Mathilde (Boyer), his wife, is pregnant with the Jonah of the title. Tanner again collaborated with John Berger, and the script is didactic and compact, though Jonah has a lighter and more humorous touch than The Middle of the World. It's a heady experience following their agile ruminations on time, language and perception, deftly superimposed on a film that pleases visually and formally.

Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000 (1976) - Alain Tanner  James Travers from Le Film Guide

An unemployed labourer, Mathieu, gets a job on a small farm run by Marcel and his wife Marguerite. His wife Mathilde is pregnant, and they intend to call the new-born baby Jonas. They become friends with a disillusion political activist, Max, and a history teacher, Marco, who uses the most bizarre teaching methods. Marco befriends Marie, a supermarket cashier, who steals from her shop to help out an old friend. Meanwhile Max is seduced by the passionate Madeleine, who works for he firm that intends to exploit farmers like Marcel.


The events on May 1968 were but a dim echo by 1976, by some clung to the ideals which this period threw up. This film is a fascinating study of eight such individuals who try to find an alternative to the trashy corrupt materialistic world. Although their struggle is largely in vain, they each seem to gain from their attempts to follow an alternative life style and the film's theme is as relevant today as it was in 1976.

When it was released, Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000 as the most successful Swiss film ever made, with over two million viewers world wide. It is certainly one of Alain Tanner's most memorable films and is has strong similarities with the works of another well-known Swiss director, Jean-Luc Godard. Although the message is similar, with typically Godardesque Maoist references (is it a coincidence that the eight principle characters each has a name starting Ma…?), Tanner's style is much less aggressive than Godard's. As a result, his film is more accessible, focusing more on the human side of the equation than the underlying politics.

Jonas himself only gets to appear right at the end of the film. This provided Tanner with the incentive to make a sequel for the year 2000, Jonas et Lila, à demain , in which he tackles similar themes. [Chris Dashiell]

The third collaboration between the Swiss director Tanner and the English writer John Berger follows a group of young people in Geneva who are searching for new directions in their lives after the failure of the revolutionary hopes of the 1960s. A former labor activist takes a job as a gardener and handyman with some free-spirited farmers, setting up a school in a greenhouse for the neighborhood kids, while his wife continues to work in a factory. A disillusioned radical turns to gambling, while having interesting conversations with his girlfriend, an adventurous student of Tantrism. A history teacher uses radical methods in the classroom to foster socialist ideas in his students. He hooks up with a grocery store cashier who undercharges poor people and steals food from the store to help her aging friend, a veteran of the Resistance.

The interweaving stories are presented in an elliptical style that gradually creates a gently humorous image of youthful idealism in confrontation with difficult realities. Interspersed throughout the film are brief Brechtian interludes in black-and-white that offer what appear to be subjective moments of truth, with cryptic dialogue or narration. The film's unconventional approach requires the viewer's close attention, but one's patience is well rewarded. This little world of individual resistance to the status quo is portrayed with lightness, compassion, and clarity.

Best among the performances are Jean-Luc Bideau and Myriam Mézière as the cynical gambler Max and his endearingly off-the-wall Tantric partner Madeleine, and Jacques Denis as Marco, the mischievous teacher. (For some reason, all the major characters' names begin with the letter M: a reference to Marx?) The film doesn't shirk from depicting its characters' political ideas and dimensions, and it's one of the decisive differences between this excellent movie and the later American film (and overrated mush) The Big Chill. There is no condescension here, no simplification. Looking at the 60s generation with humor does not mean indulging in mockery. Jonah (the title refers to the newborn son of one of the characters) feels remarkably true to life. And although some of the narrative strategies seem a bit sketchy, this only serves to make the picture's humanistic outlook more satisfying.

Film, Marxism: Tanner, Berger, Jonas | Z e t e o  William Eaton from Zeteo Journal, October 13, 2015


Alain Tanner: a film poet between utopia and realism   Christian Dimitriu, 1991 (pdf)


Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000   The subversive charm of Alain Tanner, by Robert Stam from Jump Cut, 1977                


Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000   Subversive charm indeed! by Linda Green, John Hess, and Robin Lakes from Jump Cut, 1977               


Dialogue on Jonah  Critical dialogue, by Richard Kazis and John Hess from Jump Cut, 1978             


Cinema Pantheon [Christopher Kaiser]


Strictly Film School [Swiss Cinema notes]  Acquarello


Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000  Clarke Fountain from All Movie Guide


Channel 4 Film [capsule review]


TV Guide


New York Times  Vincent Canby


Dave Kehr's Top Ten Lists 1974-2006 - Caltech  listed as #4 in 1976


Tanović, Danis


NO MAN’S LAND                            B+                   91

Bosnia  (98 mi)  2001


An insightful look at the absurdities of the 1993 Serbian-Bosnian conflict.  In the middle of the night, a Bosnian relief party gets lost in the fog, only to awake in morning’s light right outside the Serbian line and they are immediately fired upon where all are lost except two who land in a trench, one is presumed dead. The Serbs send two soldiers to investigate, one is instantly killed, and the rest of the film focuses on the military stand-off between each of the remaining Serb and Bosnian soldiers, who are at each other’s throats in the same trench, caught in a “no man’s land” between the two lines.  The Serbs placed a land mine under the soldier presumed dead, which detonates only when he moves off the mine.  There is a cat and mouse game between the two soldiers, who at first befriend one another, but then they each conspire to get revenge on the other, both remaining loyal to their respective allegiances, at first one has the gun, then the other, all this while the soldier on the land mine awakes and is unable to move, yet he becomes the mediator trying to keep the peace before the other two lose their heads.  To add to this confusion, UN peacekeepers are called, over-eager journalists intervene, politicians pontificate, all of which adds up to an absurdist look at this war, but always at the center of the picture is this fallen soldier lying in a trench, only he seems to realize the dire nature of the predicament, and he’s lying helplessly on top of a sitting time bomb with no hope for a solution.  The characters in the trenches are quite good and the humorous dialogue is filled with witty sarcasm and rancor, while the interventionists are not so good, as none of them quite have a grasp of the situation. This film makes that point perfectly clear.  


Tarantino, Quentin


Quentin Tarantino - Director - Films as Director ... - Film Reference  R. Barton Palmer

Quentin Tarantino's meteoric rise to fame with the phenomenal critical and popular success of Pulp Fiction , his second feature, is not only the result of his considerable talent but of two forces operating within contemporary Hollywood: first, an economic mini-crisis brought on by the box-office and critical failures of many recent high-budget blockbuster productions ( Waterworld is perhaps the most remarkable example) that has opened the door, as in the past, for young directors who are able to make successful films on small budgets (made for $8 million, Pulp Fiction earned almost $64 million at the box office, not counting video sales and rentals); second, the continuing popularity of neo-noir films, a popularity not limited to its most thriving subgenre, the erotic thriller. If Hollywood's economic hard times have given Tarantino (and others) a chance, it is the director's personal obsessions, so much in tune with what contemporary audiences want to see, that have made him popular.

The widely read and very cineliterate Tarantino has an obvious liking for classic hard-boiled pulp fiction (evidently Jim Thompson and W. R. Burnett in particular) and classic film noir (Huston's Asphalt Jungle probably served as a model for Reservoir Dogs ). But like several of the prominent directors of the Hollywood Renaissance in the middle 1970s (especially Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader), Tarantino also owes a substantial debt to French film noir, especially the work of Jean Pierre Melville and Jean Luc Godard. Godard's modernist refiguration of noir themes and conventions ( Alphaville is the classic example), however, would hardly please the mass audience Tarantino has in mind. The most substantial contribution of nouvelle vague anti-realism in Tarantino's films can be seen in their creative use of achronicities, disorderings in the storytelling process that make the narratives intriguing puzzles even as they uncover interesting ironies for the spectator, who must take an active role in the deciphering of the plot. The anti-Aristotelianism of this procedure, its disruption of emotional identification with the characters' plight, allows Tarantino to concentrate on thematic elements, especially the role violence plays in American culture.

Like the gang in Asphalt Jungle , the crooks in Reservoir Dogs assembled to pull a heist (itself never represented) are shown participating in what is simply a "left-handed form of endeavor." If Huston endeavors to demonstrate that criminals too have an ordinary life (households to run, relationships to pursue, bills to pay), Tarantino, in contrast, is more interested in moral dilemmas and conflict, especially as these are brought to life by situations of extraordinary danger and threat. In fact, the central conflicts of Reservoir Dogs carry a substantial moral charge and significance, even if, in the end, as the allknowing spectator alone recognizes, the characters are destroyed no matter if they are sociopaths with a yen for torture or men of good will who stand by their friends even at the cost of their own lives. And yet Tarantino obviously sympathizes with those who despise mauvaise foi and make the difficult choices that confront them. A Sartrean and Camusian moralism pervades this film.

Much the same can be said of the similar characters in Pulp Fiction , whose existential plights and difficult choices are here examined from a serio-comic perspective. A torpedo working for a drug dealer is given the assignment of looking after the boss's flirtatious wife. He tries to resist her various come-ons, only to be faced with a sudden, more demanding test: she overdoses on heroin, goes into a near-fatal coma from which he can arouse her only by jabbing a harpoon-sized needle into her heart. Amazingly, she recovers, and Tarantino finishes this sequence with a comic leave-taking scene that ends their "date". Once again, in Pulp Fiction difficult moral questions are raised. A boxer in the same drug dealer's pay refuses out of personal integrity to throw a fight as ordered. Fleeing town, he meets his boss by accident on a city street. Their confrontation, however, opens unexpectedly onto another moral plane. Both men wind up the prisoners of local sadists, who plan to sodomize, torture, and kill them. The boxer escapes, and, feeling the pang of conscience, goes back to free his erstwhile boss, who forgives the man's earlier betrayal before exacting a terrible vengeance on his torturers, one of whom is a policeman.

With their philosophical dimensions, unremitting representations of venality and depravity among the criminal under and over class, art cinema narrational complexities, and black humor, Tarantino's first two films are strikingly original contributions to an American cinema struggling to rebound from the artistic doldrums of the 1980s. As a screenwriter, he has been no less successful. Written for former video shop co-worker Roger Avary, Killing Zoe offers a romantic twist on the themes examined in Tarantino's own directorial efforts. In this case, a somewhat naive and easily swayed young criminal must make a moral stand against his lifelong friend to save the life of a prostitute he has come to care for; the gesture is reciprocated, and the two rescue themselves from a nightmarish world of self-destructive violence and addiction. Similarly, True Romance and Natural Born Killers offer outlaw couples on the run whose loyalty to each other is rewarded in the end by their escape from a corrupt and disfiguring America that attempts to destroy them.

Tarantino's third film as a director, Jackie Brown , proved less successful with audiences, though it shares much in common with his earlier work. Though at times almost sedate, Jackie Brown also offers a nuanced meditation on the Los Angeles criminal underworld. Adapting an Elmore Leonard novel replete with a complex plot of double and triple crosses, Tarantino here focuses on the attempts of an impoverished black woman, a petty criminal and part-time stewardess, to heist the laundered money of a psychopathic underworld kingpin. Much in the Leonard vein, the film is very detailed in its mise-en-scène , which is carefully calculated to reveal both the seediness of urban L.A. and the cultural wasteland of the outlying suburbs; the film is also devoted to the depiction of character rather than the relentless advancement of the plot. This accounts for its more than two-and-a-half hours of running time. Like Reservoir Dogs , Jackie Brown is also a complicated cinematic homage. Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton appear in cameo roles that gently parody their screen personas. Pam Grier as the title character reprises the role of the independent woman who turns on her oppressors that she successfully portrayed in many 1970s blaxploitation films. Less philosophically oriented and characterized by a more subdued cinematic style, Jackie Brown nevertheless shows Tarantino working interestingly and creatively within his chosen generic limitations.

The Quentin Tarantino Archives


Quentin Tarantino - Biography  IMDb


Quentin Tarantino | Movies and Biography - Yahoo! Movies


Quentin Tarantino: Information from


Quentin Tarantino • Senses of Cinema  Jeremy Carr, December 9, 2015


Quentin Tarantino  Mick Sleeper looks at his debt to the French New Wave, from Images


Cult, Culture, and Quentin's New Art of Violence  Stefan Herrmann, also seen here:  Q. Tarantino  (Undated)


Jet - Mar 9, 1998 - Page 36 - Google Books Result  Jet magazine, March 9, 1998 (pdf format)


Metroactive News & Issues | The Word 'Nigger'  J. Douglas Allen-Taylor from Metroactive, April 9, 1998 


Dogs in Hell: No Exit Revisited • Senses of Cinema  Thomas Beltzer from Senses of Cinema, May 3, 2000


Catch Me If You Can: The Tarantino Legacy - Bright Lights Film Journal   Jane Mills, April 1, 2002


BFI | Sight & Sound | Day Of The Woman   B. Ruby Rich from Sight and Sound, June 2004


Tarantino and the Vengeful Ghosts of Cinema • Senses of Cinema  Maximilian Le Cain, July 26, 2004


The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and ...  The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and Prospects of Subversion in the Works of Quentin Tarantino, by Dror Poleg from Bright Lights Film Journal, July 31, 2004


Mindful violence: the visibility of power and inner life in Kill Bill  Aaron Anderson from Jump Cut, Winter 2005


"Quentin Tarantino talks Vega Brothers, the Pulp Fiction & Reservoir Dogs sequel/prequel"  Petr Sciretta from Slash Film, April 7, 2007


Critique. Death Proof, a Grindhouse film by Quentin Tarantino ...  Emmanuel Burdeau from Cahiers du Cinéma, June 2007


BFI | Sight & Sound | Death Proof (2007)  Tony Rayns from Sight and Sound, October 2007


Death Proof - Bright Lights Film Journal  Erich Kuersten, January 31, 2008


The 11 Most Bizarre Tarantino Moments  Max Powers from ScreenJunkies, August 6, 2008


The Tarantino Problem  Ray DeRousse from What Culture, May 20, 2009


Quentin Tarantino's 20 Favorite Flicks of the Last 17 Years   Quentin Tarantino from LA Weekly, August 19, 2009


Is Inglourious Basterds director Quentin Tarantino all washed up—or ...   Has one of the most overrated directors of the '90s become one of the most underrated of the aughts? Dennis Lim from Slate, August 20, 2009


Top 100 Directors: #17 - Quentin Tarantino  Erik Nighthawk, September 17, 2009


The Deep Morals of Inglourious Basterds • Senses of Cinema   Joseph Natoli, September 29, 2009


Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds: Film Kills - Bright Lights Film Journal  Vlad Dima, October 31, 2009


Debating Inglourious Basterds | Film Quarterly   Ben Walter, Winter 2009/10


Tarantino to pen ‘The Shadow’?  Tom Powers from Cinefantastique Online, August 4, 2010


Tarantino Takes on Slavery  Debra J. Dickerson at Slate, May 27, 2011, also seen here:  Debra Dickerson - Slate Magazine


On the Big Screen: DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)  Samuel Wilson from Mondo 70: A Wild World of Cinema, December 2012  


How “Django” gets slavery wrong  Tarantino Unchained, by Jelani Cobb from The New Yorker, January 2, 2013


In Defense of Django  Adam Serwer from Mother Jones, January 7, 2013


Death Proof: Deconstructing The Slasher Film - The Quentin ...  September 5, 2015


Death Tarantino style: counting the bodies in Quentin ... - BFI   Kevin B. Lee from Sight and Sound, October 5, 2015


Quentin Tarantino, the Most Overrated Director in Hollywood  David French from The National Review, November 5, 2015


10 great films that influenced Quentin Tarantino | BFI  Paul O’Callahan from Sight and Sound, January 7, 2016 


Familiar Refrains and Minor Variations: Quentin ... - Senses of Cinema  Familiar Refrains and Minor Variations: Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eighth, by Jeremy Carr, March 2016


TSPDT - Quentin Tarantino


"Adults Only" cinema   Eddie Muller, the author of Grindhouse, talks about the origins in an interview by Gary Johnson from Images


Quentin Tarantino: Interviews - A Brief Talk With Quentin Tarantino  by Gerald Peary, August 1992


"Charlie Rose – An Interview with Quentin Tarantino"  October 14, 1994


"Quentin Tarantino defends himself against Spike Lee for criticizing him in using the 'n-word'."  Charlie Rose, December 26, 1997


Quentin Tarantino: Interviews - Introduction  from the book edited by Gerald Peary, November 1, 1997


Tarantino defends slavery theme in Django  Andrew Pulver interview from The Guardian, December 7, 2012


Images for Quentin Tarantino


Quentin Tarantino - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


RESERVOIR DOGS                                               C+                   79

USA  (99 mi)  1992  ‘Scope


I don't give a good fuck what you know, or don't know, but I'm gonna torture you anyway, regardless.

—Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen)


Quentin Tarantino came out of nowhere with this astonishing film debut, playing mostly to arthouse crowds, but exhibiting an unusual command of David Mamet-style profanity-laden dialogue, camera placement, complex storytelling, period music, and terrific performances, all evident from the start.  Something of a horrific, one-act, modernist play, a revisit of Sartre’s No Exit, a heist gone wrong story told out of sequence, where it’s an action flick without the action, never showing the actual robbery, becoming instead a psychological examination of the male participants, all cast in their own conflicting moral dilemmas, where these guys are seen leading dead-end lives, so used to staring death in the eye that they become nihilistic, hardened cynics where life itself has little meaning.  It’s an ultra violent, excessively bloody but uncompromising work, a kind of pathetic existentialist reflection on the state of masculinity, as seen through the eyes of a gang of outlaws.  Opening with a big dick joke, veering into “nigger” jokes, a work where women are discussed almost exclusively as sex objects, the film is an impressionistic portrait of criminal outsiders living in a heavily stylized, artificial world where male tastelessness abounds.  While disguised within the context of male criminal mentality, much of these offensive views appear throughout the work of Tarantino, where for whatever reason, he’s deluded to think a white guy can tell “nigger stories” without evoking an offensive racial response.  Tarantino goes further and uses the same obnoxious tastelessness with stories about Jews, Asians, blacks, and women, all meant for laughs, where in his mind cleverness rises above the derogatory nature of his commentary.  Nonetheless, the offense is still there onscreen.  It’s not much different than doing a scene in blackface, claiming it was meant for cultural sarcasm, which Spike Lee did in his own film BAMBOOZLED (2000), but even from a black director it’s still abhorrently tasteless.  Some may think the laugh overrides the offense, which is easy to think, so long as the noxious joke is not on you.  The director’s self-indulgent insistence, however, to inflict his own brand of adolescent callousness upon the public only undermines the overall significance of his work.  


The film challenges the pervasive view that there is a code of honor among thieves, as personified by mythical outlaws like Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967), who captured the nation’s attention during the Depression by becoming identified with American folklore, or a bond of loyalty owed to seemingly invincible outlaws like James Cagney’s iconic gangster Cody Jarrett in White Heat (1949).  Instead this film suggests every man is not a superhero, but simply a man, where if pushed far enough, they’re subject to a psychological meltdown.  In the manner of John Huston’s ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950), a film noir written by crime novelist W.R. Burnett, the story concerns a group of men planning a jewel robbery, becoming a study in crime.  While Huston’s film is hyper-realistic, reflecting the mindset of a near perfect crime that quickly unravels at the last moment leaving every man paying the ultimate price, Tarantino creates a vacuous netherworld that takes place nearly entirely inside an empty warehouse.  More importantly, one of the gang takes a bullet in the gut and can be seen slowly bleeding to death, laid out alone on a ramp receiving no medical attention, a reflection of the fate that awaits each and every one of them.  This fatalistic exercise goes through various stages, introducing in segments each of the main characters, developing introductory insight into each man, bringing a unique kind of insight into their master plan, where the audience only sees the aftermath, where information spills out little by little.  The characters themselves are memorable, headed by Joe (Lawrence Tierney), the aging leader of the pack and his hot-head son Eddie (Chris Penn).  The rest are identified only under alias names, where stalwart gangster Harvey Keitel is Mr. White, the more nervous Tim Roth is Mr. Orange, manic psychopath Michael Madsen is Mr. Blonde, while the always pissed off Steve Buscemi is Mr. Pink.  Of interest, Blonde’s actual name is Vic Vega, the brother of Vincent Vega, John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction (1994), where Tarantino always wanted to bring them together in a film, but never did.


What’s unique about the film is how different each character is, though all are unlikable, where there’s no real emotional connection to any one of them, mostly seen only after the failed robbery is over, where the mystery is observing how they each react to the ultimate failure of their mission.  Perhaps the most inventive aspect is Tarantino’s imaginative use of flashbacks, gaining insight into the principal characters, where especially intriguing is an extended men’s room joke that is completely made up, that is part of an original flashback scene with Tim Roth, but is then used again as a fictitious personal anecdote told as if it actually happened in another sequence.  Tarantino brings a great deal of sympathy to each character, all brilliantly realized by the cast, but the film itself is a slow burn of increasing anxiety, where initially only three characters (one of them bleeding to death, Mr. Orange) make it to the warehouse, the supposed meeting place, though others eventually arrive, where both Mr. Pink and White are positive they were set up, that one of the insiders is a rat.  Both are amazed at the crude, Neanderthal behavior of Mr. Blonde, who they claim is a psychopath that just went berserk during the heist, causing the whole thing to blow up in their faces, with some killed and others lucky to make it out alive.  The audience gets to observe the personal workmanship of Mr. Blonde firsthand in the most horrifically gruesome sequence of the film, where he is seen sadistically enjoying the torture of a captured police officer, all set to the Bubblegum pop music of The Jeff Healey Band’s “Stuck in the Middle With You.”  Certainly an essential difference between this film and Pulp Fiction is contrasted by the two torture scenes, one raw and graphically appalling, completely uncompromising, while the other is staged with a humorous turn of events, becoming part of the overall audience pleasing entertainment.  References to both Lee Marvin and Pam Grier appear here, as they do in later Tarantino films, becoming part of the ingrained interior mindset of the film’s cultural landscape, perhaps a response to the threat of feminism, nearly banishing women from the screen, becoming instead a distorted exaggeration of masculinity, perhaps leading to the satiric nightmarish delusions of David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999), where Tarantino builds a mythical male refiguration through sick humor, contemporary tastelessness, outright cynicism, and an utter disdain for the responsibilities of the modern world.    


Rock! Shock! Pop! [Ian Jane]

Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino’s breakthrough film, is a simple but effective tale of a heist gone wrong. A group of criminals carry out robbery at a diamond warehouse but things don’t go as planned and they end up on the run from the police after the alarm is set off.

Four of the original gang survive, and once they’re safely hidden away at their hideout, they start to wonder just how the cops knew what they knew and why things went wrong. This leads them to assume that they might just have a snitch among them. Giving away any more information about the plot would be spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, and would be redundant for those who have.

While the film pulls together a lot of different ideas and themes from a lot of different films, it’s most obvious influence is Ringo Lam’s Chow Yun Fat vehicle, ‘City on Fire’ from 1987. The influence of Lam’s film on Tarantino’s effort is undeniable and the similarities uncanny.

But influences and originality aside, Reservoir Dogs is a great movie pulled together by razor sharp dialogue and memorable characters. The performances in the film as well are all top notch, Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink, Harvey Keitel as Mr. White, Tim Roth as Mr. Orange, Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde and especially the late, great Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot, the ringleader of the group.

Highlighted by memorable scenes of intense violence and black humor, Reservoir Dogs remains one of the best crime movies of the 90s, if hardly the most original. But hey, if you're going to steal, steal from the best.  Gary Duncan

Quentin Tarantino wrote, directed and starred in this ultra-cool heist story that achieved instant cult status and spawned a million poor imitations. He plays Mr Brown, a two-bit con, hired by crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) to carry out a jewellery store robbery with five other usual suspects: Mr White (Harvey Keitel), Mr Orange (Tim Roth), Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr Blue (Eddie Bunker) and Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi).

They're a motley crew of small-time losers and it's no surprise when things go wrong. White, Orange and Pink manage to make it back to the rendezvous, a deserted warehouse out in the sticks, but Pink is convinced the whole job was a set-up. One of the crew is a rat, but which one?

The heist-gone-wrong story is nothing new, but this is a heist movie with a difference. We don't see the robbery. We see the build up - Joe putting his team together, giving them their "cover" names - and we see the fallout, after it all goes wrong, but not the job itself. It's like a whodunnit without the murder, but who needs a heist when you've got a razor-sharp script and a red hot cast?

Madsen, in particular, stands out as the sadistic Mr Blonde, who has just served a four-year stretch for Joe and he didn't squeal. Joe rewards him with a place on the crew, but when the heist is ambushed, a trigger-happy Blonde loses it and starts shooting innocent bystanders. Pink gets his hands on the diamonds, but it's Blonde who really hits pay dirt when he snags himself a hostage. Not just any old hostage, however. A cop. So when Blonde takes him back to the warehouse, you suspect it's not to share a few beers and watch Kojak reruns till the wee hours.

Instead, he ties his victim to a chair and uses him as a punch bag. He makes a half-hearted attempt at pretending he's trying to punch some information out of the sap, but soon gives up all pretence and carries on hitting him just for the fun of it.

"I don't really give a good fuck what you know, or don't know," he says, matter of fact, "but I'm going to torture you, anyway."

What follows is "that" scene. If you've already seen it, you'll know what I mean. If not, suffice to say it involves Blonde's switchblade and the cop's ear. You can probably guess the rest.

Tarantino's talent for dialogue, however, is what catapults Dogs into instant-classic status. Dogs is a heist film without a heist and an action film without much action. Instead, Tarantino lets his characters talk. And, boy, do they talk - bullshitting, wisecracking, seeing how far they can push each other. Brown pontificates on the underlying meaning of Madonna's Like A Virgin. Pink explains at great length why he doesn't tip. They're regular guys, talking about regular-guy things. Only they're not regular guys, they're cold-blooded killers who shoot first and ask questions later.

Thanks to some inspired casting, this air of danger is never far away. Tarantino, despite his bravado, has probably never picked up anything more serious than a parking ticket, but real-life "dogs," Tierney and Bunker, both did time, with Bunker holding the dubious distinction of being the youngest ever inmate of San Quentin, before making it onto the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Washington Post [Hal Hinson]

If Quentin Tarantino's gritty, bone-chilling, powerfully violent new film, "Reservoir Dogs," doesn't pin your ears back, nothing ever will. The movie, which zeros in on the anatomy of a diamond heist, and, beyond that, the flimsy notion of honor among a temporarily assembled gang of Los Angeles thieves, is as caustic as battery acid. It's brutal, it's funny and you won't forget it. Guaranteed.

The temporary nature of the team is important. Joe (Lawrence Tierney), the sting's boss, has made a special point to hire each member of this urban wild bunch for a one-shot deal. One job, and they scatter to the winds, knowing each other only by their gang code names. This way, Joe figures, nobody can rat out nobody else.

His plan is supposed to encourage trust, but in fact it has the opposite effect. Nobody knows anybody, so nobody trusts anybody. That way, when the job goes sour -- as it does when the cops, as if on schedule, show up and Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), who's fresh out of the slammer, starts blasting away -- any one of them could have turned Judas.

With the exception of a masterfully rambling opening gabfest, in which Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) expounds for the benefit of Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) and the others on his theory of why not to tip a waitress, the movie takes place in the panic that sets in after the heist goes belly up.

Mr. Orange, who's drenched in blood from a shot to the gut, and Mr. Pink set the paranoid mood of the film when they slink back to their meeting place and start speculating on what went wrong. Soon, Mr. White arrives and offers his ideas, while, as they jaw and recomb their hair, Mr. Orange lies bleeding to death on the floor.

This is part of the film's dark, deadpan sense of humor. Mr. Orange never does make it up off that cold cement floor, but the debate over who's the rat and what the hell they're going to do next never flags. Clearly, they can't take Orange to a hospital; he might be traced back to the job and to them. And, hey, what's the rush? Nobody ever dies of a belly wound anyway.

Tarantino, who's a product of the Sundance Institute's Director's Workshop, does a righteous job for a first-time director of sketching in the atmospherics of this small-time desperado universe. Like David Mamet, whose comic-book street-talk Tarantino's most resembles, he's got a keen sense of the rhythms of the lingo, the BS, role-playing and poker-faced bravado. One of the writer-director's main comparisons is the difference between a crime movie and real crime, and how the movie reality begins to take over. They're each actors, with stage names and everything, playing out their fantasy of what their favorite movie hero -- Dirty Harry, Jimmy Cagney, Lee Marvin -- might do under similar circumstances.

Naturally, what this guarantees is that a bunch of people die. And they don't die nice, either. Because everybody's so tough, nobody can afford to back down. (Would Cagney ever back down?) The one exception is Mr. Pink, who, as he demonstrated with his waitress spiel, is the ultimate realist, and who isn't the least bit muddled about whether he is or is not in a movie. Mr. Pink knows that if he dies, he dies for real, and he's doing his best to make sure that doesn't happen.

The others aren't so sure. Suddenly, everything is way out of control, words are exchanged, tempers flare, guns are pulled, and, as often happens with guns, they go off. It's nothing new, but because of the purity of Tarantino's stripped-down style and the director's desire to deglamorize his characters, we're able to see the genre from a fresher, harsher angle. (Peckinpah inspected this terrain in "The Killer Elite" -- and, for that matter, pretty much every film he ever made -- but Bloody Sam was a poet and a romantic and Tarantino isn't.)

Another aspect that distinguishes "Reservoir Dogs" is its cast, which is like some kind of Cooperstown for character actors. As Mr. Pink, Buscemi (as with all these guys, you'll know the face, if not the name) is like an anxiety-seeking missile; the man is wired so tight that his flesh has been burned away, leaving only a set of bones and a pair of pinned eyeballs. As the psychotic Mr. Blonde, Madsen has some of Elvis Presley's lazy insouciance; when he smiles that foxy smile, you're not sure if you want to kiss him or duck for cover.

Maybe Harvey Keitel's presence -- he's the best-known actor in the cast -- is a tip of the hat to directors Martin Scorsese and James Toback who, along with Peckinpah, are Tarantino's spiritual godfathers. Whatever the case, Keitel downs the role in a single gulp. And so do Roth and Penn and Tarantino himself (who plays Mr. Brown).

Beyond everything, though, "Reservoir Dogs" is a testosterone meltdown; in its energy and aggressiveness, it's 100 percent male. (There's not a single female speaking part.) Still, I have to admit that I loved it. I do have one question, though: Is this what the men's movement was all about?

Dogs in Hell: No Exit Revisited • Senses of Cinema  Thomas Beltzer from Senses of Cinema, May 3, 2000


Catch Me If You Can: The Tarantino Legacy - Bright Lights Film Journal   Jane Mills, April 1, 2002


The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and ...  The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and Prospects of Subversion in the Works of Quentin Tarantino, by Dror Poleg from Bright Lights Film Journal, July 31, 2004


Reservoir Dogs - Film (Movie) Plot and Review ... - Film Reference  Robin Wood


eFilmCritic Reviews  Rob Gonsalves


reservoir dogs - review at  Christopher Geary


Surrender to the Void-[Steven Flores]


Sound On Sight (Ricky D)


Reservoir Dogs - Culture Court  Lawrence Russell


Movie Reviews UK  Damian Cannon


Jerry Saravia


George Chabot's Review of Reservoir Dogs


Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz]


Movie Cynics [The Vocabulariast]


Combustible Celluloid [Jeffrey M. Anderson]


Crazy for Cinema Review


Reservoir Dogs - Home Theater Info  Doug McLaren


DVD Verdict Norman Short


DVD Verdict - 10th Anniversary Special Edition  Kevin Lee, 2-discs


DVD Journal  Gregory P. Dorr, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2-discs - region 1 review  Chris Gould, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2-discs


DVD Movie Guide (10th Anniversary Special Edition)  Colin Jacobson, 2-discs


RESERVOIR DOGS - DVD review | Movie Metropolis  Dean Winkelspecht, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2-discs


Reservoir Dogs: SE : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video  D.K. Holm, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2-discs


DVD Talk - 15th Anniversary Edition [Preston Jones]  2-discs


DVD Verdict -15th Anniversary Edition [Ryan Keefer]  2-discs


Reservoir Dogs (15th Anniversary Edition) - digitallyOBSESSED!  Jon Danziger, 2-discs DVD Review (15th Anniversary Edition)  2-discs


RESERVOIR DOGS - Blu-ray review | Movie Metropolis  Dean Winkelspecht


Big Picture Big Sound - Blu-ray Review [Brandon A. DuHamel] Blu-ray Review [Matt Paprocki]


ReelViews [James Berardinelli]


Edward Copeland on Film


Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web


Monsters and Critics - DVD Review -15th Ann. Ed. [Jeff Swindoll]


Movie Ram-blings


Brian Koller,


Edinburgh U Film Society [Neil Chue Hong]


Movie Vault [Arturo Garcia Lasca]


Brilliant Observations on 1173 Films [Clayton Trapp]


Bill's Movie Emporium [Bill Thompson]


Cole Smithey [Cole Smithey]


Gods of Filmmaking


BBCi - Films  Almar Haflidason


Reservoir Dogs Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London


Washington Post [Desson Howe]


Reservoir Dogs - Film Calendar - The Austin Chronicle  Marc Savlov


Chicago Sun-Times [Roger Ebert]


Reservoir-Dogs - Movies - The New York Times  Vincent Canby


DVDBeaver Blu-ray review [Gary W. Tooze]


PULP FICTION                                                        B+                   92

USA  (154 mi)  1994  ‘Scope     Special Edition (168 mi)


PULP FICTION remains Tarantino’s best film, immensely popular, currently listed #5 on Highest Rated IMDb viewer rankings and the place to start in evaluating his work, awarded the Palme D’Or at Cannes in 1994, over films like Kiarostami’s final installment of his Earthquake Trilogy, THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES, Kielsowski’s THREE COLORS:  RED, Atom Egoyan’s EXOTICA, or Zhang Yimou’s TO LIVE, with Clint Eastwood as the Cannes Jury President, and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, losing Best Picture to FORREST GUMP (1994) - - talk about irony.  While not sharing all the platitudes for Tarantino, finding him something of an adolescent schlockmeister who’s often more interested in provoking controversy and drawing attention to himself, since he remains attracted to super heroes thrust into lurid melodramas not far removed from a fantasy, comic book universe, creating endless dialogue about nothing in particular that some go gaga about, but really, they seem more like undeveloped sketches, especially since he tends to interrupt them midstream, jump into another lengthy dialogue sequence before resuming the story later.  That he occasionally dips into realism is no substitute, however, for the real thing, as he can’t stop himself from indulging in Hollywood kitsch pieces, losing himself in his own childlike wonder and expanding his sequences as violently or as grotesquely as he pleases, though in this film most of the violence is offscreen.  It’s unclear how serious he takes his responsibilities, as down deep, he’s just a boy that wants to have fun at the movies, constantly using movie references throughout his works as a way of communicating with his audience.  Seen as a whole, his films are not life altering, do not make you see the world any differently, and are for the most part a superficial alteration of reality.  Despite supposed subversive evidence to the contrary, Tarantino is not John Waters and instead adheres to the Harvey Weinstein method of making Hollywood films. 


Especially early in his career when he made relatively low budget movies, he both revived actors stalled careers and discovered fresh faces, while also becoming enamored with the idea of putting himself in his own movies.  While he’s hardly a groundbreaker, especially since he relishes a sense of honoring and reviving the past, he’s developed a near cult following that would beg to differ, including director Peter Bogdanovich who has called him “the single most influential director of his generation.” Between his quirky dialogue and his brilliant use of period music, he has articulated the art of cool on the set, where his energized and often youth oriented filmmaking is always distinguished by the creation of uniquely inventive sequences that many would claim are among the best they’ve seen.  Tarantino has also maintained an avid interest in hard-boiled pulp novels, like Jim Thompson and W. R. Burnett in particular, but also classic film noir, where it’s impossible not to see evidence of Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955) in the contents inside the briefcase Samuel L. Jackson carries around the whole movie, or traces of 40’s and 50’s hit men, but instead of faceless creatures hiding in the shadows barely uttering a word, he brings them front and center as his leading star characters.  As the title suggests, this film is filled with chapter sequences, told out of time, but all somehow pulled together by the end with the use of recurring characters. 


Tarantino pulled John Travolta out of mothballs and teamed him up with a relatively unknown at the time Samuel L. Jackson as a couple of low level hit men who are occasionally hired to do some dirty work.  Their appeal lies in their hilarious comic repartee, an explicative-laced, running dialogue between the two continually engaged in random conversation filled with pop culture references, blending comedy with violence, where they rarely shut up and instead talk their way through every situation.  Basically, these are a couple of smart asses with hair-trigger tempers carrying loaded guns and a penchant for using them.  Jackson comes off as the smarter of the two, a guy who carries around a wallet with “Bad Mother Fucker” inscribed, but the more reckless Travolta has a special charm about him that is perfectly exposed in a series of lowbrow questions asked by Uma Thurman, the boss’s wife, who is sizing him up before they go out on the town together Son of a Preacher Man from Pulp Fiction YouTube (2:01), as ordered by his drug dealing gangland boss, Ving Rhames, an enormous guy with a violent reputation who is challenging Travolta’s loyalty by dangling his attractive wife at him.  Their scenes together may be the most memorable, especially when Uma urges him to help win a twist dance contest and Travolta happily obliges Twist Contest Dance Scene (Pulp Fiction) - YouTube (3:19).  But Uma Thurman is the film noir, dark-edged, femme fatale who does not appear out of place anywhere in Tarantino films, as she perfectly fits his fantasy profile, laying the groundwork for her tough-as-nails character in the upcoming KILL BILL Pt’s I and II (2003 – 04).   


Characters are introduced, disappear, or are killed off and later return as the film's narrative structure jumps back and forth throughout, where there’s an extended sequence with Bruce Willis that doesn’t quite work because he plays the exact same one-note macho character that we see in all his other Hollywood films, playing a boxer ordered to take a dive by the same gangland boss, Ving Rhames, but instead skips town after literally killing his surprised opponent in the ring.  Out of sheer bad fortune, he meets his boss, the one guy he’s running away from, by accident on a city street, and the scene descends into a completely different moral plane, where after a mano a mano confrontation we enter a world of utter depravity, where Redneck underground sadists sodomize and torture their victims before killing them.  This entire torture porn sequence grows endlessly more gruesome and revoltingly hideous, but suggests there are layers of morality even among thieves.  At least when Travolta and Jackson return again, opening and closing the film, they retain their unpredictable gift for gab, where their time onscreen immediately uplifts the material, unexpectedly ending up in the home of Tarantino himself who uses some questionable “nigger” humor.  Samuel L. Jackson uses the word naturally and effortlessly, but out of Tarantino’s mouth it sounds repugnantly tasteless, even if he’s the guy writing all of Jackson’s dialogue. 


While he may have intended to extend black culture into a white world or character, Mark Twain already did that in Huckleberry Finn, circa 1884, and more than 100 years later it remains a controversial decision, but artistically it’s considered the accepted language of the historical era.  Not so here, where Tarantino is unfortunately suggesting that in the 1990’s in America it’s acceptable for whites to use this word onscreen in a humorous context without offensive racial ramifications.  This is an exasperatingly deluded choice, as it is now and will likely generations from now remain offensive, especially in a film layered in pop culture, where others will undoubtedly mimic or copy the same behavior and think it’s acceptable.  Spike Lee called him on it, especially with its continued and prolific use in JACKIE BROWN (1997), “I’m not against the word, and some people speak that way, but Quentin is infatuated with that word.  What does he want to be made—an honorary black man? …I want Quentin to know that all African Americans do not think that word is trendy or slick.”  So, like all Tarantino films, the writer/director tends to get carried away with his own self-indulgent crudeness, which as an artist he has every right to express, but this diminishes the maturity and overall impact of his work, where something meant to be sarcastically funny and ironic turns implosively on its ear, returning to that snarky, juvenile tone of the author.  In PULP FICTION, for the most part, it all sounds so inventively new, where Tarantino brings all these forces together, accentuated by a brilliant soundtrack and cast, where in the eyes of some it is generation defining, where PULP FICTION brings to the culture of the 90’s what EASY RIDER (1969) was to the counterculture of the 60’s.      


Deep Focus (Bryant Frazer) review [A]

Forget Oscar®-nominees Travolta and Thurman. And forget the rancorous claims that Tarantino stole his best ideas from the last quarter-century of action moviemaking in America and abroad. Samuel L. Jackson is the beating heart of Pulp Fiction, and his performance alone would make this well worth your while. Jackrabbit Slim's bores my ass off, but I get a giddy rush from the mesh of violence and high comedy; the urgency in Jackson’s voice when he insists, "I’m trying real hard to be the Shepherd"; the arrival of Harvey Keitel, liberated from that Bridget Fonda movie; and the way that Tarantino’s narrative folds back on itself almost delicately, a self-conscious counterpoint to the excess of it all.

[Note to anyone who's never seen a Hong Kong movie: watch Pulp Fiction one more time, and then rent John Woo's The Killer and turn your world inside out all over again.]

Time Out review  Geoff Andrew

A sprawling, discursive fresco: three stories bookended by a prologue and epilogue. In the first story, a mobster (Travolta) is charged with looking after the irresponsible wife (Thurman) of his vengeful boss. In the second, a washed-up boxer (Willis) tries to trick the Mob by failing to throw a fight. And in the third, two hitmen (Travolta and Jackson) carry out a job, only to call on the services of a 'cleaner' (Keitel) when it gets messier than planned. It's the way Tarantino embellishes and, finally, interlinks these old chestnuts that makes the film alternately exhilarating and frustrating. There's plenty of sharp, sassy, profane dialogue, and there are plenty of acute, funny references to pop culture, though the talk sometimes delays the action, and the references sometimes seem self-consciously arch. And there are, too, the sudden lurches between humour and violence - shocking, but without moral depth. What writer/director Tarantino lacks, as yet, is the maturity to invest his work with anything that might provoke a heartfelt emotional response to his characters. Very entertaining, none the less.

Slant Magazine review  Ed Gonzalez

Quentin Tarantino's second feature, Pulp Fiction, is at once ridiculously entertaining and remarkably weightless. Its quintessential scene takes place outside the Jack Rabbit Slim's restaurant when Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) tells Vincent Vega (John Travolta) not to be a "square." Forget the irony (after a 10-year acting rut that included three Look Who's Talking films, Pulp Fiction's success made Travolta reputable again), Mia's line could be the film's mantra. Tarantino giddily incorporates countless texts (Kiss Me Deadly, Saturday Night Fever, and so on) into this farcical noir Frankenstein that, not unlike Shelly's legendary monster, eventually turns on itself. More important than the film's elegant structure is what the creation represents: Jonathan Rosenbaum summed Pulp Fiction up quite nicely as "a couch potato's paradise"; no one here can access reality unless they are summoning the many ghosts of noir's past. (Tarantino's most fascinating creation, Samuel L. Jackson's Jules Winnfield is more than a repository of disposable trivia and smart-alecky responses, embodying the film's surface concern with righteousness and redemption.) Godard and countless others did this kind of thing way before Tarantino, but Pulp Fiction had such a profound effect on older Gen Xers because it spoke to a newer generation's shared consciousness, which includes an infatuation with movies and, apparently, a fear of penetration. (What is the film's infamous rape sequence but a projection of Tarantino and his heterosexual, largely white male fanbase's deepest fears and prejudices?) When the Wolf (Harvey Keitel) makes Vincent and Jules change clothes, Jimmie (Tarantino) calls them dorks for wearing lame sports T-shirts. By pointing out the articles belong to Jimmie, Tarantino acknowledges his own dorkdom. In turn, it makes him "cool" (not enough though to permit his liberal use of the word "nigger") and a hero to his media-savvy generation. In the end, it's not that Tarantino has no life, it's that his life is the movies. Much like his characters, the director can only live by engaging cinema.

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

In the minds of most people, Pulp Fiction is a collection of recycled movie scenes, punctuated by extreme violence, 70's music, and pop culture references. That's supposedly all it takes to make a Quentin Tarantino movie. Yet, how many movies have there been since which have copied this "formula" that are as fresh, energetic, alive and exciting? None. Pulp Fiction remains the best movie of the 90's.

First, to address the detractors. Yes, Pulp Fiction is an extraordinary catalog of movie references. The glowing suitcase is a reference to Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly. Harvey Keitel's "cleaner" character is a reference to Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita and its American remake, Point of No Return. Uma Thurman's haircut is a reference to silent actress Louise Brooks. The hypodermic scene (with Eric Stoltz and Rosanna Arquette) was lifted from Martin Scorsese's American Boy. The Ricky Nelson singer in the diner is a reference to Tarantino's favorite movie, Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo. Other scenes and lines of dialogue were lifted from Don Siegel's Charley Varrick, Jean-Luc Godard movies, Brian De Palma movies, John Woo movies, Jack Hill movies, and an entire video store more. Tarantino's passion is not a snobbish one. He reserves the same enthusiasm for both respected movies and trash movies. He is smart enough, though, to escape doing simple homages or remakes. He takes the scraps from these old movies and weaves an extraordinary new cloak out of them.

As for the violence, most of it, in fact, takes place off-screen. Tarantino expertly toys with us in a way that only Hitchcock did before him--letting the scene play drag on, slowly, making us believe that we have experienced more violence than we actually have. Vincent Vega (John Travolta) shooting Marvin's head off in the back of the car is played out to the point of gruesome comedy, but very little is actually shown. Likewise Butch's (Bruce Willis) run-in with the sodomizing rednecks. There is more violence in any summer explosion blockbuster you could name. It's just that you're pummeled with it instead of being tingled, and your senses are less aware of it.

As for the pop culture references, some of it is relevant; Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent discuss hamburgers just before going into the hotel room in which the three clean-cut youths are eating hamburgers (at 7 AM), which lends a strange mystical property to the scene. Likewise, the "foot massage" talk is meant to emotionally heighten the power of Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) without actually showing any violence. Some of the talk is designed to throw you; the character of Tony "Rocky Horror" is brought up several times, and he becomes a character to us, even though he is never shown on screen. Butch and Esmerelda Villalobos talk about death during their cab ride. Isn't Butch about to face certain death several times? Butch and his girlfriend (Maria De Medeiros) talk about various things; potbellies, Spanish, etc. All of it is designed to relax you more and more until the point when Butch realizes his watch is missing. It would be one thing to keep us in suspense during this whole time, but it takes a great artist to make us relax totally before building us back up again. The dialogue itself is brilliant stuff. It's not that it sounds like the way people actually talk, but it has a movie-rhythm that just sounds good. It may be Tarantino's greatest gift.

The actors love it, too. Every actor in Pulp Fiction gives a career-topping performance in every role (has Bruce Willis ever been better? Uma Thurman?). Travolta especially shines, back in top form after years of bad movies. His smooth, underconfident junkie Vincent Vega is our link to all three stories. He "plays" a different character depending on who he's on screen with. He talks jivey when on screen with Jules, cool when with Mia Wallace, and tough in his brief scene with Butch. He doesn't have the confidence to be himself at any time. It's a great performance. When Vincent and Jules begin the movie by hassling the three young cons, they "get into character" before entering the room. Jackson is mesmerizing as Jules, fearsome and religious. Frank Whaley, Steve Buscemi, Peter Green, and Christopher Walken also appear in bit parts.

The main thing about Pulp Fiction that people miss is its theme of redemption. Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plumme) are redeemed because they call off their restaurant holdup. Jules is redeemed after he believes he has seen the miracle of the bullets missing him. Vincent witnesses the same "miracle", refuses to believe it, and is dead the next day (in Butch's apartment). Butch is redeemed by going back to help Marcellus against the greater evil (of the rednecks). Marcellus lives because he sends Jules and Vincent after his "soul" (the contents of the briefcase). He is redeemed when he decides he needs his soul back. It is also a movie about pairs. Every scene is about the give-and-take of two people. There is also a running theme of men losing power to women. Jules mentions that he's a vegetarian because his girlfriend is. Jimmy (Tarantino) is afraid of what his wife will do if she catches him helping criminals in their house. Even when Butch goes back alone for his watch, he is "with" his father.

Yet another trick is that the movie contains no musical score, only carefully selected pop songs. A good deal of the songs are instrumentals and work very well to convey mood. And the songs are all over the map--funk music and surf music are fully integrated. We even have white soul (Dusty Springfield) and black surf (Chuck Berry). So many filmmakers need to learn the value of a quiet scene rather than drenching them in drippy music.

Pulp Fiction is a movie about the in-between spaces that Hollywood movies don't show. in a normal movie, every gesture, every prop, every line of dialogue is related somehow to the final outcome of the story. "Pulp Fiction" shows us people sleeping, taking showers, going to the bathroom, the scenes where characters get ready for scenes, and the scenes afterwards. The boldest move is not showing Butch's big fight in which he supposedly kills his opponent. Instead, we see the cab ride afterward. This is really quite a dangerous move giving us talk instead of action. But, after Raging Bull, how good could this fight scene have really been? And isn't it interesting how the background out the window of the cab is unrealistic black and white footage? Somehow, this ploy works.

I could go on and on. Pulp Fiction has endless puzzles and pleasures that are still to be discovered. It's a movie that says more about the nature of film and the thrill of making movies than any other film in the 90's. It's a movie that is truly alive, made with spirit and energy; intelligence, and gamesmanship. I don't expect any movie in the remaining months of the millennium to top it.

Catch Me If You Can: The Tarantino Legacy - Bright Lights Film Journal   Jane Mills, April 1, 2002


The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and ...  The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and Prospects of Subversion in the Works of Quentin Tarantino, by Dror Poleg from Bright Lights Film Journal, July 31, 2004


Pulp Fiction - Film (Movie) Plot and Review ... - Film Reference  John McCarty


Film Court (Lawrence Russell) review


Boston Review (Alan A. Stone) review  Boston Review, April/May 1995


The New Republic (Stanley Kauffmann) review  Shooting Up, November 14, 1994


Rise of the antihero: Is Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction' at root of paradigm ...  Jonathan Comey from South Coast Today, November 30, 2012


Film as Art [Danél Griffin] - Featured - Pulp Fiction 


Dragan Antulov review [10/10]


Scott Renshaw review [9/10]


Jason Overbeck retrospective [A+] (Rob Gonsalves) review [5/5]


Jerry Saravia retrospective


Walter Frith retrospective


Movieline Magazine dvd review  Christopher Geitz


Movieline Magazine review  Stephen Farber


DVD Town (John J. Puccio) dvd review  Movie-only review


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [4/4]


Montreal Film Journal (Kevin N. Laforest) review


Linda Lopez McAlister (c/o inforM Women's Studies) review


Movie Reviews UK review [5/5]  Damian Cannon


Qwipster's Movie Reviews (Vince Leo) review [4.5/5]


Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) review [4/4]


DVD Verdict (Mike Jackson) dvd review


DVD (Matt Brighton) dvd review


DVD Clinic (Scott Weinberg) dvd review [5/5] [Special Edition] (Chris Pilch) dvd review [10/10] [Special Edition]


DVD Verdict (Bill Gibron) dvd review [Collector's Edition]  2-discs


DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review [Collector's Edition]  2-discs


DVD Times  Richard Booth, Collector’s Edition, 2-discs


The Digital Bits dvd review [Collector's Edition]  2-discs


DVD MovieGuide dvd review [Collector's Edition]  Colin Jacobson, 2-discs


DVDActive (David Beamish) dvd review [8/10] [Collector's Edition]  2-discs


BBC Films (Almar Haflidason) dvd review [Collector's Edition]  2-discs


Jason Wallis retrospective [4/4]


Steve Rhodes review [4/4]


Alex Winter review


Doug Furney review


The Tech (MIT) (Rob Marcato) review (Arturo García Lasca) review [10/10] (Jeff Vorndam) review [A+]  #6 Film of the 1990’s


Crazy for Cinema (Lisa Skrzyniarz) review (Christopher Null) review [5/5]


Raymond Johnston review


Urban Cinefile dvd review [10th Anniversary Edition]  Craig Miller


Mark R. Leeper review [high +2 out of -4..+4]


The Film Journal (Rick Curnutte) review


Edward Copeland on Film


Joe Bob Goes to the Drive In (Joe Bob Briggs) review


Eye for Film (Angus Wolfe Murray) review [5/5]


Movie ram-blings (Ram Samudrala) review


Jeffrey Graebner review


Ruthless Reviews review  Erich Schulte


Brad Laidman: Elvis Needs Boats review


Edinburgh U Film Society (Matthew Bull) review


All Movie Guide [Lucia Bozzola]


Gods of Filmmaking


Newsweek (David Ansen) review  Trolling for Talent at Sundance, November 13, 1995


Entertainment Weekly review [A]


TV Guide Entertainment Network, Movie Guide review [4/5]


Variety (Todd McCarthy) review


BBC Films (Almar Haflidason) review


Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review


Washington Post (Desson Howe) review


Austin Chronicle (Marjorie Baumgarten) review [4.5/5]


San Francisco Chronicle (Mike LaSalle) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]  October 14, 1994


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) recommendation [Great Movies]  June 10, 2001


The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review


DVDBeaver dvd review  Gary W. Tooze



USA  (154 mi)  1997


Jackie Brown | Chicago Reader  Jonathan Rosenbaum

Adapting Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch for his third feature (1997), Quentin Tarantino puts together a fairly intricate and relatively uninvolving money-smuggling plot, but his cast is so good that you probably won't feel cheated unless you're hoping for something as show-offy as Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. A flight attendant (70s blaxploitation queen Pam Grier, agreeably treated here like a goddess) gets caught smuggling gun money for an arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson in his prime) and has to work out her loyalties to him, her bail bondsman (Robert Forster, agreeably treated like a noir axiom), the law (including Michael Keaton), and her own interests. Robert De Niro does a fine character part, and Bridget Fonda is very sexy.

Jackie Brown, directed by Quentin Tarantino | Film review  Geoff Andrew

A pretty faithful adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch, Tarantino's finest, most mature movie to date centres on airline steward Jackie (Grier), picked up by the Feds at LAX with cash and drugs destined for gun trader Ordell (Jackson). Reluctant to do time and aware that Ordell tends to murder anyone he suspects might turn informer, she decides to play cops and criminals - not only Ordell, but his former cellmate Louis (De Niro) and pothead girlfriend Melanie (Fonda) - against each other, confiding only in Max (Forster), the world-weary bail bondsman Ordell hired to get her out of jail in the first place. What's immediately rewarding is that Tarantino forgoes flash patter, stand-offs and stylistic flourishes in favour of a closer focus on character (women included), relationships, motives and mood. Also crucial to our actually coming to care about these people is the terrific acting (Grier and Forster make you wonder where they've been all these years). But perhaps most surprising and welcome is that this is a subtle poignant account of middle-aged people trying to come to terms with failing faculties, fading looks, diminishing options and a need to make their lives count somehow.

Cineaste Selects: Forty Years of Favorite Films — Cineaste Magazine    Thomas Doherty

Before Quentin Tarantino went for baroque, he was classical. In the 1990s, the geek-savant of independent cinema romanced three gems of the urban crime genre: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Jackie Brown (1997), ADHD-addled updates besotted with Hollywood craft and New Wave flash, a l’amour fou the likes of which had not been seen since Truffaut, Godard, and Chabrol squabbled over Howard Hawks in the lobby of Cinematheque Francaise. A second generation auteurist, Tarantino was lucky enough to hit filmic puberty during the literate peak of the second Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1970s, promiscuous enough to stalk the drive in as well as the art house, and diligent enough to vacuum up what he missed on video. More than the avatar of the indie breakthrough into the corporate big time, he embodied a one man renaissance.

Of the trilogy, Jackie Brown gets the heaviest rotation on my personal DVD playlist. Like the job-of-work professional who is its moral center, Tarantino seems unhassled and unhurried, almost serene, relaxed at the plate and graceful on the field, no longer fearful about getting tossed out of the line up or obliged to blast one out of the park, just a reliable clean up hitter who can deliver a stand-up double on demand. It is a batting stance he has yet to recapture.

Elmore Leonard, the gold standard for pulp fiction, blueprinted the plot that even by the standards of noirish heist double crossing crime mellers is seriously convoluted. When the well-preserved flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) gets busted at LAX for smuggling cash and coke for the gunrunning Machiavellian Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), she knows that the lethal occupational hazard will not be the eager-beaver ATF agents rifling through her carry-on. (Michael Keaton later reprised his role as hyperkinetic treasury agent Ray Nicolette in Steven Soderberg’s Out of Sight (1997), another Elmore Leonard adaptation, an absolutely delightful intertextual cross pollination.)

Ordell is a verbally deft, utterly merciless sociopath whose posse includes taciturn ex-con Louis (Robert DeNiro), leggy surfer girl Melanie (Bridget Fonda), and ratchet jawed gunsel Beaumont (Chris Tucker), a liability with a short life expectancy. To maneuver Jackie into target range, Ordell hires the world-weary bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Foster) to spring her from jail. No sojourn in an LA lock-up can make Jackie look un-Foxy: one spellbound look and Max sees if not a love connection than at least a kindred spirit. In the elaborate bait and switch Jackie concocts to out-fox both Ordell and the ATF, Max knows she’s playing him, but he’s bemused and enchanted rather than resentful, and we know just how he feels.

Throughout the serpentine shenanigans, the then-thirty something Tarantino shows an unexpected affinity for the hard-won self knowledge, limited options, and sheer calloused competence that comes with late middle age: Max owning up to his hairpiece without shame, Jackie knowing she’s bottomed out, a prospect “that scares me more than Ordell,” and even the cagey psych-out artist Ordell, who is very good at looking out for Ordell. No punk himself, the allegedly young Turk director pays due homage to his elders by resurrecting two faded actors from the 1970s, Grier and Foster, as the late-blooming nearly-lovers.

Of course, Samuel L. Jackson is a hoot to harken to, slinging the n-word and his trademark twelve-letter benediction like Olivier wrapping his tongue around a Shakespearean soliloquy. “The AK-47—when you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherfucker in the room,” he brays during a promo video for automatic weapons (“Chicks with Guns”—available in its bikini-clad entirety as a DVD extra). When Max asks Ordell if his place of residence is a house or an apartment, he savors the comeback. “It’s a house,” he says, the slick gangsta from the hood suddenly the proud bourgeois home owner. In outrageously matching attire, menacing and magnetic, he is a slithery charmer who does not need a wallet saying “Bad Motherfucker” to know he is one.

For the soundtrack, QT the deejay racks up a mix tape from a dream jukebox: Bobby Womack’s majestic “Across 110th Street,” from the eponymous 1972 blaxploitation flick; the syrupy Philly soul of the Delfonics, which Jackie plays for Max on her symbolically retro vinyl collection; and, unforgettably, the eerie, echo-chamber strains of “Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson as Ordell drives Beaumont on a long-take dead end. (What is it with Tarantino car trunks?)

In a commentary clip on the DVD release, Tarantino likens Jackie Brown to Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). “A hang out movie,” he calls it, meaning that the intricately layered plot is a distraction the first time around, that one comes back to the film to hang out with the characters and drink in their personalities—to share a quiet cup of coffee with Jackie and Max, sip drinks with Ordell and Louis, smoke a bowl with beach bunny Melanie, and, not least, to bathe in the creative glow of a white hot talent at the top of his game.

'Jackie Brown' And Other Counterculture Heroes Revived At ...  Sean Burns from WBUR, June 4, 2015

The Brattle Theatre’s cleverly curated “Sunshine Noir” series — culling the best of crime dramas transplanted out of the shadows into the warm California sun — is a gift to local moviegoers for many reasons. For starters the programming provides context, and if so inclined you can spend this coming weekend tracing the cinematic DNA of addled, counterculture gumshoe heroes from Joaquin Phoenix’s Doc Sportello in last year’s “Inherent Vice,” to Jeff Bridges’ immortal “Big Lebowski” Dude, all the way back to the great granddaddy of them all: Elliott Gould’s anachronistic hepcat Phillip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye.”

Another thing a series like this can do is prime a picture for rediscovery, allowing you to see an older movie with new eyes, free from preconceived notions that may have dogged it during the original release. This is helpful, as I must admit I was a little perplexed the first time I saw Thursday’s closing night attraction, “Jackie Brown.”

See, I was sophomore at NYU Film School when “Pulp Fiction” had its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival, an event that famously caused fainting spells, and for movie nerds of that era was roughly akin to Elvis shaking his hips on the Ed Sullivan show. Quentin Tarantino, like so many of us at the time, was a video store clerk who gorged on cinema culture both high and low, holding Jean Luc-Godard and Sonny Chiba in equal regard. The grindhouse met the art-house in Tarantino’s cheerfully democratic universe; rotgut exploitation movie tropes served up with elegant, French New Wave flourishes. “Pulp Fiction” played in first-run theaters for seven months. It was all we talked about for a year.

To call Tarantino’s follow-up, “Jackie Brown,” hotly anticipated would be a ridiculous understatement. (Remember that antediluvian pre-Internet movie hype cycle, when you’d have to pore over magazines on newsstands searching for snippets of information, keeping your fingers crossed at theaters hoping you might see a trailer? That was me.)  So on opening day, Christmas 1997, I patiently waited for the family festivities to subside to a point where I could quietly sneak out for a late show of “Jackie Brown,” scoring some well-deserved side-eye in the process. (My priorities have never been great.)

But then instead of the smirky, ultraviolent adrenaline-shot-to-the-heart “Pulp” euphoria I’d so feverishly anticipated, here was a melancholy ramble about small-time sad-sacks talking in circles while sitting around crappy apartments and malls for more than two and a half hours. I didn’t know what to make of it, and mine wasn’t an unpopular opinion.

“Jackie Brown” opened to lukewarm critical reception. (Siskel and Ebert were big boosters, but most everybody else just complained about the length.) It earned under $40 million at the U.S. box office — a respectable number, given the $12 million budget, but a fraction of “Pulp Fiction’s” blockbuster grosses. “Jackie Brown” was gone from theaters in a few weeks instead of months, and then everybody went right back to talking about Paul Thomas Anderson, who’d just swiped Tarantino’s hotshot wunderkind throne after “Boogie Nights” had followed in “Pulp Fiction’s” footsteps and blown the doors off 1997’s New York Film Festival.

Tarantino, who’d been a ubiquitous and rather annoying fixture on the talk-show and celebrity cameo circuit, abruptly disappeared from the public eye. He didn’t make another movie for six years. There were rumors of depression and drugs. “Jackie Brown’s” DVD release was delayed half-a-decade until 2002, for reasons never properly explained. In the meantime, the movie’s reputation became something of a write-off. Though technically not a failure, it was perceived as one. Critic Stanley Kauffman brutally wrote in The New Republic: “It’s the flat, self-exposing dud that fate often keeps in store for the initially overpraised.”

I had a different experience, heading back to the theater about a week after it had opened, I think because my dad wanted to see it. Freed from my expectations of the Tarantino roller-coaster everybody was expecting, on second viewing I was able to see “Jackie Brown” for the movie it is, instead of the movie I’d wanted it to be. It’s slow, it’s sad and it’s very funny in ways that don’t really revolve around punchlines. This is the oldest movie ever made by a 34-year-old man, but I don’t mean that as a pejorative. It’s about characters who have been around the block one too many times and they’re exhausted, full of dreams deferred, just trying to scrape by.

Tarantino actually teaches you how to watch “Jackie Brown” during the opening credits, which are initially content to regard former Blaxploitation movie goddess Pam Grier as the title character, gliding along the LAX people-mover made famous by “The Graduate” (and recently on “Mad Men”) to the tune of Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street.” A national treasure, Grier still looks amazing, and the movie invites you to just sit there and drink in her regal visage with Womack’s slow groove — biorhythmically chilling out the audience into the proper mood. Then Jackie realizes she’s late for work, and the song climaxes with Grier scrambling to check boarding passes at the gate of the most low-rent airline at the far end of the airport. He’s just put an icon on a pedestal, and then dragged her back down to Earth.

Jackie’s in trouble. She’s been supplementing her minuscule stewardess salary smuggling cash for small-time gun-runner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). Now she’s being badgered by two hilariously alpha-male Feds (Michaels Bowen and Keaton, all swagger) who are trying to put the squeeze on Jackie, forcing her to set up her employer in a money-grab sting operation.

But anybody who has ever seen a Pam Grier movie knows that nobody pushes Pam Grier around. So with the help of her rumpled, lovesick, seen-it-all bail-bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster, in a performance so far beyond great it approaches Zen), Jackie Brown fashions a way to play all of the players and walk away with a shopping bag full of hundred dollar bills. This takes some time, and a lot of talking.

Despite changing the name and the race of our main character, “Jackie Brown” is otherwise a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel, “Rum Punch.” The collaboration is simpatico on a molecular level, as both writers are madly in love with the sound of their characters’ voices, allowing these folks great expanses in which to talk themselves into doing dastardly deeds, and it’s tough sometimes to tell who wrote which line. I’d wager the only significant difference between them is that Leonard always had a deep well of empathy for his doomed losers, making “Jackie Brown” the most soulful, least flippant Quentin Tarantino movie by several measures of order. (Really, who do you care about more: the Vega brothers or Jackie and Max?)

For once not shooting in widescreen, Tarantino typically keeps the frame tight on his character’s faces. Ordell’s gang, which includes washed-up surfer gal Melanie (Bridget Fonda) and addled ex-con Louis (Robert De Niro) are never photographed as a unified team. Everybody’s got their own agenda, each trying to find an out, and they’re all filmed like stars of their own movies.

Fonda is fairly heartbreaking as an over-the-hill trophy gal who never learned how to support herself beyond cozying up to the right rich guy. But it’s De Niro’s work here, so stunningly precise, that continues to amaze. Truly institutionalized after too many years in prison and usually stoned, he can’t ever seem to focus on what’s going on in any given scene, getting all tangled up with the complexities of newfangled car keys and phone cords. He’s a pathetic mess, but also deadly if you catch him in the wrong mood.

Elmore Leonard novels read like screenplays, but they’re notoriously tricky to adapt for the screen because his criminals are (like most criminals) stupid dumbbells that he plays as figures of fun, until the time comes when they aren’t anymore. You can count on one hand the Leonard adaptations (like “Jackie,” “Out Of Sight” or TV’s dearly departed “Justified”) that got this particular formula right.

In keeping with the minor-league nature of these particular criminals, “Jackie Brown” was reportedly all shot within 20 minutes of LAX, in the lower-class South Bay area of Los Angeles where Tarantino grew up. It’s a tacky L.A. we never get to see in movies, all crummy apartments, faulty door-buzzers and sparse storefronts between parking lots, where the Del Amo Mall feels like an oasis. It’s grubby-looking for a Hollywood movie — everybody’s car is old, the fashions are off-the-rack and most of these folks are overdue for a haircut.

The plot hinges upon missed calls from landlines, long-winded answering machine messages and beepers, plus it’s chock-full of indoor cigarette smoking. Characters spend so much time listening to cassette tapes in their cars, it becomes a running gag when songs pick up right where they left off after turning the ignition key.

Quentin Tarantino’s reputation is for narrative audacity and outrageous violence, but I’ve always felt his strongest suit is social observation, picking away at weird customs of human behavior. (Think of the tipping discussion in “Reservoir Dogs,” or “Pulp Fiction’s” great foot massage debate.) “Jackie Brown” is all behavior, with the exceedingly generous running time allowing us to live with these characters in ways that make them feel more real than any others in his oeuvre. “You can’t trust Melanie,” Jackson’s Ordell says with a sly smile late in the film, “but you can always trust Melanie to be Melanie.” By then we know her well enough to understand exactly what he means.

On my way out of the theater after that fateful second viewing, I was gobsmacked by just how mature the movie felt, and I rather foolishly predicted that Tarantino’s next film wouldn’t contain any violence at all. (Yeah, I was a little off on that one.) Maybe because of the movie’s mixed reception, the filmmaker has since retreated entirely into a cartoon world of his own imagination. “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” have their moments, I’m a little queasy about his attempts to wring juvenile wish-fulfillment fantasies out of historical atrocity. As I get older, Tarantino’s bratty effrontery has begun to grate on my nerves and I don’t find myself re-watching even his early films all that often anymore.

But I keep coming back to “Jackie Brown” once a year or so, looking forward to spending time with these characters again as I would a reunion with old friends. As the director’s work become more outrageously gross and stylized, it stands out as the gentle, humanist anomaly in his filmography — the kind of movie he never tried making again, much to our loss. “Jackie Brown” is Tarantino’s “American Graffiti.”

Metroactive News & Issues | The Word 'Nigger'  J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, April 9 – 15, 1998


The N Word: Who Can Say It, who Shouldn't, and why  book by Jabari Asam, 2007  (pdf) 


Why 'Jackie Brown' is Quentin Tarantino's Best Film ...  Bill Gibron from Pop Matters, October 13, 2011


Radiator Heaven [J.D.]  JD Lafrance


Pulped Fiction - New York Magazine  David Denby


Jackie Brown Review - Pajiba  Drew Morton


Jackie Brown -  Charles Taylor, December 24, 1997

Wise man Quentin Tarantino brings jolly Jackie Brown ; Day ...  Andrew Sarris from The New York Observer


Jackie Brown - Culture Court  Lawrence Russell


Jackie Brown: The question remains: something or nothing?  David Walsh from The World Socialist Web Site


Film Noir of the Week  Gary Deane


Nitrate Online  Eddie Cockrell


Images Movie Journal  Gary Johnson


Alex Fung

Jackie Brown - Deep Focus  Bryant Frazer


Surrender to the Void [Steven Flores]


Holding Their Fire  David Edelstein, December 26, 1997 | Jackie Brown


Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997) | Forrest In Focus ...  Forrest Cardamenis


Nick's Flick Picks (Capsule Review)  Nick Davis


Pam Grier is FOXY! [Jerry Saravia]


Who Won the Scene? Samuel L. Jackson vs. Everyone Else ...  Jason Concepcion from Grantland, March 31, 2015


Jackie Brown review | GamesRadar  Total Film


Jackie Brown | Reelviews Movie Reviews  James Berardinelli


Scott Renshaw


Tarantino's Unique Jackie Brown - The Gemsbok  Daniel Podgorski


Talking Pictures [Steven Russell]


Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web and Tuna


Jackie Brown · Dvd Review Jackie Brown · DVD Review ...  Keith Phipps from The Onion A.V. Club


The DVD Journal | Reviews : Jackie Brown: Collector's Edition  Dawn Taylor


DVD Verdict [Ryan Keefer]-Collector's Edition


DVD Movie Guide  Colin Jacobson, Collector’s Edition [Jeffrey Kauffman]


Jackie Brown Blu-ray Review | High Def Digest  Nate Boss [Gabriel Powers]  Blu-Ray


DVD Verdict (Blu-ray) [Clark Douglas]


Film Freak Central - Pulp Fiction (1994) + Jackie Brown ...  Walter Chaw, Blu-Ray - Blu-Ray [Chad Webb]


Jackie Brown (Blu-ray) : DVD Talk Review of the Blu-ray  Glenn Erickson


Jackie Brown | Blu-ray Review | Slant Magazine  Glenn Heath Jr.


Parallax View [Sean Axmaker]  Blu-Ray


Jackie Brown Blu-ray Review - IGN -  R.L. Shaffer


Blu-ray Review: JACKIE BROWN - Great Transfer Of A Great ...  Adam Whyte from What Culture


Klymkiw Film Corner [Greg Klymkiw]  Blu-Ray, Tarantino XX, 8-film compilation


DVD Talk - Tarantino XX Blu-ray [Tyler Foster]


The Man Who Viewed Too Much [Mike D'Angelo]


Movie Vault [John Ulmer]


Ted Prigge


Edinburgh U Film Society [Keith H. Brown]


Combustible Celluloid [Jeffrey M. Anderson] [Vince Leo]


Film Scouts Reviews: Jackie Brown  Karen Jaehne


Napierslogs' Movie Expositions [Anne Campbell]


Quentin Tarantino's 'Jackie Brown' Soundtrack Getting Vin ...  Kevin Jagernauth on the soundtrack from The Playlist


12 Fascinating Facts About 'Jackie Brown' | Mental Floss  James L. Menzies  Angus Wolfe Murray


Nitrate Online (capsule)  Eddie Cockrell - DVD Review  Scott C


Jackie Brown (1997) - MUBI


Pam Grier On Jackie Brown, In Her Own Words  Interview excerpts from Empire magazine, October 2011


Is this it? Pam Grier, blaxploitation star | Film | The Guardian  Damon Wise interview with Pam Grier, October 3, 2008


Read our review of Jackie Brown - Film4


TV Guide [Maitland McDonagh]


Review: 'Jackie Brown' - Variety Todd McCarthy


BBCi - Films (DVD review)  Almar Haflidson


Pam Grier's Jackie Brown snub proves Oscars have always ...   Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown snub proves Oscars have always been #SoWhite, by Noah Berlatsky from The Guardian, January 26, 2016


Peter Keough - Boston Phoenix  Quentin Tarantino gets off color in Jackie Brown


Jackie Brown - Philadelphia City Paper  Cindy Fuchs


Austin Chronicle [Marc Savlov]


Albuquerque Alibi [Devin D. O'Leary]


The Oregonian [Jamie S. Rich]


FILM REVIEW -- Tarantino's Latest Caper / Funky `Jackie ...  Mick LaSalle from The San Francisco Chronicle


From San Francisco With Love [Oktay Ege Kozak]


Jackie Brown Movie Review & Film Summary (1997) | Roger ...  Roger Ebert


Jackie Brown - The New York Times  Janet Maslin [Gary Tooze]


Jackie Brown (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Jackie Brown: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture ...


KILL BILL, VOL.1                            B                     86

USA  (111 mi)  2003  ‘Scope                             Official site


Revenge is a dish best served cold.     Old Klingon Proverb 


Listening to Nancy Sinatra's hauntingly slow and eerily quiet rendition of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" in the opening moments was the high point of the film for me, for as a prelude, it exquisitely foreshadows an ominous nature of what we are about to see.  The Sonny Chiba segment, particularly the room of swords, was a nice balance, humorous, but also a sacred and hallowed moment, an interlude between warrior sequences.  The introduction of Lucy Liu has a nice touch, Tarantino taking a stab at his own anime, again, a nice balance to the meeting of the yakuzas where Lucy masterfully struts her stuff.  However, I found the build up before the fights much better than the actual fight sequences themselves, which are prolonged and predictable, and after awhile you end up wondering, what's the point?  The strength of this film is the obvious joy that the filmmaker has in making it, his back and forth narrative jumps, and his inventive use of music.  But it seems pretty obvious to me that a film where the lead character has a hit list with 5 intended victims, and the film is over after only 2 are finished off, is not a finished work.  Meiko Kaji, the original star of the 1973 film LADY SNOWBLOOD, sings that film's theme song at the end of the snow garden sequence of Vol. 1:  "As I walk by myself on this road to revenge, I have given up my womanhood many moons ago to have my opponents drown in lakes of blood." 


Kill Bill: Vol. 1 | Chicago Reader  Jonathan Rosenbaum

Quentin Tarantino's lively and show-offy 2003 tribute to the Asian martial-arts flicks, bloody anime, and spaghetti westerns he soaked up as a teenager is even more gory and adolescent than its models, which explains both the fun and the unpleasantness of this globe-trotting romp. It's split into two parts, and I assume the idea of "volumes" reflects the mind-set of a former video-store clerk who thinks in terms of shelf life. This is essentially 111 minutes of mayhem, with hyperbolic revenge plots and phallic Amazonian women behaving like nine-year-old boys; the dialogue, less spiky than usual, uses bitch as often as his earlier films used nigger, and most of the stereotypes are now Asian rather than black. If Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog was a response of sorts to Tarantino, then Tarantino returns the compliment here with RZA's music and the mixture of Japanese and Italian genre elements. With Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Sonny Chiba, Daryl Hannah, Julie Dreyfuss, and Chiaki Kuriyama.

The Onion A.V. Club [Scott Tobias]

Resounding proof that aesthetic decisions should never be left to the marketing department, Quentin Tarantino's genre-jumping opus Kill Bill has been cut into two bite-size chunks, presumably to maximize admissions over a six-month haul. Since the film unfolds in non-sequential "chapters" like Pulp Fiction, perhaps Miramax and Tarantino felt that it could take the form of a trashy serial novel, with one installment teasing audiences just enough to get them salivating over the next. But unlike the recent Lord Of The Rings adaptations, Kill Bill wasn't planned as a multi-part project, which explains why it ends on such a distinctly unsatisfying note, in spite of the magnificent spectacle that has already unspooled. A bloody revenge epic severed at the torso, Kill Bill: Volume 1 opens with a "Feature Presentation" logo from the '70s, the first sign that Tarantino is returning to his past as a budding cineaste, paying grand homage to the sensationalist genre pictures that continue to inform his work. In that sense, he's created the infectious, movie-movie fantasy world that he might have dreamt of as a viewer: a Frankenstein monster composed of Shaw Brothers martial-arts films, Japanese yakuza and samurai movies (new- and old-school), Italian spaghetti Westerns, and even a playful experiment in anime. It remains to be seen whether Kill Bill is merely a skilled slice of juvenilia or a pastiche with real emotional and thematic underpinnings, but based on Tarantino's storytelling command in the first half, it's worth giving him the benefit of the doubt. A lithe, imposing Uma Thurman plays "The Bride," a.k.a. Black Mamba, a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who was left for dead when the other members turned on her and slaughtered her entire wedding party. Four years later, Thurman awakes from a coma with a powerful thirst for revenge on her cohorts, including Vivica A. Fox ("Copperhead"), Lucy Liu ("Cottonmouth"), Daryl Hannah ("California Mountain Snake"), Michael Madsen ("Sidewinder"), and the sinister ringleader, a thus-far-unseen David Carradine. As usual, Tarantino scrambles the chronology to great effect, patiently doling out pieces of backstory while leaving other major revelations for the back half. Jet-setting from Pasadena to Okinawa to Tokyo, Volume 1 mirrors Thurman's single-minded focus on confrontation, moving purposefully through grisly, multi-textured showdowns with two assassins, broken up by a welcome pit stop with Street Fighter legend Sonny Chiba. Though each setpiece has been meticulously orchestrated–with balletic Yuen Wo-Ping wire-fu choreography, deliciously eclectic music selection, and references by the barrelful–the cumulative effect is strangely wearying, perhaps because the carnage has yet to be relieved by other material. Based on Tarantino's other work, Kill Bill: Volume 2 will likely balance out his masterful grindhouse theatrics with a redemptive bit of heart. But for now, that's only speculation. To be continued...

Kill Bill is bloody, empty bliss. - Slate Magazine  David Edelstein, October 8, 2009

When he's told in one of his movies that sex without love is an empty experience, Woody Allen says, "Yes, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best." That's how I feel about Quentin Tarantino's fourth feature, Kill Bill, Volume 1 (Miramax). I don't think the movie is totally empty—it's just, well, on the elemental end of the dramatic spectrum. It's about as thematically complex as its title. The story revolves around a woman, played by Uma Thurman, whose entire wedding party is slain by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, or DiVAS, which is commanded by a guy called Bill (David Carradine—or, rather, his voice and feet). We don't know what the pregnant bride did to merit execution, but we see enough shrieking flashbacks to know that the assault on her was bloody, protracted, and excruciating. We know why, once the Bride (that's what she's called) awakens from a 4-year coma, she wants to hack her way through all the DiVAS on her way to the title character, whom she once worked for (under the nom de guerre Black Mamba) and who once put a bullet in her head.

She doesn't make it to Bill in this volume, since Kill Bill was itself hacked into two parts when Tarantino and Miramax's Harvey Weinstein thought a 3-hour-plus gutbucket revenge flick was a contradiction in terms. I agree; but it's important to say that, for all its invocation of Hong Kong martial-arts and Japanese shogun-assassin pictures, Kill Bill doesn't replicate the '70s cum-stained grind-house experience. It's too playful in its form, too artfully scrambled in its narrative syntax, too visually resourceful, too beautiful. (The velvety cinematography is by Robert Richardson, the ecstatic choreography by Yuen Wo-Ping, the shrieking '70s trumpets by the RZA.) But what truly distances the movie from its models is the fan-boy giddiness that Tarantino brings to the party. He has never done pure action before: He kept the violence off-screen or at a distance in his last film, the funky and vastly underrated Jackie Brown (1997). This time, he throws himself whole-hog into the carnage. When a man's head is severed and his blood shoots up like the water from an opened fire hydrant, you can almost hear him cackle, "This is so cool."

Thurman isn't a typical martial-arts heroine, either. She's a tall woman, and she doesn't have the superhuman nimbleness of Beijing Opera trained fighters. But I loved watching her heft that Japanese steel: She's enough of an actress to merge her own exertions with the character's. The Bride kills scores—maybe hundreds—of people, but none of them casually. And despite the campy dialogue, there's a current of emotion that runs through the action. In an early scene, the Bride inadvertently kills one of her adversaries in front of the woman's very young daughter, and the moment hangs, ugly and unresolved. The Bride tells the little girl that if she's still feeling raw in a few years, she can come for her. A short time later, there's a flashback—marvelously animated by the Japanese outfit Production I.G., in the style of an anime like Ghost in the Shell (1998)—in which we learn that the Bride's principaladversary, the yakuza boss O-Ren (Lucy Liu), became an assassin after avenging her murdered parents. Kill Bill is like a revenger's-tragedy hall of mirrors: The heroine of one vigilante saga becomes the villain of the next.

The movie will not be to everyone's taste; I've already read some tut-tut reviews, like the one by David Denby in The New Yorker that ends, "I felt nothing. Not despair. Not dismay. Not amusement. Nothing." (Like many of my friend Denby's weary plaints, this sounds better when you read it with a French accent: "Ah felt … nossing. Not ze despair … Not ze dismay … Not z'amuse-mon. Nossing.") For my part, I felt glee. I felt the way I sometimes do at a Mark Morris dance piece that reshuffles familiar, showbizzy moves into something new and funny and unexpectedly lyrical. Kill Bill literally becomes a dance movie in the course of the final battle. The lights go out and the Bride and a horde of masked assassins are suddenly blue silhouettes gyrating against a great grid: It's like An American in Paris with arterial spray.

OK, Kill Bill is a lot less radical or memorable than either Pulp Fiction (1994) or Jackie Brown (which plays even better when you settle into the Barcalounger and watch it again on video with a couple of beers and a joint). But it's in a different universe than Tarantino's pal Robert Rodriguez's recent Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which is the same sort of high-body-count, straight-to-video material staged and shot by someone with no eye, no ear, and no sensibility. Kill Bill is about nothing more (or less) than its director's passion for the mindless action pictures that got him through adolescence. It isn't sex without love: It's an orgy with just enough love.

Tarantino and the Vengeful Ghosts of Cinema • Senses of Cinema  Maximilian Le Cain, July 26, 2004


Mindful violence: the visibility of power and inner life in Kill Bill  Aaron Anderson from Jump Cut, Winter 2005


The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and ...  The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and Prospects of Subversion in the Works of Quentin Tarantino, by Dror Poleg from Bright Lights Film Journal, July 31, 2004


“Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ -  Stephanie Zacharek from Salon, October 10, 2003


World Socialist Web Site  Marty Jonas


Nitrate Online - Feature  KJ Doughton and Cynthia Fuchs reviews of Volumes 1 and 2, interview with David Carradine


Kill Bill: Vol. 1 - Reviews - Reverse Shot  Jeff Reichert


Enter the Dragon Lady | Village Voice  J. Hoberman, October 7, 2003


Raging Bull [Matt White & Mike Lorefice]  film discussion, September 8, 2004


Deep Focus [Bryant Frazer] [Fernando F. Croce]


Images Movie Journal  Gary Johnson


Kill Bill Vol. 1  Henry Sheehan                                                  


Blooming Lotus: Redemption and Spiritual Transformation ...  Michael K. Crowley from Slant magazine, originally published on 24 Lies per Second


Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule: WISE GUYS: 24 LIES ...  Dennis Cozzalio


Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) | PopMatters  Cynthia Fuchs


Kill Bill: Vol. 1 | Film Review | Slant Magazine  Ed Gonzalez


Kill Bill, Vol. 1 / **** (2003) - Cinemaphile  David Keyes, listed as #1 film of 2003


Shameless Self Expression [Ryan McDonald]


Ruthless Reviews ("potentially offensive")  Matt Cale


A Regrettable Moment of Sincerity  Adam Lippe


Movie Views [Ryan Cracknell]


Ain't It Cool News [Harry Knowles]


[ DreamLogic | Kill Bill Vol. 1 Review ] -  Chris Nelson and Kris Kobayashi


ReelViews [James Berardinelli]


Cinema365 [Carlos deVillalvilla]


Cine Outsider [Camus]


Jigsaw Lounge [Neil Young]  also  more notes on second viewing


Kill Bill Volume 1 -  Avril Carruthers


The Lumière Reader  Tim Wong


The Movie Scene [Andy Webb]


Flipside Movie Emporium [Rob Vaux]  Nix


Kill Bill Vol. 1 | Film Blather  Eugene Novikov


Mercy, compassion I lack [Jerry Saravia]


Creative Loafing [Curt Holman]


Kill Bill -  Scott von Doviak


Kill Bill, Vol. 1 - Cinescene  Ed Owens


Kill Bill - :: indie counter-culture daily ...  Cole Sowell


DVD Journal [Damon Houx]


The Digital Fix [Colin Polonowski]


DVD Verdict [Mike Jackson]


DVD Talk [Jason Bovberg]


DVD Talk [J. Doyle Wallis]


DVD Review - Kill Bill, Volume 1 - The Digital Bits  Todd Doogan


VideoVista [Amy Harlib]


DVD Movie Central [Michael Jacobson]


Home Theater Info [Doug MacLean]


The QNetwork Film Desk [James Kendrick]


DVD Talk [Randy Miller III]


Exclaim! [Chris Gramlich]


The Digital Fix - Japanese version [Michael Mackenzie] [Ben Williams]


High-Def Digest - Blu-ray [Joshua Zyber]


Big Picture Big Sound - Blu-ray [Brandon A. DuHamel]


DVD Verdict - Blu-Ray [Dan Mancini] - Blu-ray [Pat Pilon and Noor Razzak]


DVDActive - Blu-ray [Gabriel Powers]


DVD Talk - Blu-ray [John Sinnott]


10,000 Bullets - Blu-ray [Michael Den Boer]


Klymkiw Film Corner [Greg Klymkiw]  Tarantino XX, 8-film collection


DVD Talk - Tarantino XX Blu-ray [Tyler Foster]


Combustible Celluloid [Jeffrey M. Anderson]


Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz]


Offoffoff -The Guide to Alternative New York  Joshua Tanzer     


The Spinning Image [Daniel Auty]  Jennie Kermode


Qwipster's Movie Reviews [Vince Leo]


Plume-Noire [Fred Thom]        


Kamera  Paul Clarke      


Film – Kill Bill, Volume 1 (2003)  Del Harvey


Bill's Movie Emporium [Bill Thompson]


Crazy for Cinema


Edinburgh U Film Society [Rupert Good]


Kill Bill: Movie Review  Jim Schembri from The Age   


Faster, Pussy Wagon! Kill! Kill! | Village Voice  J. Hoberman interviews, September 30, 2003


Kill Bill is feminist statement, says Tarantino |  Tarantino interview, February 10, 2003


TV Guide [Maitland McDonagh]


Kill Bill Vol. 1 | Variety  Todd McCarthy


BBCi - Films  Stella Papamichael


Kill Bill: Vol. 1, directed by Quentin Tarantino ... - Time Out


The Japan Times [Mark Schilling]


USA Today [Mike Clark]


Stephen Hunter - Washington Post


Stephen Hunter's and Ann Hornaday's Top 10 Films of 2003  listed on Stephen Hunter as #2


Desson Thomson's Top 10 Films (  listed as #5


St. Petersburg Times [Steve Persall]


The Cleveland Movie Blog [Charles Cassady, Jr.]


Austin Chronicle [Marc Savlov]


San Francisco Chronicle [Mick LaSalle] [Roger Ebert]


New York Times [A.O. Scott]


' - Kill Bill' - Soundtrack - The New York Times  Elvis Mitchell - Blu-ray [Leonard Norwitz]


Kill Bill: Volume 1 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


KILL BILL, Vol. 2                             B                     84

USA  (136 mi)  2004  ‘Scope                             Official site


While this segment lacks the non-stop blur of action sequences of Vol. 1, instead it gets lost in its own pretentiousness.  A copycat style works for awhile, even when it’s as well done as this, but eventually it wears thin when that’s “all” it is.  From the opening moments, the film is so incredibly exaggerated, so in love with the genres that it’s crying out to imitate, that it loses its ability to rise above mere copycat entertainment.  Largely because so much time has passed since the opening of Vol.1, and so much has been written by now, the outcome feels pre-determined.  There was zero suspense in this segment, as all that remained was what would happen to who and how – as if that really mattered.  The film never makes it matter.  The opening flashes back to the wedding sequence where it all began, beautifully shot in black and white, where Bill is lurking outside the chapel door meditatively playing his flute, like the opening sequences of David Carradine’s “Kung-Fu” television series, the opening calm before the storm.  But as we already know what happens from Vol. 1, the wedding violence plays off screen.  The film then moves back into its realm of sadistic exaggeration, which continues throughout. 


With musical variations of “Bang Bang” or the Zombies “She’s Not There,” the film weaves in and out of the psychological states of mind of the characters, and from my view, with so much previous action set up, the slowness of the pace just drifts along, and the mindlessness of listening to Bill yap over and over again gets so repetitious that you just can’t wait for her to shut him up and end it.  When it comes, it’s something of a disappointment, actually turning into a chamber drama at the end.  I felt there was a good hour of excess in the two parts that was needless, that could have been trimmed to one film, but this director is so much in love with his own work that he wouldn’t dare do that, which works to the film’s detriment.  Uma Thurman was outstanding throughout, and David Carradine, while interesting at first, wears out his welcome.  He was better when he wasn’t there.  Nice scene with the snake in the trailer though, especially Elle reading the effects of the black mamba that she laboriously hand-copied off the Internet. The mental image of the one-eyed femme fatale typing poisonous snakes into Google and scribbling results was drop dead hilarious.  And while the ensuing fight sequence was excellent, the film never rose to any new heights. 


Kill Bill: Vol. 2 | Chicago Reader  JR Jones

In contrast to Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003), which wasn't much more than a series of fight scenes, the second half of Quentin Tarantino's martial arts epic (2004) delivers more of the pleasures that made him the wunderkind of 90s cinema: offbeat scumbag characters, narrative sleight of hand, an extraordinary visual sense, and affectionate genre pillaging. But with its half-baked maternal themes, the completed work is the first instance of Tarantino's prodigious sizzle being distinguishable from steak. With David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Michael Parks, and an extraordinary lead performance by Uma Thurman.

The Onion A.V. Club [Nathan Rabin]

One of the reasons Quentin Tarantino is such a revered figure for people who'd never think of renting a Jean-Luc Godard film is that his career and personal mythology underline just how permeable the line separating fans from filmmakers can be. Tarantino's work as a writer-director often feels like an extension of his role as a movie lover—especially in last year's Kill Bill: Volume 1, his first film in six years, and a genre-mixing dream come true for cinephiles and trash-culture lovers alike.

The chronologically scrambled tale of an unnamed wedding-dress-clad woman (Uma Thurman) who seeks bloody revenge on David Carradine, who sent his hired goons to kill her, Volume 1 marked both a progression and regression from Tarantino's previous work. Gone for the most part were the showy monologues, pop-culture references, leisurely pace, and hang-out-movie vibe of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. But there was plenty of new stuff to take its place, most notably an endless string of brilliantly staged, heavily stylized fight scenes involving Thurman's ass-kicking anti-heroine, who was a little like '70s-era Pam Grier reborn in the body of a skinny white girl.

Kill Bill: Volume 2 has a lot to live up to. It needs to meet the lofty expectations awaiting any new Tarantino film, but it also has to deliver the emotionally satisfying ending that its predecessor by definition couldn't. The film succeeds by expertly melding the two stages of Tarantino's career. The rambling Tarantino of Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction is evident in every lovingly crafted and delivered monologue, each leisurely paced scene and long take. The more action-oriented, fight-intensive Tarantino reappears in the viscerally exciting bursts of ultra-violence that punctuate the stretches of dialogue. At the film's emotional core is the complicated relationship between Thurman and her mentor/lover/father-figure Carradine, which is as tender as any relationship can be between two people who go to great lengths to try to kill each other.

Actors, especially B-movie actors, never seem more like larger-than-life figures than when they're reflected in Tarantino's adoring eyes. Where others might look at a Carradine or Daryl Hannah—who gives a revelatory performance as an eye-patch sporting assassin—and see a pair of washed-up actors whose latest films tend to surface only on TV or at Blockbuster, Tarantino sees a pair of icons just waiting for that crucial role that will remind the youth-obsessed culture how great they can be. And, because Tarantino is such a gifted director of actors, his faith in the performers he salvages becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If Mel Gibson hadn't been so intent on torturing Jesus for two hours, Thurman's preternaturally resilient bride would walk away with the title of Most Abused Movie Character Of 2004, though she gives as good as she gets. Like Gibson, Tarantino believes strongly and sincerely in redemption, but in his B-movie gospel, that redemption has a funny way of leading to David Carradine rather than Jesus Christ.

The Bride brings the pain in Kill Bill, Vol. 2. - Slate Magazine  David Edelstein, April 15, 2004

Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003) left me firmly of two minds: philosophically troubled by yet another bloodthirsty saga of insult and retribution, of the kind that has come to dominate world cinema; and grooving like hell on that particular specimen, as egregious an example of violence with zero redeeming social value as any ever made.

It helped that Tarantino didn't pretend that Kill Bill had any intent besides getting people off. It wasn't yoked to some Death Wish template featuring liberal judges and courts that can't protect the law-abiding citizen. And it didn't swaddle itself in Gladiator-like righteousness, its hero slaughtering everyone who needs slaughtering while remaining morally unsullied. Kill Bill,Vol. 1 was disconnected from everything but its own gleeful kineticism: Tarantino's joy in distilling the hundreds of grind-house pictures and chopsocky videos on which he'd been weaned into one fat, beautiful, frankly masturbatory epic in which a sexy chick fights other sexy chicks with a humongous Japanese samurai sword. What was not to love?

A lot, I guess. An irresistible target because the gore was both over-the-top and 100 percent gratuitous, the movie became a litmus test on the subject of violence in movies. It will be interesting to gauge the response on that score to Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (Miramax), in which the splatter has been stanched, the body count reduced (two dead, one severely maimed), and the quotient of chatter ratcheted way, way up. I won't be surprised to hear praise for Tarantino's mature restraint; but I think the second part is, if anything, more perverse, the emotions heightened and the narrative tricks more shocking. Tarantino is a sadistic freak—but, unlike some other filmmakers I can think of, he wears it proudly.

There's a magnificent perversity in the tender first encounter between the Bride (Uma Thurman) and Bill (David Carradine), whose face was never seen in Volume One. It's a flashback set in that El Paso, Texas, church in which we know the wedding party is about to be massacred. During a pause in the rehearsal, the Bride hears a familiar pan pipe and moves—lightly, with a mixture of dread and hope—through the doorway, in a shot that echos the famous final image of The Searchers (1956). Bill has come for the woman he calls Kiddo—we now know because her name is "Beatrix Kiddo." Beatrix was Bill's No. 1 assassin until she fled, pregnant with his baby, in search of a quieter life. But she's still mad about Bill: Their rapport is silly, joshing, sweet; she is even persuaded that he has come to bid her a loving goodbye. And, in a way, he has.

Tarantino famously courted Warren Beatty for Bill, which would have been a heavenly piece of casting because of the childlike narcissism under Beatty's womanizing that you just know could spill over into monstrousness. But Carradine is wonderful, too: intense but soft-spoken and preternaturally cool, his weathered face held aloft by that triumphant Carradine-family bone structure. His Bill is a more credible version of Charlie in Charlie's Angels—the man who beds women, trains women to fight, sends women out to do battle, and regards women as his property. In a male revenge movie, the man avenges his feminization by "nailing" his adversaries; in a chick revenge movie like Kill Bill, the woman avenges pretty much the same thing, but the feminist thrust can make the scenario feel a lot less Neanderthal—and misogynistic—than it really is. That strikes me as a good reason to seek out chick revenge movies.

For all its relative subtlety, Kill Bill, Vol. 2 remains a cartoon: Its wit is broadsword rather than rapier, and its motives are elemental. The banter is second-tier Tarantino: a cut above his imitators, but below the standard set by Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. There's a speech of Bill's about Superman comics that strikes me as distinctly sub par (it has to do with Clark Kent representing Superman's contemptuous view of humanity), and the best line in the movie is probably, "Bitch, you have no future." But Tarantino is in peak form at playing with your expectations: setting you up for one thing and blindsiding you with something else. I loved Michael Madsen's ex-assassin, Budd, a drunk who seems to have grown passive and fatalistic and to have lost his taste for killing. He has some surprising moments. Daryl Hannah's one-eyed hellion has a comeuppance that's worthy of her—if not quite as classic as her death scene in Blade Runner (1982). And Beatrix's 4-year-old daughter is neither angel nor devil but something tantalizingly in between. Tarantino serves up a parody of '70s Hong Kong martial-arts training flicks that had me howling at its tacky zoom-ins and zoom-outs, and at Gordon Liu's huffily sadistic master, with flyaway eyebrows and a long white beard he whips over his shoulder like a scarf.

Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is in a different league than The Punisher (Warner Bros.), also opening this week: a sickeningly manipulative, by-the-numbers revenge movie in which the presumed-dead hero (Thomas Jane) comes back to get the people who wiped out his father, mother, wife, and little son. It's a bloodbath with one thing on its mind: Making you go, "Yeah! Punish 'em! Make 'em die slowly!" and then, "Yeah! He nailed 'em! He nailed 'em all." It's a thuggish Steven Seagal movie with the Marvel Comics imprimatur—shameful.

Neither of these pictures, though, has the moral horror of The Limey (1999), directed by Steven Soderbergh, in which a father's quest for revenge on the man who killed his daughter ends up leading straight back to him. And neither, needless to say, is a patch on the greatest of our revenge dramas, Hamlet, the story of a first-rate intellectual who finds himself trapped in a third-rate revenge play and can't quite get in sync with it: Hamlet is an attempt to dramatize the conflict between our primitive urge for vengeance—sometimes adaptive, more often grotesquely self-perpetuating, and poisonous to the social order—and our more evolved "modern" consciousness. Four hundred years later, we're still trying to equal it. Kill Bill,Volumes 1 and 2 are great fun, but when they're over there's nothing to make us question our addiction to violent fantasies of retribution. The whole is a little less than the sum of its volumes.

Tarantino and the Vengeful Ghosts of Cinema • Senses of Cinema  Maximilian Le Cain, July 26, 2004


Chopping Block - The New Yorker  David Denby from The New Yorker, April 19, 2004


BFI | Sight & Sound | Day Of The Woman   B. Ruby Rich from Sight and Sound, June 2004


World Socialist Web Site [David Walsh]


The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and ...  The Unbearable Lightness of Being Cool: Appropriation and Prospects of Subversion in the Works of Quentin Tarantino, by Dror Poleg from Bright Lights Film Journal, July 31, 2004


“Kill Bill, Vol. 2″ -  Charles Taylor, April 16, 2004


Kung Fu Catfights-The Bride Returns in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 - New ...  Andrew Sarris from The Observer, April 19, 2004


Vengeance Is Hers | Village Voice  J. Hoberman


See Quentin Kill | Alternet  Armond White, October 14, 2003


Kill Bill: Vol. 2 - Reviews - Reverse Shot  Suzanne Scott, April 13, 2004


Images Movie Journal  Gary Johnson


Cinepassion [Fernando F. Croce]                    


[ DreamLogic | Kill Bill vol. 2 Guest Review ] -  Fernando F. Croce


Kill Bill Vol. 2  Henry Sheehan


Shameless Self Expression [Ryan McDonald]


Kill Bill Vol. 2 - Deep Focus  Bryant Frazer


Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) | PopMatters  Cynthia Fuchs


Ruthless Reviews ("potentially offensive")  Matt Cale


Ferdy on Films [Roderick Heath]  Volumes 1 and 2


Nitrate Online - Feature  KJ Doughton and Cynthia Fuchs reviews of Volumes 1 and 2, interview with David Carradine


Shelf Life: Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 |  Todd Gilchrist


A Regrettable Moment of Sincerity  Adam Lippe, Volumes 1 and 2


Surrender to the Void [Steven Flores]  Volumes 1 and 2


THE IMPORTANCE OF KILLING BILL -  Volume 2, David Ansen from Newsweek, April 19, 2004                        


Kill Bill: Vol. 2 | Film Review | Slant Magazine  Keith Uhlich


Movie Views [Ryan Cracknell]


Kill Bill, Vol. 2 / **** (2004)  David Keyes from Cinemaphile


moviefreak [Sara Michelle Fetters]


Ain't It Cool News [Harry Knowles]


Kill Bill – Volume 2 Review | CultureVulture  Chris Pepus


ReelViews [James Berardinelli]


Flipside Movie Emporium [Rob Vaux]

That sword was priceless [Jerry Saravia]


The Movie Scene [Andy Webb]


Movie Martyr [Jeremy Heilman]


Creative Loafing [Curt Holman]


Cinema365 [Carlos deVillalvilla]  Nix | Kill Bill: Volume 2


DVD Journal [Damon Houx]


The Digital Fix [Michael Mackenzie]


The Digital Bits [Todd Doogan]


DVD Talk [Jason Bovberg]


DVD Verdict [Mike Jackson]


Digitally Obsessed! [Rich Rosell]


Home Theater Info [Doug MacLean]


DVD Movie Central [Michael Jacobson] [Ben Williams]


High-Def Digest - Blu-ray [Joshua Zyber]


Big Picture Big Sound - Blu-ray Review [Brandon A. DuHamel]


DVD Verdict - Blu-ray [Dan Mancini]


10,000 Bullets - Blu-ray [Michael Den Boer]


DVD Talk - Blu-ray [John Sinnott]


Rock! Shock! Pop! [Ian Jane]  Blu-Ray, Volumes 1 and 2


Klymkiw Film Corner [Greg Klymkiw]  Tarantino XX, 8-film collection


DVD Talk - Tarantino XX Blu-ray [Tyler Foster]


Quentin Tarantino and Kill Bill  Mark Harris on Volumes 1 and 2 from Patrick Murtha’s Diary, May 27, 2009


Kill Bill Vol. 2 | Film Blather  Eugene Novikov


Georgia Straight [Janet Smith]


Combustible Celluloid [Jeffrey M. Anderson]


Exclaim! [Chris Gramlich]


Crazy for Cinema


Kill Bill Volume 2 -  Scott


Daily Film Dose [Alan Bacchus]  Volumes 1 and 2


Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz]  Keith Hennessey Brown


The Spinning Image [Daniel Auty] :: indie counter-culture daily, no secret ...  Woodrow Bogucki


Qwipster's Movie Reviews [Vince Leo]


Offoffoff -- The Guide to Alternative New York  David N. Butterworth


Lessons of Darkness [Nick Schager]


Plume Noire [Fred Thom]


Kamera  Andy Murray


Film – Kill Bill, Volume 2 (2004)  Del Harvey


Edinburgh U Film Society [Rupert Good]


TV Guide


Kill Bill Vol. 2 | Variety  Todd McCarthy


Kill Bill Vol. 2, directed by Quentin Tarantino ... - Time Out


BBCi - Films  Stella Papamichael


The London Times [James Christopher]


The Japan Times [Mark Thompson]


USA Today [Mike Clark]


Movies | Bloody mama - Boston Phoenix  Peter Keough


Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]


Washington Post [Ann Hornaday]


Tarantino's 'Vol. 2': Moving In for the Kill - Washington Post  Michael O’Sullivan


St. Petersburg Times [Steve Persall]


Austin Chronicle [Marjorie Baumgarten] [Devin D. O'Leary]


Oregon Herald [Mark Sells] [Roger Ebert]


Kill Bill Vol. 2 - The New York Times  Elvis Mitchell, also seen here:  New York Times [Elvis Mitchell] - Blu-ray-DVD Review [Leonard Norwitz]


Kill Bill: Volume 2 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


GRINDHOUSE                                                         B                     89

USA  (191 mi)  2007  ‘Scope   co-directors:  Robert Rodriguez (PLANET TERROR)  Quintin Tarantino  (DEATH PROOF)   Trailer for Grindhouse


I’ve never been a particularly avid fan of Tarantino’s brand of death and mayhem, but acknowledge the exhilaration that exists in his work, even as it ventures into retreaded territory with a fun-filled adolescent male-indulgent fervor, creating fearless comic book-style, ultra-sexed Amazon women for every young male’s viewing pleasure, along with other titillating action sequences that pay homage to films of yesteryear, upping the ante by creating even greater cinematic spectacle than anything produced from that era, which, by the way, was oftentimes laced with political satire barely touched upon here.  Something of a double-feature laugh riot, as you really get two 90 minute films, starting with a few fictitious eye-opening trailers from other directors, with everything strung together by many of the early film introductory filler materials that used to grace the movie screens thirty or so years ago.  Intentionally scratching the film stock to make it look old, there’s a kind of quaint familiarity with the nostalgic feeling these directors were working with, the disastrous toxic spill B-movie world leading to a military cover up as the nation is invaded by an increasingly rabid form of flesh-eating zombies who would just as soon rip your arms and head off style that Rodriguez created, using hilariously conceived characters to heighten the interest, or Tarantino’s world of bad-assed women in the Russ Meyer / Tura Satana mold, such as FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! where the testosterone-laced girl power reaches new heights, as we listen in on their intimate thoughts on sex and sleaze while adding to the mix the thrill of some terrific car chase scenes, including a great performance turned in by a demented stunt man, Kurt Russell.  Interestingly, both directors filmed their own movies, Tarantino is prominately featured as a lousy actor in both segments, while Rodriguez, a la John Carpenter, wrote the music for his film as well, which for the most part is laced in heavy funk.  While some may not take to the Rodriguez/Tarantino split, preferring one to the other, believing it is too long to sustain the audience’s interest, my view was that the unique, off-kilter mood was set from the outset with exaggerated, over-the-top trailers that led to a brilliant opening credit sequence in PLANET TERROR, featuring the strip club dance of lead actress Rose McGowen, who in a role reminiscent of Uma Thurman in KILL BILL is nothing less than phenomenal in the film.


Rose McGowen is unforgettable, both in her lurid, exaggerated, cleavage-revealing presence, and in the ballsy manner that she carries out her role as woman/earth mother.  Freddy Rodriguez as the notorious El Wray is like a leftover from the Sergio Leone films, a man on a bike with gun prowess second to none (“I never miss.”) who must blow away about a hundred zombies in the film, while his broken-hearted, always downbeat love interest McGowen resembles sultry Mexical soap opera stars.  There’s always an eerie presence at a Texas Barbeque House which stands alone in the middle of nowhere, along with a zombie infected military squad led by Bruce Willis, and a deranged husband and wife doctor team working at a grotesque hospital nearby that keeps collecting patients infected by zombies, but disregards the implications until pandemonium breaks out.  Some of the most beautiful use of the word “Fuck” is featured in this film along with Michael Parks, from THEN CAME BRONSON, who makes a double bill appearance.  Eventually Freddy and Rose, who loses one leg just below the knee but absurdly implants a hyper active machine gun, take over and bust their way to freedom, saving the world in the process, or do they?  The film is filled with one bad joke after another, exaggerated caricatures, vulgarities of all kinds, ever more gross and horrid depictions of the effects of zombie infestation, including blood splurting decapitations and the chilling effects of Texas-style gun mania mixed with poor parenting skills.  But we somehow overlook the violent reality of the bloody mayhem depicted and revel instead in the looney tunes mix of Southern regional cornball comedy, zombies, and free-wheeling action sequences, all of which are so over the top that its subversive intent is expertly submerged in the atmospheric melee.   


Kurt Russell is equally spectacular in Tarantino’s feature, starring as Stunt Man Mike, a famed stunt double with a giant scar running down the length of his face who worked in legendary TV westerns and other shows that no one from the current generation has ever heard of, but drives a death proof car specifically designed to protect the life of the driver even under the most disastrous circumstances.  He has a run in with two sets of gorgeous hot babes stemming from some kind of mysterious never-explained secret vendetta, with a decidedly different outcome in each, the first featuring Sidney Poitier’s daughter, Sydney Tamiia Poitier as Jungle Julia, a local DJ, who is celebrating a visit from her out of town friend, Butterfly, Vanessa Ferlito, two vivacious women who get down and dirty stoned happy with a few friends at a local dive along with what appears to be the world’s greatest jukebox before tangling later on the road with Stunt Man Mike and his infamous deathmobile.  Interspered in both films is the famous still “Reel Missing,” amusingly jumping ahead in the action whenever anything approaches X-Rated material.  In another group of women on overdrive which includes Rosario Dawson, the group seemingly stalked by Stunt Man Mike, he decides to mess with what turns out to be a couple of famed stunt women, Tracie Thoms, the loose-lipped, wisecracking driver, and also pays what amounts to a loving tribute to Zoe Bell, who performs some aerodynamic feats on the hood of a car along with some complementary work with a lead pipe during an infamous car chase scene with Stunt Man Mike, a guy who eventually gets his comeuppance, whittled down to size in an emotionally exposed moment for the suddenly vulnerable ruthless killer Russell who hilariously milks it for all it’s worth in one of the stand out moments of the year before the inflicted punishment resumes, in what is basically a hyper-kinetic reenactment of the exploits of a 1970 Dodge Charger from Vanishing Point (1971).  The film leaves plenty of space for the obligatory Director’s Cut soon to appear at Cannes.  


the worst movies by the best directors  Anthony Burch from Filmwad (link lost), also seen here:  The Worst Movies by the Best Directors [Archive] - DVD Talk For

First things first: if you’re one of those people who’s going to defend Death Proof by saying “you just didn’t get it, you’re a mongoloid who needs to be entertained by explosions every three seconds, you can’t appreciate simple dialogue,” then shut up. I love Tarantino dialogue, I don’t mind slow films, and I’m okay with plots that go nowhere (I own and enjoy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, for Christ’s sake).

The real problem with Death Proof is that it has its priorities seriously confused. For a grindhouse-style film, it’s remarkably modern: while I’m not the connoisseur of sleaze cinema that Tarantino fancies himself, I do know that grindhouse films never spent the majority of their running time filled with pointless, superficial dialogue that served only to stroke the director’s ego. If there’s one thing a grindhouse film should never, ever do, it’s bore the audience. And Death Proof does exactly that.

And yeah, I get what the point of the dialogue was. By hearing the girls talk about regular, everyday bullshit, we’ll connect with them emotionally and it’ll be a much bigger deal when Stuntman Mike wrecks their shit. Just one problem, though: the girls have almost totally interchangeable personalities, and are more or less impossible to care for. Yeah, Zoe Bell and the Angry Black Chick stand out from the other characters, but they only stand out in that they’re really fucking annoying. Could Zoe possibly squint more in order to accentuate her bad girl dialogue, or could Angry Black Chick be any more stereotypically Angry or Black?

Not to mention that the single coolest and most interesting character in the entire film, Stuntman Mike, is only in about a fourth of the entire movie. Stuntman Mike is so cool that it’s really hard not to root for him, thus making all the bullshit dialogue with the women totally pointless. Mike’s too awesome: just let him kill these bitches and we’ll be on our way.

While the car scenes are probably the best ever put on film, you have to wonder: why on Earth didn’t Angry Black Chick just slow down when Stuntman Mike started chasing them? Or at the moment when the car actually comes to an almost-complete stop, why the hell didn’t Zoe just get off the hood and run into the car? I’m willing to suspend my disbelief pretty far in a movie called Grindhouse, but not enough to believe that an assumedly intelligent woman didn’t have the common sense to get off the hood of a friggin’ moving car when she had the chance.

I wish I could have enjoyed Death Proof more than I did, but considering it was preceded by the hilariously action-packed Planet Terror, there was no way for Death Proof to seem anything other than ploddingly slow and, overall, disappointing. The films could have probably been switched in order and Grindhouse would have worked better as a whole – not to mention that chronologically, the events of Death Proof take place before Planet Terror.

PS: Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the single hottest girl in either movie, and she did absolutely nothing. Unfortunate.

The Onion A.V. Club [Keith Phipps]

Take a trip downtown or out along the nearest two-lane highway in the '60s, '70s, or early '80s, and you wouldn't have to wander far to find a crumbling movie palace or drive-in playing lurid B-movies, rushed productions shot on tiny budgets and with little to no studio oversight. They promised, and delivered, an abundance of sex and violence, but some of them kept on delivering beyond that: The best ones preserved a given moment's hang-ups, turn-ons, anxieties, and hopes in the form of lurid, blood-and-skin-filled melodramas. To see what was on the mind of an America still coming to terms with women's lib, for instance, check out Caged Heat. And you can hear the echoes of Black Power more clearly in Truck Turner than in the mainstream political talk of the day.

Born in 1963 and 1968, respectively, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were just old enough to catch the tail end of the grindhouse era, and the right age to catch what they missed in the VHS era. Grindhouse is their attempt to pay tribute to their B-movie influences by re-creating a double feature. Rodriguez takes the first shift with Planet Terror, a zombie movie in which a small Texas town becomes the site of a military experiment gone awry, and maybe ground zero for the apocalypse. Tarantino follows him with Death Proof, a slasher/gearhead movie starring Kurt Russell as a stuntman with a uniquely outfitted car. And don't be slow coming back from the intermission, or you'll miss trailers by Rob Zombie, Shaun Of The Dead's Edgar Wright, and Hostel director Eli Roth.

Of the two films, Rodriguez's entry could more easily pass as the genuine article. The vehicles and cell phones all say 2007, but every other aspect suggests what might have happened if John Carpenter had worked for Cannon Films in 1981. Rose McGowan stars as a heartbroken go-go dancer unwittingly at the heart of a zombie invasion that leaves her transformed in ways beyond that machine gun-leg she sports on the film's poster. It's an unrelenting, blood-drenched action film that with a single scene illustrates how test-marketing and bigger budgets removed the danger of today's action films: Here, a cute kid left alone with a gun might just blow his face off.

While Tarantino's Death Proof is just as steeped in homage, there's no mistaking it for anyone else's work, from the moment the "A Film By" credit appears, superimposed over a woman's shapely feet. Initially set in Austin, Texas, it begins as a pop-culture-obsessed talkfest of the kind that made Tarantino's name. Even when nothing much is happening, it's a pleasure to watch the leads' boozy interaction as Tarantino's camera fetishizes an old jukebox stocked with 45s bearing classic labels like Dial and Scepter. Then the film starts changing shape in ways that would be unfair to reveal, but that should leave most viewers unable to believe their eyes by the film's end.

Grindhouse is a generous package of movie love, from the "missing reels" to the scratched film surfaces, and the highlights are so unforgettable that it's easy to overlook the shortcomings. Exhaustion comes programmed into the three-plus hours, and so does some tedium. Rodriguez's entry is such a canny simulation that, like so many B-movies, it occasionally plays like something better reduced to a trailer. Losing some of the easy interaction that usually characterizes his work, Tarantino's characters speak his unmistakable dialogue with a practiced awkwardness that makes sense in this context, but can still be kind of frustrating to watch.

Nonetheless, the film has a Russian-nesting-doll quality: Unpacking it steadily reveals more, both in the ways the two halves tie together, and in the substance beyond the scratchy surfaces. Rodriguez's film offers some too-faint whiffs of timeliness with its Iraq references, and both directors turn the grindhouse's traditional victimization of women on its head, with Tarantino going so far as to risk making several decades of macho iconography look ridiculous from now on. Like the best of its forebears, Grindhouse contains thrills to keep viewers in their seats, plus moments to think about on the ride home, which will probably seem unusually fraught with peril.

Zombie Slasher Love | Village Voice  Nathan Lee

I've got a theory about Grindhouse, and it goes like this: At some point during the brainstorming/beer-bonging process by which Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino developed their multimillion-dollar ersatz-exploitation double feature, the boys finished off the super nachos, sparked up a spliff, and said "Dude, let's just motherfucking bring it." From whence proceeded a checklist of must-haves: zombie hordes and one-legged go-go dancers, hot rods and hot pants, evil doctors and exploding pustules, trash-talking identical-twin babysitters, castration, decapitation, dismemberment, diminutive Mexican badasses, customized motorcycles, Kurt Russell, Osama bin Laden, Fu Manchu, tasty sausage, jive-ass stuntwomen, outrageous car wrecks, buckets of blood, geysers of gore, mountains of weaponry, explosions bigger than God (Tarantino: "How big?" Rodriguez: "Retarded big")—and of course titties, lots and lots of titties.

From first rude frame to lascivious last, Grindhouse guns to be the last word in fanboy fetishism. Not only does it monkey around with degenerate genres (splatter films, bad-girl flicks, John Carpenter cheapies, car-chase extravaganzas), it apes the condition of crummy old prints. Convulsed in phony glitches—scratches, scuffs, projector hiccups, soured film stock, missing reels—it's a digitally enhanced homage to analogue grime that unspools like a Guy Maddin spectacular supercharged to the Weinstein account. There may not be any house left to grind in New York, skuzzy little theaters having gone the way of subway tokens, smoking in bars, and, you know, fun. But as nostalgia trips go, at least this one goes all the way. You can practically taste the mold and smell the celluloid.

The house that Rodriguez and Tarantino built is constructed on two levels. In Planet Terror, a deliciously repellent zombie apocalypse (of love), Rodriguez busts his nut in every direction, showering the screen with icky globs of glorious nonsense. The convenient thing about riffing on grindhouse is that it gives you a license to thrill at will; casual plotting, randomly generated protagonists, spectacle for its own sake, and questionable ethics come with the territory. That plays well to Rodriguez's strengths (sight gags, Grand Guignol) and weaknesses (patience, coherence) as he mounts a hilariously haphazard scenario pitting a clutch of the non-infected (Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn) against the peckish undead (makeup effects by Greg Nicotero).

Where Rodriguez does grindhouse more or less straight up, Tarantino takes greater license with Death Proof—which is to say the tradition he's elaborating on is the Tarantino Movie. Only tangentially related to the vehicular-mayhem genre (Vanishing Point is name-checked repeatedly), this sneaky contraption is booby-trapped with twisty talk, structural shocks, berserkoid set pieces, and unabashed foot fetishism. Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a genial psychopath with a thing for running down babes in his customized Dodge Charger. His targets include Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), Zoë (Uma's Kill Bill stunt double, Zoë Bell), Abernathy (radiant Rosario Dawson), and the inevitable Tough Black Chick (Tracie Thoms as Kim). Her incurable case of Tarantino-style Tourette's—"bitch" this, "mothafucka" that, nonstop "nigga pleez"—strikes what may be the only truly gratuitous note in this ostensible exploitation epic.

Given a climate where major studios cash in on the most fucked-up shit imaginable (a remake of The Last House on the Left is in the works), there's not much ante for Grindhouse to up. The vibe, in any event, is more convivial than confrontational—the blockbuster as block party. Tarantino is a big supporter of the neo-exploitation crowd (two of whose luminaries, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, contribute ingenious trailers for imaginary films alongside Edgar Wright and Rodriguez), but his own sensibility is sweeter. Death Proof expends most of its energy on boozy barroom camaraderie and baroque restaurant chitchat. Even the villain is rather a dear; Tarantino clearly relishes his rehabilitation of Russell (here giving a charmed, witty performance), on whom he lavishes as much affection as his girls gone wild. And wild they go, pedal to the metal, brandishing iron poles, turning the tables on Stuntman Mike in a giddy automotive assault that climaxes with the finest syncopation since Before Sunset.

So yeah, it's a gas, from first frame to last —and by the time you exit this slobbering behemoth, you'll have taken in a quarter-million of them. This monumentally pointless movie is best summarized by a line from Planet Terror: "At some point in your life, you find a use for every useless talent you have." Rodriguez, Tarantino, and Co. aim for nothing more noble than to freak the funk, and it's about goddamn time. Go wasted, go stoned, go without your parents' permission. In paying homage to an obsolete form of movie culture, Grindhouse delivers a dropkick to ours. [Erik Childress]  alse seen here:  eFilmCritic Reviews

After explaining to radio hosts who claimed to be big fans of Tarantino that the Grindhouse experience recreated by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin for this double feature experiment was not at all like the Ed Wood films of the ‘60s, it dawned on me that I was going to still have to offer a little explanation as to what this geeked-out horror fest was rooted in. Grindhouses were theaters in the ‘60s and ‘70s famous for playing double features of B-movies known for their exploitation of extreme violence, sex and taboo subject matter. Since many of them also offered burlesque shows as additional entertainment, the “grind” in the terminology was born. While many theaters and conventions such as Chicago’s own Flashback Weekend (held each summer) have had special programming for hardcore fans, Rodriguez and Tarantino are giving it a full re-birth complete with fake trailers, scratchy prints, missing reels and a full movie apiece. Despite the occasional bump-‘n-grind over its three-hour-plus running time, there haven’t been two films released in 2007 yet more worth your dollar.

Things kick off in true grindhouse fashion with Rose McGowan go-go dancing her way over the opening credits to Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. She plays Cherry, a dancer prone to ending her routines with tears rather than fully exposed flesh. (After From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and Sin City, Rodriguez is officially the king of creating strip clubs where nothing gets stripped.) In a chance encounters she comes across her ex-lover, “El” Wray (Freddy Rodriguez, kicking a whole lot of ass in this part), a mysterious drifter whose nickname gives him the respect he normally wouldn’t receive from the local sheriff (Michael Biehn). This isn’t a story about lost love though. There are ZOMBIES on the loose!

A toxic gas from the nearby military base is infecting the town of Austin and it doesn’t help that two of their doctors, Dakota & William Block (Marley Shelton & Josh Brolin), are in the middle of a brooding marital dispute. Those immune to the outbreak join forces and ammunition to horde off the bitey invaders which will take them from the off-highway BBQ shack run by Jeff Fahey to the base itself overseen by one of several surprise cameos. Cherry’s fate is redefined by a nasty encounter with the puss-filled munchers, leaving her half a right leg and an opportunity for Wray to turn her into a destruction instrument of superheroic proportions.

Rodriguez has always been a filmmaker less concerned with expensive budgets and more with how much he can get out of the new toys he has to play with – and that makes this goofily entertaining piece a perfect fit. As he works in a new idea or gross-out gag in seemingly every scene, Rodriguez also plays with the grindhouse aesthetic to a literal extreme. There are lottery tickets with less scratches then on the print of Planet Terror and he’s made good on his promise to add large, gaping splices during moments the MPAA poo-poo’ed as too much to stomach. Zombies explode, abcesses are popped and gun safety advocates have a new PSA that could start running immediately. It’s all part of the frenetically funny opener that’s a perfect warm-up for Tarantino’s unpredictable contribution to the dance card.

But first, the intermission. Not an actual one mind you as there’s still plenty to see, but if the urge for a bladder break hits you, use the two minutes during Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the S.S. trailer. Aside from the hilarious cameo at the end, here is further proof that Zombie can’t even make a worthwhile film using nothing but money shots and exaggeration. It’s a wasted idea that’s just a fantasy excuse to put his wife (Sheri Moon Zombie) in a Nazi costume instead of utilizing Sybil Danning’s Howling II connection. On the other hand, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is his best work to date. As a filmmaker whose horror/comedy aspirations (Cabin Fever & Hostel) translate uneasily to feature-length narratives, Roth beheads enough people in less than three minutes to push the Legend of Sleepy Hollow to a page 12 footnote and the result is a lot of fun. Robert Rodriguez’s Machete precedes his own feature as the kick-off, but it’s Edgar Wright’s Don’t that wins the grand prize for perfecting the mock-up of the classic British horror films warning and (at the same time) daring its audience to attend it’s macabre promise of doom. Wright has already blown the lids off the zombie flick (Shaun of the Dead) and the cop genre (the impending brilliance of Hot Fuzz) and if Grindhouse 2 is eventually greenlit, here’s hoping that Wright is the first one chosen to follow in these film geek footsteps.

Big shoes to fill coming from the feet of Tarantino whose second feature of the evening, Death Proof, is going to be remembered on a lot of Nick Hornby-esque lists for years to come. Number one with a bullet is the amount of gabby setups for the big punchline to the guts, but we’re nitpicking ahead of ourselves. When three girls (Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Poitier, Jordan Ladd) make their way to a local Austin watering hole, they didn’t expect more than a few drinks, avoiding bad pick-up lines and some good tunes. Ferlito’s Arlene has seen that dark, skull-painted car around town a little too often today and tonight they will meet the owner. Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who goes under that full name and boasts an occupational hazard scar across his face, appears harmless enough unless you’re a plate of nachos. Get him behind the wheel of his stunt-enforced auto though and there’s little insurance can do for you.

Mike loves getting more bang for his buck and tracks down another foursome on break from shooting a Hollywood movie including Rosario Dawson’s Abernathy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Lee whose I.Q. seems to have come with her cheerleading costume. Two of them are stunt women themselves (Tracie Thoms and real-life stunter Zoe Bell as “herself”) and their gab shifts frequently to famous car chase films in the light that a local is selling the exact model Dodge Challenger featured in 1971’s Vanishing Point. When they (again) talk their way into a test drive, how can Stuntman Mike resist the opportunity to go wheel-to-wheel with one of the legendary cinematic automobiles?

At an equal 85 minutes to Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, Tarantino’s Death Proof takes its sweet ol’ time getting to its two sequences of Mike’s autoerotic destruction. No less than an hour of it is dedicated to the slow build (and, at least, half of that is Mike-free.) It’s part Tarantino’s gift for nonsensical gab and part frustration in wanting Mike and his car to have more than just a supporting role. You can guarantee some restlessness in the audience since the first payoff could easily have come 10-15 minutes earlier (beginning by chopping out Eli Roth and the other men, including Tarantino, from the bar scene) and we’re already into the third hour of the experience. But all is forgiven when Quentin gets his big shot to make cinema history.

The first of his car crashes is an exercise in shocking the audience piece-by-limb over and over again, but itself is merely a trailer of things to come as the final 20 minutes make up one of the most impressively staged and performed car chases you’ve ever seen. And I use the word “performed” in order to give due credit to stuntwoman Zoe Bell making her acting debut. Bell, who was Uma Thurman’s double in Kill Bill (and was one-half the subject of a marvelously entertaining documentary about stuntwomen called Double Dare), is completely charming in the role but its what she does on the hood of a Dodge Challenger that will be remembered long after you’ve left the theater.

This is where Tarantino’s build-up pays off in spades. It’s more than just caring for these women during the terror they are put through, but also to establish them as tough enough to take a few sideswipes and then look for payback. Rent-haters may enjoy Stuntman Mike bumpin’-n’-grindin’ a quarter of the film’s cast around a bit, but Tracie Thoms isn’t bursting into song to deal with it. Her performance as a tough-as-balls (but 100% feminine) stunt chick will elicit more applause and appreciation than a hundred female-empowerment action flicks (another list that Death Proof belongs high up on.) But if Kurt Russell, one of the most underappreciated actors we’ve ever had, doesn’t get his just due as Stuntman Mike then people aren’t paying attention to how truly brilliant his work is. Imagine his best roles with John Carpenter (and notice the shirt hanging in that Austin bar) mixed into a blender and served into an unending portion of tough-guy cool, creepy misogyny and macho bravura turned on its ear. Russell’s last few scenes are unquestionably the most hilarious work of his entire career and adds a dimension to the character that you couldn’t see being pulled off by Mickey Rourke (who was originally cast and dropped out over differences with Tarantino.) Russell owns this role and audiences couldn’t hope to leave the Grindhouse experience with a greater final payoff.

Rodriguez’s film certainly moves at breakneck speed compared to the majority of Tarantino’s, which may lead some to thoughts I originally had in that the order of the films be switched. By the end I would disagree and not just because Tarantino’s final moment is more satisfying or the backwards order allows for Quentin’s time-shift continuum. With all the inventiveness Rodriguez has brought to the screen with digital filmmaking, there’s an interesting progression considering his segment is purposefully more retro and Tarantino’s has the classical look of old-fashioned cinema while far more skillful than the works they are both homaging. If there’s a battle for cinema’s soul, Tarantino wins it hands down despite both of them pussying out on the sex element and turning it into a running joke that will get a huge groan the second time around. Rob Zombie and lack of nudity aside, Grindhouse is a theatrical experience that I’d love to see more of provided it doesn’t turn into a second-rate Masters of Horror (which would still be a step-up.) But for now, bargains don’t get much better than this.

The Onion A.V. Club [Nathan Rabin]


Grindhouse - Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis ...  David Edelstein from New York magazine


David Denby: “Grindhouse” and “The TV Set.”  David Denby from The New Yorker   


'Grindhouse': Pistol-Packing VFX | Animation World Network  Adam Bielek, April 6 2007


Grindhouse and theatrical nostalgia - Jump Cut  Kevin Esch, Fall 2012, also seen here:  "Grindhouse" text version - Jump Cut                    


Short Cuts - In Theaters: Grindhouse | PopMatters  Bill Gibron


Cinefantastique  Steve Biodrowski


“Grindhouse” -  Stephanie Zacharek, April 6, 2007


Grindhouse - Reviews - Reverse Shot  Jeannette Catsoulis


PopMatters  Cynthia Fuchs


Ruthless Reviews [Matt Cale] (Potentially Offensive)  Matt Cale  Fernando F. Croce


Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007). Director - Robert ...  Richard Sheib from Moria


Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007). Director - Quentin ... Richard Scheib from Moria


Grindhouse  Robert Brodmerkel from The Horror Reviews


Grindhouse: Planet Terror  Robert Brodmerkel from The Horror Reviews


Grindhouse: Death Proof  Robert Brodmerkel from The Horror Reviews


Surrender to the Void [Steven Flores]


Ferdy on Films [Marilyn Ferdinand]


Culture Dogs [Sam Hatch]


Grindhouse REVIEW - ScreenAnarchy  Jim Tudor


How and where the Grindhouse spirit survives (and whether ...  Noel Murray from The Onion A.V. Club, October 31, 2012


Movies don't always have to be picture perfect to gain our ...  Duane Dudek from Pop Matters, April 9, 2007


Grindhouse is bloody good. - Slate  Dana Stevens


The Projection Booth [Rob Humanick] (Grindhouse revisited)


Tracking Shots: Grindhouse (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin ...  Larry McGillicuddy


Grindhouse | Film Review | Slant Magazine  Jeremiah Kipp


Grindhouse  Michael Sicinski from the Academic Hack


Film Freak Central - Grindhouse (2007)  Walter Chaw


Between Productions [Robert Cashill]


New York Sun [Nicolas Rapold]


Film School Rejects [Clayton L. White]


ReelViews [James Berardinelli]


Oggs' Movie Thoughts [Planet Terror]


Flipside Movie Emporium [Rob Vaux]


ReelTalk [Jeffrey Chen]


CineScene--By and For Movie Lovers  Ed Owens


Movie Vault [Mel Valentin]


Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web


DVD Talk theatrical [Jamie S. Rich] [Chuck O'Leary]


DVD Verdict [Michael Stailey]


Rock! Shock! Pop! [Ian Jane]  2-disc collection


The Sci-Fi Movie Page (Planet Terror 2-disc special edition DVD)  James O’Ehley


Limited Edition, Six Disc, Complete GRINDHOUSE DVD Release ...  Ard Vijn on Japanese DVD Review from Screen Anarchy [Jeffrey Kauffman]


High-Def Digest [Joshua Zyber]  Blu-Ray 2-disc Collector’s Edition


DVD Talk - Blu-ray [Adam Tyner]  2-disc Collector’s Edition


DVD Verdict (Blu-ray) [Gordon Sullivan]  2-disc Collector’s Edition


Combustible Celluloid [Jeffrey M. Anderson]


FromTheBalcony [Bill Clark]


Cinema Blend [Josh Tyler]


Jackass Critics [Grim Ringler]


Exclaim! [Chris Gramlich]


Daily Film Dose [Alan Bacchus]


Creative Loafing [Curt Holman]


Bill's Movie Emporium [Bill Thompson]


Film School Rejects [Neil Miller]


The Armchair Critic  James Lynch


Georgia Straight [Mike Usinger]


Film School Rejects [Kevin Carr]


Qwipster's Movie Reviews [Vince Leo]


ReelTalk [Adam Hakari]


The Stranger [Martin Tsai]


Review: Grindhouse | -- A Favorite ...  Peter Hall


Grindhouse :: Movies :: Reviews :: Paste - Paste Magazine  Tim Basham


Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz]


eFilmCritic Reviews  Rob Gonsalves


Joey's Film Blog  Joey Laura


Quentin Tarantino's Top 20 Grindhouse Classics - The Deuce


BFI | Sight & Sound | 10 Picks from the Grindhouse  Tim Lucas from Sight and Sound, June 2007 


Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez Talk Grindhouse ...  Steven Rea interview from Pop Matters, April 5, 2007            


Quentin Tarantino: a B-movie badass | The Japan Times  Giovanni Fazio interview from Japan Times Online, August 6 2007 


TV Guide         


Grindhouse | Variety  Todd McCarthy


Why did 'Grindhouse' misfire at the box office? | Variety


Grindhouse (2007), directed by Quentin ... - Time Out


The Japan Times [Giovanni Fazio] [Ben Kenber]


Stephen Hunter - Washington Post


Austin Chronicle [Marjorie Baumgarten]


Las Vegas Weekly [Mike D'Angelo]


San Francisco Chronicle [Mick LaSalle]


Chicago Tribune [Eric Alt] [Roger Ebert]


New York Times  A.O. Scott, also seen here:   Grindhouse - Review - Movies - The New York Times


Grindhouse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



USA   (115 mi)  2007  ‘Scope


Death Proof (2007), directed by Quentin ... - Time Out  Ben Walters

The connections between Quentin Tarantino and Apichatpong Weerasethakul are not, it must be said, extensive. Still, it’s striking that, like Apichatpong’s ‘Syndromes and a Century’ (also out this week), ‘Death Proof’ offers two incarnations of the same story and, in its own way, is concerned with seeking meaning through iteration and the practice of cinema. Still, we aren’t likely to see Apichatpong making a film about a former stuntman who gets his kicks by offing honeys with a weaponised sedan any time soon.

The first time we meet Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike, he cosies up to a group of chicks in a Texas roadhouse; next time round, he takes on another three in Tennessee. Despite its double structure, ‘Death Proof’ is something of a spare limb, made as part of ‘Grindhouse’, the high-concept retro genre pastiche double bill that tanked at the US box office. It was always going to be an action-heavy, plot-light exercise in fan-boy indulgence, an essentially masturbatory fantasy project (almost literally when it comes to foot fetishisation), and being extended by 25 minutes only serves to exacerbate these tendencies.

So, yes, the characters talk in Tarantino-speak-squared, the violence is hand-rubbingly sadistic and the whole thing is swathed in several layers of quotation marks. But smart attention is also paid to some interesting tensions between old and new in areas as varied as pop culture, photography, effects work, automobile construction, telephony and audio recording technology. And if you have an inner (or outer) fan-boy to indulge, the climactic extended car chase is a bona fide old-school tour de force.

Death Proof | Reviews | Screen - ScreenDaily  Lee Marshall at Cannes (registration required)

Quentin Tarantino should go back to making films that matter. If the shorter, Grindhouse version of Death Proof, his hybrid slasher meets car chase homage to early 1970s B-movies, hinted that everyone's favourite cult director was running out of creative gas, the full-length Cannes edit leaves no shadow of a doubt.

This "director's cut" may run 27 minutes longer than the US-released version, but the extra footage just makes this stylised genre exercise seem even more pointless. The main problem with Death Proof is not the authenticity of cine-geek Tarantino's heartfelt and occasionally quite funny tribute to movies like Dirty Mary Crazy Larry or Vanishing Point, but his failure to go beyond winks and references to craft a film that works, even on a genre-based, non-festival, real-audience level. Any car-chase film in which the final, climactic pursuit gets boring around three minutes in clearly has some knots to iron out.

Of course, this will mean little to Tarantino's core fanbase, which will lap the film up in cinemas and on DVD. But with the two features on the US Grindhouse double-bill (the other being Robert Rodriguez' zombie-flick Planet Terror) now likely to be released as two stand-alone titles in most overseas territories, distributors will be looking beyond the hardcore faithful to recoup their outlay. And its here that Death Proof runs the risk of coming off the road: in attempting to mix sassy-chick-flick, exploitative slasher movie and crunching-metal stuntcar feature, it risks fully pleasing nobody. Just as well it has a tasty soundtrack.

Death Proof is really two films that mirror each other – except in the first the bad guy wins, and in the second he loses. The bad guy is Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a grizzly, scarred, gravel-voiced loner who drives a mean black car. When he sees a group of badass girlfriends (played by Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Jordan Ladd and Vanessa Ferlito) out on the prowl in downtown Austin, Mike follows them, all the way to a bar that's all nostalgic neon with a jukebox loaded with Staxx funk-soul classics on real vinyl. (Tarantino himself plays Warren, the bar owner; another cameo as a dorky guy on the make is taken by Eli Roth, director of Hostel). Here the girls jive-talk, flirt and end up smoking weed on the porch while Mike bides his time – meaning that we have to wait the best part of an hour for the death-crazed hotrod killer finale.

In part two – which unspools 14 months later in Lebanon, Tennessee – another group of four girlfriends has stopped outside a convenience store. Abernathy the make-up girl (Rosario Dawson), Lee the naive actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and two stuntgirls, played by Tracie Thoms and real-life New Zealand stuntgirl Zoe Bell – who was Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill – are in town on a movie shoot (cue a series of cinema in-jokes – from sideswipes at Angelina Jolie to the copy of Film Comment in the gas station magazine rack). Also parked in the forecourt in his good-as-new death machine, Stuntman Mike marks this gaggle out as his next victims. But beneath that rough exterior, Tarantino is a politically-correct modern man, and in this girlpower reprise on the slasher genre, things don't go exactly as the evil car-killer would like.

Plenty of fun is had in the attempt to make Death Proof look like a real early 1970s B-movie: scratches, abrupt cuts, inept splices and lines running down the film surface contribute with garish lighting and warped theme-tune playback to give a sense of weathered authenticity. Costumes and production design are also spot-on. But two things rub against this effect. Tarantino here acts for the first time as DoP on one of his films, and while some of the chase scenes and exterior-interior rig-mounted car shots do mimic the style of the grindhouse genre flick, plenty of others are far more contemporary in style; there's even a short reprise of the famous circling shot from the beginning of Reservoir Dogs.

Even more jarring is the interminable dialogue these two sets of gurlzz indulge in during the long, long run-up to the dual action explosions. If you thought from the posters that Death Proof was mostly tyre-smoking racer action, think again. It's mostly girl-talk – though these girls talk about sex and cars in a suspiciously male-oriented way. Not only are these huge swathes of dialogue mostly flat and inert in terms of both story and character, but with the exception of a few inspired riffs, they fail to reach the comic-ironic peaks we know (mostly from Pulp Fiction) that the director is capable of.

Kurt Russell inhabits his role with relish, and his character is the only really interesting one in the film – he plays Stuntman Mike as an articulate, weary lone wolf, who in the final reel exhibits a comic vulnerability and lack of courage under fire. Stuntwoman Zoe Bell seizes her hour under the arclights with great gusto, and there are some nice turns from some of her professional actress colleagues – notably Vanessa Ferlito as a sassy but grounded good-time girl in part one.

But fruity character parts don't add up to a great film. Dramatically limp, even as a genre piece, Death Proof provokes a rate of distracted watch-glancing never before experienced in a Tarantino movie.

Death Proof  Patrick Z. McGavin

The French have a description for the cursed film-—film maudit. So it is probably disappointingly fitting that Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” was unveiled in the Cannes competition in the longer form European cut, issued with the delicious subtitle “Boulevard of Death,” as part of the festival’s official competition.

Liberated from its unfortunate attachment to “Planet Terror,” Rodriguez’s reductive and mediocre contribution to the two-part “Grindhouse,” Tarantino’s effort suggests a movie without a fixed or final shape. It was unfortunately denied its proper artistic and critical analysis because of the disproportionate emphasis on the movie’s commercial flop upon its release in April.

Even more problematic, the new material substantially weakens rather than improves the 87-minute cut that concluded the original release version. Many American critics were also angry and some felt duped by the 16-minute discrepancy in running times posted by the festival and distributor Weinstein Company. For the record, the actual running time is 111 minutes, not 127 minutes. The new material adds ideological and sexual connotations the director is unable to satisfy.

Tarantino said in the press conference that, rather than focus on the running time, the attention should be on the structural and formal changes of the new version, and on what he called a 180-degree shift from the “Grindhouse” version.

The original cut found a perfect balance between Tarantino’s discursive and idiosyncratic feel for character and his colorful, commanding and visceral play of action, suspense and movement.

The original’s two-part structure is maintained here, split between two charged encounters involving the malevolent loner, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who terrorizes two separate groups of women. Like before, the action shifts between two extremes, a cruel angel of death whose unexplained pathology is turned against him when three bad ass chicks prove far more daring, resourceful and tough than he could ever have imagined.

It is instructive to look at the new material, and explore how it alters and changes the expanded version. Three major changes in the first half are: an earlier appearance of Stuntman Mike’s car ominously viewed from a high angle shot trailing the car driven by the three girls; an off-screen sexual foreplay in the rain involving Butterfly’s Vanessa Ferlito; the excised lap dance involving Stuntman Mike and Butterfly.

The first moment makes explicit a feeling easily inferred, that Stuntman Mike was stalking the girls (a point already made by the surveillance photographs he maintained on his visor). The second added movement disrupts the flow and imagery, slowing and distracting any possibility of a visceral edge.

The lap dance sequence is provocatively shot and staged though it adds a somewhat uncomfortable and reactionary sexual tone to the first part, suggesting an extreme brand of punishment for their sexuality, and it underlines a recurring weakness of Tarantino’s work, an inability to articulate expressions of female sexuality.

The location moves from Austin, Texas to Lebanon, Tennessee. The most elaborate stylistic change from the two versions is an extended sequence shot in black and white unfolding in the parking lot convenience store the second group of girls repair to just before they pick up the stunt specialist Zoë Bell.

One prominent weakness of both versions is that Tarantino inexplicably chose to shoot the movie himself since he is not a skillful cinematographer and too much of the imagery lacks precision and edge. The black and white photography is inexpressively dull and the images denied any pop, looking rather cheap and unformed.

It seriously harms the power and quality of the material, which is pretty interesting if creepy as Stuntman Mike disturbingly locates the means to insinuate himself against Rosario Dawson’s Abernathy. Again the scene also underscores the director’s lack of comfort and spontaneity involving female sexuality. They talk a great game, but there appears a fundamental unease and contradictory ideas about women, their bodies and what they represent.

The half hour car chase that concludes the film is still as exhilarating, inventive and satisfying as any moment in Tarantino’s previous films. Bell is absolutely astonishing, and the characterization and progressive these women undertake is glorious and beguiling, earning the highest compliment—they become Hawksian, making them as tough, skilled and adventurous as the men.

On a formal level, the power of the pursuit and chase material is not just the electric contrast of the two cars--it becomes a meditation on Bell and her body. The sight of her strapped to the front of the car, her shirt rising exposing her taut, muscle bound stomach is one of the most provocative and empowering images of recent movies.

It remains a movie of moments, like a beautifully designed tracking shot that begins at the feet of Sydney Poitier and climbs up her long and alluring leg, the astonishingly lyrical moment when Bell leaps in one balletic movement into the open window of the car. The back and forth choreography of the chase sequence is certainly something to behold, creating a sense of anticipation and expectation.

“Death Proof” needed greater precision and dexterity. Now, it is longer but not better version, the movie that needs a propulsive, lean and stripping away. Instead it is inflated and at once self-involved and self-important.

Tarantino’s connection to the period, the movies and the directors of the grindhouse era is unassailable. He needed stronger producers to rein some of his inchoate ideas. That would have lifted “Death Proof” into elite status, a genre B-movie that satisfies as both cinema and deep and lascivious entertainment. It is still caught on a precipice between form and content, stranded and trapped and somewhat fatally at odds with itself. It is the film that never resolves itself.

Death Proof - Bright Lights Film Journal  Erich Kuersten, January 31, 2008


Death Proof: Deconstructing The Slasher Film - The Quentin ...  September 5, 2015


Critic After Dark  Noel Vera, August 17, 2007


Critic After Dark  Noel Vera, December 28, 2007


BFI | Sight & Sound | Death Proof (2007)  Tony Rayns from Sight and Sound, October 2007


Critique. Death Proof, a Grindhouse film by Quentin Tarantino ...  Emmanuel Burdeau from Cahiers du Cinéma, June 2007                      


Death Proof - Archive - Reverse Shot  Michael Koresky


Andrew O'Hehir -  May 22, 2007


In Praise of 'Death Proof,' One of Quentin Tarantino's Be ...  In Praise of ‘Death Proof,’ One of Quentin Tarantino's Best Movies, by Matt Singer from indieWIRE, December 28, 2012


Rio Rancho Film Reviews *potentially offensive*


Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007). Director - Quentin ... Richard Scheib from Moria


Filmstalker  Richard Brunton


Cinepinion [Henry Stewart]


Vern Reviews The DEATH PROOF DVD! - Vern's Reviews ...


Death Proof   Michael Sicinski from the Academic Hack


Angeliki Coconi's Unsung Films [Angeliki Coconi]


Electric Sheep Magazine   Virginie Sélavy


Death Proof Reviews & Ratings - IMDb  Graham Greene


Phil on Film [Philip Concannon]


Stuntman Mike has such Twisted Nerve [Jerry Saravia]


Sound On Sight  Gregory Day


A Nutshell Review  Stefan S.  Scott Macdonald


Flipside Movie Emporium [Rob Vaux]


Death Proof  Neil Young from Jigsaw Lounge


DVD Talk [Ian Jane]  Extended and Unrated


Daily Film Dose [Alan Bacchus]  Extended and Unrated


Home Theater Info DVD Review  Doug MacLean


PopMatters [Bill Gibron]  Special Edition, 2-disc [Ben Williams]


High-Def Digest - Blu-ray Review [Joshua Zyber]


Big Picture Big Sound - Blu-ray Review [Brandon A. DuHamel]  Extended and Unrated (Blu-ray Disc review)  Extended and Unrated


DVD Verdict (Blu-Ray) [Ryan Keefer]


Klymkiw Film Corner [Greg Klymkiw]  Tarantino XX, 8-film collection


DVD Talk - Tarantino XX Blu-ray [Tyler Foster]


The Projection Booth  Rob Humanick, the Extended version


The Stop Button [Andrew Wickliffe] - the extended version


Classic-Horror  Timothy J. Rush


Popcorn Pictures [Andrew Smith]


Film Intuition [Jen Johans]


The Movie Scene [Andy Webb]


Den of Geek [Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy]


deathproof - review at videovista  Mark West


Grindhouse: Death Proof - Plume Noire  Adam Balz


Combustible Celluloid [Jeffrey M. Anderson]


New DVDs: Death Proof  Dave Kehr, also seen here:  'Death Proof' on DVD - The New York Times


BFI | Sight & Sound | Tarantino Bites Back  Nick James interview with Sight and Sound, February 2008


TV Guide [Maitland McDonagh]


Death Proof | Variety  Todd McCarthy


BBCi - Films (DVD review)  Stella Papamichael


Death Proof is silly but wildly enjoyable | Film | The Guardian  Peter Bradshaw 


The Japan Times [Giovanni Fazio]


Good ol' gore fest - latimes  Dennis Lim [Yunda Eddie Feng] - Blu-ray- Review by Leonard Norwitz


Death Proof - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS                                C-                    68

USA  Germany  (154 mi)  2009  ‘Scope


The film is skillfully made, but it’s too silly to be enjoyed, even as a joke. Tarantino may think that he is doing Jews a favor by launching this revenge fantasy (in the burning theatre, working-class Jewish boys get to pump Hitler and Göring full of lead), but somehow I doubt that the gesture will be appreciated. Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinémathèque. “Inglourious Basterds” is a hundred and fifty-two minutes long, but Tarantino’s fans will wait for the director’s cut, which no doubt shows Shirley Temple arriving at Treblinka with the Glenn Miller band and performing a special rendition of “Baby Take a Bow,” from the immortal 1934 movie of the same name, before she fetchingly leads the S.S. guards to the gas chamber.        

—David Denby from The New Yorker

While this isn’t totally worthless, it comes pretty close, despite well made sequences that resemble the grand tradition of filmmaking and the incessant clues that Tarantino places throughout the entire film of tributes to other films and filmmakers.  What really ruins this movie is the juvenile and somewhat snarky tone that simply doesn’t lead anywhere.  Usually, especially in revenge fantasies, there are characters that the audience can get behind before the thrills begin, but not so here, as it’s divided into different chapter headings where only a few characters extend into additional chapters, and one never gets much of a feel for any of them.  Christopher Waltz relishes his role as an infamous Nazi interrogator who hunts down Jews, a guy who is all manner and etiquette before he moves in for the kill.  His notorious villainy is at the heart of the picture, as he’s the guy you root against.  Brad Pitt plays a slightly deranged Dirty Dozen American mercenary commander who leads his rat Basterd troops into Europe to wipe out as many Nazi’s as possible, considering all Nazi’s as less than human, whose goal is to be as ruthless, or even more so, than the Nazi’s themselves.  How do you root for Americans who are as amoral or even more evil than the Nazi’s?  So really, you get a movie filled with nothing but grotesque characters, none of whom have any redeeming value whatsoever.  Well, c’est la vie - - that’s war.  Perhaps so, but you don’t get a glimpse of it in this movie, which isn’t really about war at all, but instead hides in the underbelly of human vindictiveness, displaying a form a sadism like those business cards displayed in AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000), where it’s all about competetive one-upmanship.  In different hands, it’s possible this might have worked on some other level, perhaps even a breathlessly exaggerated color saturated DICK TRACY (1990) style musical for each explosion of violence, but with Tarantino, it turns into the childish fun equal to a visit to the local video arcade.  Except for the opening shot in Chapter 5, which was mind boggling perfection, set to David Bowie's CAT PEOPLE (1982) theme song, “Putting Out the Fire with Gasoline,” there’s really nothing I’ll remember about this film.  


I can see how this giddy tone of jingoism could really bring out the worst in people, as it seems to appeal to their ugliest nature, as the racism or prejudices that usually remain deep seeded may rise to the surface and happily exhibit signs of hate bashing, as was witnessed in the theater today, as the crowd cheered in moments of a guy getting his skull bashed in or, of course, his face turned into a bloody pulp, not to mention several outbreaks where people's otherwise reserved nature felt more inclined to yell expletives at the screen.  It was a chatty crowd where people remained talking throughout the entire picture and after the President got yelled at by a House member this week (YouTube - You lie! to President Obama. Rep. Joe Wilson R-(SC)), I guess every Tom, Dick, and Harry feels vindicated enough to yell incessantly at a movie screen—at least in this movie.  Other films with similar influence might have been SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG (1971), the only film where I’ve ever witnessed full blown, pants down intercourse in the theater along with several patrons openly shooting up hard narcotics, or perhaps the initial influence of John Singleton’s BOYZ IN THE HOOD (1991), an anti-gang movie that was initially appreciated by hard core gang members for its authenticity, causing flare ups of violence in the movie screenings.  But despite their impact, those were adult movies with a significant message about the social ills of the nation.  This film, on the other hand, displays a near lascivious interest in self-gratification, as if by going off on this comic book fantasia that the movie will, at least perception-wise, right some wrongs in this world.  I believe Tarantino is badly mistaken, at least judging by this film, as it appears all he’s really interested in is pleasing himself.  Certainly movies all too often portray Nazi’s with such seriousness and gravity, as if the subject is exclusively sacred territory, and no doubt it is, but it’s not like Nazi’s couldn’t use a healthy dose of tasteless Mad magazine sarcastic lampooning every once in awhile, but this is not the film that does it.  It’s more like a bad caricature filled with B-movie and Hogan’s Heroes TV references. 


Most of this film, which takes place in Nazi occupied France, is all talk leading up to brief moments of senseless violence, where the elongated sequences seem to go on forever due to the neverending verbiage and hospitality of characters that are too kind to show undesired elements to the door.  So the chattiness, especially evident in Christopher Waltz, who sees every discussion as a battle of the wills, grates on the nerves after awhile, even as his giggles resemble Monty Python stalwart John Cleese.  Brad Pitt is all caricature as a good old Rebel boy, one of the last vestiges of the South, who’s dead set on rewriting history by showing an ornerier side than your enemy, which means you have to be more treacherous than they are.  It’s all about playing games with stereotypes, almost as if history itself is irrelevant, that only the symbols matter.  When the director takes control of the symbols, it’s clear he has the power to determine any outcome.  Much of this, however, is all too predictable, especially the boy meets girl story, where the boy turns out to be a Nazi war hero who’s too big for his britches, who can’t even stand the sight of watching himself in his own movie, or the Basterds meet the French underground in the discreet hideaway of a basement bar filled with nothing but Nazi’s in a barroom scene that goes on forever until all Hell breaks loose.  Tarantino features an essential film noir girl in a red dress, which sets up the exquisite Chapter 5 opening, but even that scene dovetails into a marathon talkfest.  The intermittent violence is overwhelmingly nihilistic, as rarely does anyone survive, which leaves the impression of a Macbethian universe where life doesn’t matter and only evil triumphs.  The idea that anyone would wish to aspire to be as wretched as the Nazi's is simply beyond stupid, it's ridiculous.  Does anyone aspire to be like Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson?  In the end, I didn’t feel like returning to the sandbox and having Nazi fun playing infantile war games with Quintin.  There’s little left to the imagination, as everything is thoroughly analyzed and spelled out completely, leaving the audience in something of a brain dead haze afterwards, as morality doesn’t even exist, because it’s been tossed aside by the unconscionable ease at the number of people who were killed in this film, all supposedly for the benefit of cinema.   


CINE-FILE: Cine-List - CINE-FILE Chicago  Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

You can take PULP FICTION and KILL BILL, but please leave Christoph Waltz talking to the French dairy farmer, the guessing games at La Louisiane, Daniel Brühl's awkward courtship of Mélanie Laurent. That is, leave INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. It's juvenile, wrongheaded, self-aggrandizing, stupid, completely spot-on, probably Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece, maybe the only moral film anyone has made about "the war" since THE BIG RED ONE. A great big caricature of a movie, gentle in tone and abrasive in structure. Here's a so-called war film with war nowhere to be found: just people sitting and speaking the most beautiful dialogue Quentin Tarantino has ever written. Apparently, when you strip his characters of recognizable pop culture references, they become human beings (references abound, but to a popular culture most audience members won't be familiar with, and more so in the mise-en-scene than the dialogue). They cry, they whimper, they become tense, they act stupidly. They're set up as gags (the multi-lingual "Jew hunter," the film-critic-turned-officer, the intrusive SS officer), but they feel real, all of them, except maybe Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine: chin and chest puffed out like Desperate Dan, he carries himself like Robin Williams' Popeye. He's the punchline to the film; the issue is that film itself isn't a joke. In fact, it's dead serious: maybe you need a full and rowdy theater to catch it, but the Nazi audience at the film premiere sounds the same as the audience cheering the rare violence in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Tarantino knows this.

Time Out New York (Keith Uhlich) review [4/6]

Spelling may not be Quentin Tarantino’s forte, but his grasp of language (both verbal and visual) is peerless. Yet though the writer-director was once widely imitated, he has now settled into an idiosyncratic groove that puts off more people than it attracts, and it’s doubtful Inglourious Basterds will redress the imbalance. Detractors and proponents alike will see what they want to see in this two-and-a-half-hour World War II fable, which hits all the beats of a retribution-laden genre piece without ever entirely satiating character or audience bloodlust.

Tarantino’s violence, however, has gained resonance and horror. That’s evident from the slow-burn opening sequence, in which Nazi colonel Hans Landa (Waltz) uses snake-oil floridness to make a farmer (Denis Menochet) confess that he’s hiding a Jewish family under his floorboards. Waltz has the showier role, but Tarantino makes sure to juxtapose the SS agent’s verbose charms with close-ups of Menochet’s gradually crumbling features. It’s devastating in ways that only movies allow, and also lays down the tonally twisted groundwork for the film’s apocalyptic finale, which rewrites history with ambiguous aplomb.

In between are more Pabst and Piz Palü references than an UFA-loving cinephile can shake an ice pick at. Brad Pitt goes Burn After Reading broad, with Southern twang instead of frosted tips, as the leader of the eponymous American mercenaries. Meanwhile, the great Michael Fassbender plays his cultivated opposite: a British secret-service agent who knows his Riefenstahl better than his regional accents. But it’s a stand-alone moment during Basterds’ hellfire climax that lingers most in the mind. That would be the fleetingly projected face of the vengeful Shosanna Dreyfus (Laurent), floating and cackling in smoky space—an evanescent image gloating in what is revealed to be a fruitless comeuppance.

Plume Noire review  Moland Fengkov

Following famous figures like Stanley Kubrick or Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino delivers his war film, which is undoubtedly his most ambitious, but also his laziest — of course, he's bring his personal touch. But here, after a long, rather promising opening sequence, showing the massacre of a Jewish family hidden under the floor of French farm, at the conclusion of an interminable interrogation where the tension settles progressively and the verbal exchanges get more nervous, Inglorious Basterds loses itself in a vast caricature. Witness the representation of Adolf Hitler, physically closer in resemblance to Sadam Hussein than to the historical figure, showing all of his destructive madness, but without subtlety.

With its international casting and ambitious subject, a lot was expected from this much-anticipated film, which could have been used as a playing field for Tarantino's art. As the title implies, the story simply follows a troop of particularly sanguinary American soldiers, chasing Nazis and scalping their victims. One won't know much else about these basterds, since the film will not go into character development and does not give them any scene of anthology except for this sequence where a German officer undergoes a muscular interrogation which ends in a smashed cranium by blows of a baseball bat. Even the famous scene known as the Louisiana, where a German actress, a double agent, finds the basterds in a tavern, charged with fomenting an attack against the big shots of Reich, doesn't manage to exist outside the memory of similar scenes already seen in Tarantino's previous films. And even the finale, heavy with symbolism (cinema puts an end to the conflict, at the conclusion of its destruction in flames) on the power of cinema, doesn't allow to take the film to the next level.

More must be demanded of Tarantino. Admittedly, his spaghetti western way of filming a father observing the arrival of the Nazis from a distance at the top of a hill, fatally anticipating the drama to come, or his way of stretching the scenes by filling them with truculent dialogue before letting violence emerge, and his pleasure in mixing humor and dramatic tension in the same scene, save the film from boredom. One could have had a good time. But the film doesn't abandon its entertaining function, never attempting to pursue any reflection, whether it's on the genre to which it claims to belong (Tarantino does not make use of the WWII framework solely as a context), or on the themes recurrent in the director's work such as revenge.

At first glance seductive, given that the Tarantinian touch is recognizable in each scene, Inglorious Basterds allows itself to be viewed as an object of pure entertainment, but leaves an after-taste of frustration as a big schoolboy prank. Unfortunate.

Christian Science Monitor (Peter Rainer) review [B-]

Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" – his misspellings, not mine – is a self-described fairy tale. Being that this is a Tarantino film, you can be sure it's closer to one of Grimm's more ghastly escapades than to "Sleeping Beauty." In this World War II fantasy, top Nazis get obliterated by Jewish avengers.

The film is divided into five chapters, each given its own heading. The first chapter, which is shot in the slow-burn, panoramic style of a spaghetti western, is titled "Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France." Subsequent chapters likewise have the look and feel of different moviemaking genres, although 1960s "Dirty Dozen"-ish stylistics predominate.

What does this filmic fandango add up to? Tarantino, who looks at life through a viewfinder, sees film as the ultimate righter of wrongs. Through the magic of movies he overturns the Holocaust. Who needs bummers like "Schindler's List" and "The Diary of Anne Frank," or even the historically based "Defiance," which featured Jews killing Nazis but was mucked up by all those pesky debates about morality? In a recent interview in The Atlantic, Tarantino says, "Holocaust movies are always having Jews as victims.... We've seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let's see Germans that are scared of Jews. Let's not have everything build up to a big misery, let's actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this situation."

His "fun" here involves a band of Jewish American revengers, headed up by Brad Pitt's perpetually chin-jutting, non-Jewish Lt. Aldo Raine, who specialize in scalping Nazis and carving swastikas into their foreheads. The most intimidating of the Basterds is a baseball-bat-wielding hulk known as "Bear Jew" (played by Eli Roth, the sicko-horror film director).

A parallel story line has Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), who alone escaped the massacre of her family in the opening chapter, plotting her payback three years later as the owner, under an assumed identity, of a movie theater in occupied Paris. It seems the Nazi high command wants her theater to première a new German movie, "A Nation's Pride," starring war hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a sort of Teutonic Audie Murphy who is smitten by Shosanna. Since the nitrate film housed in the theater is highly flammable, she sees a way to turn the event into a caldron of retribution.

There's lots more plot in this 2-1/2-hour fantasia, and, despite its action-movie origins, lots of talk. It's the least virtuosic movie Tarantino has ever made. Many of the sequences drag on unduly, especially an early scalping scene, which could have been scalped by at least 10 minutes, and several set pieces involving a German glamour queen and Allied secret agent (Diane Kruger). As is standard with Tarantino, the baddest of the bad guys get the best dialogue – in this case, the dreaded Nazi "Jew Hunter" Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who first decimates Shosanna's family and then carries on from there.

Landa is such a wily and despicable concoction that, in movie terms, he's almost impossible not to like. And therein lies part of my problem with this movie. Tarantino may have set out to make a World War II film where the Jews come out on top, but he can't resist indulging in the same old penny dreadful shenanigans as all the other pulpmeisters who feature villains you love to hate. No one else in "Inglourious Basterds" comes close to Landa for sheer charisma.

Tarantino, who is not Jewish, may be genuine in his desire to make the un-"Schindler's List" but there's absolutely no irony, no pathos, in his game plan. Doesn't he realize that making a righteous fantasy about the Jewish incineration of the Nazi brass only reinforces the sad reality that, tragically, this never happened? Knowing what we know, how can we look at this film and cheer?

I have another large difficulty with this film. Tarantino's fantasy implies that if only there had been Jews like the Basterds, there would not have been an Auschwitz. This ahistoric revisionism is pure malarkey, but it may seep into the moviegoing consciousness of audiences, including young Jewish audiences, who might come to believe that a few roving bands of renegade Jewish scalpers might have terminated this whole Holocaust thing.

That's the trouble with filmmakers like Tarantino. Their heads are so crammed with old movies that they confuse movies with real life. And what may have been intended as a screw-loose tribute to Jewish gumption ends up its opposite.

Time Out London (Dave Calhoun) review [2/6] 

You’ve got to admire the sheer, infectious force of Quentin Tarantino’s personality. Is there any other popular American director, who, like Tarantino, is constantly ranting and raving about cinema’s glorious past and giving young filmgoers reason to extend their DVD library back beyond ‘Star Wars’? Even the name of his new film is fondly stolen from a little known Italian movie of the 1970s. It’s only when you turn to Tarantino’s own films that things get more tricky. For the sad truth is that Tarantino, like cheap wine, just isn’t improving with age.

Which is an awkward reality because Tarantino obviously wants to put away childish things with this new film. Not only does Brad Pitt close the film with the self-regarding line ‘This may well be my masterpiece’, but ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is a little more restrained and a little more quiet than films like ‘Death Proof’ and ‘Kill Bill’.

I say ‘a little’ because much of the film is not quiet at all: when the music comes, it’s loud; when the deaths occur, they’re gruesome, even sadistic; and when the plot kicks in, it’s pure, wild fantasy.

The film moves liberally between French, German and English dialogue and takes us through five chapters. First, in 1941, we see a Nazi, Colonel Hans Landa (played by Austrian Christoph Waltz), known as ‘The Jew Hunter’, discover and kill a Jewish family in France; only the youngest daughter gets away.

Then we’re introduced to the ‘basterds’, a gang of eight Jewish-American soldiers who, while deep undercover, roam Nazi-occupied France, murdering German soldiers and collecting their scalps. They’re led by a Tennessee goodtime boy, played by Pitt, but oddly they’re not on screen much. Pitt is lively but he disappears for a long time and is upstaged by Waltz, who gives a teasing turn of sly comedy and cruel charm. His scenes are the film’s best.

For the film’s final chapters, we leap to Paris in 1944, where the two stories collide. The girl who fled the Nazis, Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) is now running a cinema (of course) which plays films by Riefenstahl and Pabst. A Nazi private, Frederick (Daniel Brühl), takes a shine to her. It turns out that his gun-toting heroics are being immortalised in a film produced by Goebbels, who decides that Shosanna’s cinema is perfect for the premiere. Shosanna and the ‘basterds’ decide that the screening is their chance to strike.

This might be a period movie, but still we clock Tarantino’s signature style – the extended, know-it-all dialogue, the tricky gunplay, the pop-cultural nods. There’s even a Mexican stand-off à la ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and the obligatory ‘nigger’ reference, this time in French. But this lacks the stylistic pizzazz of Tarantino’s best, and by putting more emphasis than usual on the chatter it makes it more obvious that the talk often lacks wit and verve.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tarantino takes the history of cinema more seriously than the history of Europe. References to films abound: Michael Fassbender’s British spy (who has an amusing, if silly, ‘Dr Strangelove’-like scene with a superior played by Mike Myers) used to be a critic and regurgitates what sounds like a Wikipedia entry on German film, while another character wonders whether he prefers Chaplin or the French silent actor Max Linder.

What’s not clear is what Tarantino wants to achieve: ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is an immature work that doesn’t know whether it’s a pastiche, a spoof, a counterfactual drama, a revenge tragedy or a character comedy. How can we, within a space of minutes, feel adult sympathy for a hunted Jewish family and then childish glee when a Nazi’s skull is crushed with a baseball bat? The one cancels out the other.

But perhaps the biggest faux pas is introducing real historical characters. Tarantino’s inventions are big enough – not least Waltz’s terrific ‘movie’ Nazi – so why does he have to court implausibility by dragging in a loony Hitler (Martin Wuttke, nothing special) and introducing Goebbels? You might imagine, too, that this film was written in the ’60s: Tarantino seems blithely uninterested in more than 60 years of slow reconciliation between Europe and its past.

‘Subtle’ is not a word in Tarantino's lexicon. At the film’s heart is a fatal attempt to conflate fact with fiction and a celebration of vengeance that’s misplaced and embarrassing. Loyal fans expecting a familiar patchwork of Tarantino tics and quirks – ‘Pulp History’ or ‘Kill Hitler’ – might not be disappointed. Those expecting anything approaching progress, cinematically or ideologically, probably will be.

Tarantino Rewrites the Holocaust | Newsweek Movies |   When Jews Attack, by Daniel Mendelsohn from Newsweek

At the climax of Quentin Tarantino's latest movie, Inglourious Basterds, which is set during World War II and which is concerned, at least superficially, with Jews, you get to witness a horribly familiar Holocaust atrocity—with a deeply unfamiliar twist. A group of unsuspecting people is tricked into entering a large building; the doors of the building are locked and bolted from the outside; then the building is set on fire. The twist here is not that Tarantino, a director with a notorious penchant for explicit violence, shows you in loving detail what happens inside the burning building—the desperate banging on the doors, the bodies alight, the screams, confusion, the flames. The twist is that this time the people inside the building are Nazis and the people who are killing them are Jews. What you make of the movie—and what it says about contemporary culture—depends on whether that inversion will leave audiences cheering or horrified.

"Inversion" is the name of the game here. Tarantino, who began his career as a video-store clerk, has created a body of work consisting of elaborate riffs on second-tier genre films (blaxploitation, gangster, martial arts), every detail of which he seems to have seen and memorized. In Inglourious Basterds (the dimwitted misspelling is never explained), he's after bigger game and a more consequential subject: those gritty World War II epics in which an unlikely, ill-shaven group of hard-boiled recruits must perform some impossible mission (The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, The Naked and the Dead, and, of course, Enzo Castellari's Inglorious Bastards, to which Tarantino's title pays homage). Here, the ill-shaven GIs belong to a group that the movies used to represent as soft-boiled—they're all Jewish—and their mission, under the leadership of a blond, cigar-chomping, decidedly un-Jewish lieutenant named Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, playing what you might call the Lee Marvin role), is simply to ambush and kill as many Nazis as they can—and then bring back their scalps as trophies.

The scalping—which, this being a Tarantino movie, leaves nothing to the imagination—is a clue to the kind of post-modern fun that the director wants to have here, as he throws elements of both the war movie and the Western into his directorial blender and hits "purée" (and, more seriously, reveals how much the two genres overlap). A second, parallel storyline about Jews who fight back, involving not one but two plans to assassinate the high Nazi brass at a film premiere, invokes the cinema with even more elaborate playfulness. (One thread includes both a film critic and a German movie star, the latter played by a spot-on Diana Kruger, for whom Hildegard Knef is clearly a more comfortable fit than was Helen of Troy.) If Inglourious Basterds represents an evolution for the director, it's that in this new movie, the movies aren't just a subtle (or not so subtle) element in an allusive esthetic game; they are, at last, front and center. One plot depends on the flammability of 35mm nitrate film stock, while another crucial incident hangs on a character's apparent dismay at the way that film gets history wrong. It's a movie whose life depends on movies. Tarantino himself summed up his feelings about the role of cinema in Basterds. "I like that it's the power of the cinema that fights the Nazis," he has said. "But not just as a metaphor, as a literal reality."

The problem is that the movies aren't real life, and this is where Tarantino, with his video-store vision of the world, gets into trouble. Controversies about the uses of Jewish suffering in World War II in popular entertainment—no matter how innocently such entertainment may be intended—go back at least as far as Mel Brooks's The Producers in 1968, and exploded once again in 1997 when Roberto Benigni's concentration-camp comedy, Life Is Beautiful, came out. It's possible that at least some of the discussion of Inglourious Basterds will focus on the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of using the Holocaust, even tangentially, as a vehicle for a playful, postmodern movie that so feverishly celebrates little more than film itself.

But the real problem here is the message, not the medium. If you strip away the amusing, self-referential gamesmanship that makes up Tarantino's style, Inglourious Basterds, like many of his other films, is in fact about something real and deeply felt: the visceral pleasure of revenge. Vengeance seems to be a subject about which Tarantino the person, as well as Tarantino the filmmaker, has strong feelings; his onscreen treatment of it as something both necessary and satisfying are reflected offscreen as well. "If I had a gun and a 12-year-old kid broke into this house," he told the critic J. Hoberman in a 1996 interview, "I would kill him. You have no right to come into my house…I would empty the gun until you were dead."

In Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino indulges this taste for vengeful violence by—well, by turning Jews into Nazis. In history, Jews were repeatedly herded into buildings and burned alive (a barbarism on which the plot of another recent film, The Reader, hangs); in Inglourious Basterds, it's the Jews who orchestrate this horror. In history, the Nazis and their local collaborators made sport of human suffering; here, it's the Jews who take whacks at Nazi skulls with baseball bats, complete with mock sports-announcer commentary, turning murder into a parodic "game." And in history, Nazis carved Stars of David into the chests of rabbis before killing them; here, the "basterds" carve swastikas into the foreheads of those victims whom they leave alive.

Tarantino, the master of the obsessively paced revenge flick, invites his audiences to applaud this odd inversion—to take, as his films often invite them to take, a deep, emotional satisfaction in turning the tables on the bad guys. ("The Germans will be sickened by us," Raine tells his corps of Jewish savages early on.) But these bad guys were real, this history was real, and the feelings we have about them and what they did are real and have real-world consequences and implications. Do you really want audiences cheering for a revenge that turns Jews into carboncopies of Nazis, that makes Jews into "sickening" perpetrators? I'm not so sure. An alternative, and morally superior, form of "revenge" for Jews would be to do precisely what Jews have been doing since World War II ended: that is, to preserve and perpetuate the memory of the destruction that was visited upon them, precisely in order to help prevent the recurrence of such mass horrors in the future. Never again, the refrain goes. The emotions that Tarantino's new film evokes are precisely what lurk beneath the possibility that "again" will happen.

Tarantino's movie may be the latest, if the most extreme, example of a trend that shows just how fragile memory can be—a series of popular World War II films that disproportionately emphasize armed Jewish heroism (Defiance) and German resistance (Valkyrie, White Rose), or elicit sympathy for German moral confusion (The Reader). If so, it may be that our present-day taste for "empowerment," our anxious horror of being represented as "victims"—nowadays there are no victims, only "survivors"—has begun to distort the representation of the past, one in which passive victims, alas, vastly outnumbered those who were able to fight back. "Facts can be so misleading," Hans Landa, the evil SS man, murmurs at one point in Inglourious Basterds. Perhaps, but fantasies are even more misleading. To indulge them at the expense of the truth of history would be the most inglorious bastardization of all.

Debating Inglourious Basterds | Film Quarterly   Ben Walter, Winter 2009/10


Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds: Film Kills - Bright Lights Film Journal  Vlad Dima, October 31, 2009


The Deep Morals of Inglourious Basterds • Senses of Cinema   Joseph Natoli, September 29, 2009


Prologue to that I.B. post, on Star Wars and WWII film  zunguzungu, September 3, 2009


Inglourious Basterds  zunguzungu, November 5, 2009


The New Yorker (David Denby) review


Slant Magazine review [3/4]  Ed Gonzalez


Inglourious Basterds; Jackboot Mutiny « Louis Proyect: The ...  Finding Pabst in Tarantino, Louis Proyect:  The Unrepentant Marxist, October 25, 2009


Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds Makes Holocaust Revisionism Fun  J. Hoberman from The Village Voice


Is Inglourious Basterds director Quentin Tarantino all washed up—or ...   Has one of the most overrated directors of the '90s become one of the most underrated of the aughts? Dennis Lim from Slate, August 20, 2009


Inglourious Basterds - The Time Traveler's Wife - Passing Strange ...  David Edelstein from NY magazine


Tolerable Cruelty  Zach Ralston from Elusive Lucidity, September 10, 2009


The Movie Review: 'Inglourious Basterds'    Christopher Orr from The New Republic 


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


Is Tarantino good for the Jews? -  Andrew O’Hehir, August 13, 2009


“Inglourious Basterds” -  Steohanie Zacharek, August 21, 2009


Inglourious Basterds - Reviews - Reverse Shot  Michael Koresky


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [4/4]


Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.  The Good, The Bad, and the Nazis, by Dana Stevens from Slate


Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]


Jigsaw Lounge/ Tribune [Neil Young]


DVD Talk - Theatrical [Jamie S. Rich]


Edward Champion


Mark Reviews Movies [Mark Dujsik]


Lessons of Darkness [Nick Schager] (Erik Childress) review [4/5] [Sean Axmaker]


Film Freak Central review  Walter Chaw


Pajiba (Daniel Carlson) review (Peter Sobczynski) review [5/5]


Inglourious Basterds  Katarina Glogorijevic from They Shoot Actors, Don’t They?, May 28, 2009: 


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Review - ScreenAnarchy  Kurt Halfyard


A Second INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Review  Travis Stevens from Screen Anarchy


The Flick Filosopher (MaryAnn Johanson) review


CNN Showbiz (Tom Charity) review (Bill Gibron) review [5/5] (Rob Gonsalves) review [5/5]


Recommended Reading: Daniel Mendelsohn on the New Tarantino   Jonathan Rosenbaum


DVD Town (Tim David Raynor & John J. Puccio) dvd review [Theatrical Version]


Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) review [3/5]


CompuServe (Harvey S. Karten) review [Kris Kobayashi-Nelson and Chris Nelson] Hollywood Movies (Rebecca Murray) review [B+]


The Land of Eric (Eric D. Snider) review [B+] (Devin Faraci) review (Kiko Martinez) review [B+]


Black Sheep Reviews [Joseph Belanger] (LaRae Meadows) review


Bina007 Movie Reviews


James Rocchi  MSN Summer Movie Guide


Twitch (Todd Brown) review  Travis Stevens at Cannes, May 29, 2009


Eric Kohn  Falling Short of Tarantino’s Own High Bar, “Inglourious” Goes Bubblegum, at Cannes from indieWIRE, May 20, 2009


Cannes '09: Inglourious Basterds  Mike D’Angelo at Cannes from The Onion A.V. Club, May 20, 2009, with a follow up here:  Cannes '09: Day Eight


Inglourious Basterds Review. Cannes 2009.  Karina Longworth at Cannes from SpoutBlog, May 21, 2009


Patrick Z McGavin  at Cannes from Stop Smiling magazine, May 21, 2009 (Alex Billington) review [8.5/10]  May 20, 2009


Screen International (Mike Goodridge) review  at Cannes


Matt Dentler  Ain’t It Cool News


Tim Hayes  Critics Notebook


The Cinephile's Guide to Inglourious Basterds: Cinematic ...  Cinematic References in Quentin Tarantino's War Film, by Kevin Sturton from Suite 101


An Analysis of Quentin Tarantino and His Films  Michael Peters from Suite 101


Alison Willmore  at Cannes from The IFC Independent Eye, May 20, 2009


David Bourgeois  at Cannes from Movieline, May 20, 2009


Tom Carson   GQ magazine at Cannes, May 20. 2009


Melissa Anderson  at Cannes from Artforum, May 20, 2009


Cannes 2009: Inglourious Basterds Is Amoral, Crude, Juvenile--In Other Words, Quintessential Tarantino  J. Hoberman from The Village Voice, May 20, 2009


Inglourious Basterds  David Hudson at Cannes from The IFC Blog, May 20, 2009


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS--Q&A With Quentin Tarantino  Michael Guillen from Screen Anarchy, August 24, 2009


Tarantino: “I am God…”  Eugene Hernandez covering the Tarantino press conference, May 20, 2009


Julian Sancton  interviews actor Samm Levine at Cannes from Vanity Fair, May 15, 2009


Michael Fleming  interviews Tarantino at Cannes from Variety, May 17, 2009


Kristin Hohenadel  interviews Tarantino at Cannes from The Scotsman, May 17, 2009


Hollywood Reporter   Steven Zeitchik interviews Tarantino, May 18, 2009


Anne Thompson  interviews Tarantino at Cannes from The Daily Beast, May 23, 2009


Interview: Quentin Tarantino  Interview by Sean O’Hagan from The Observer, August 9, 2009 Arts review  Greig Dymond interviews Eli Roth, August 14, 2009


Entertainment Weekly review [B]  Lisa Schwarzbaum 


The Hollywood Reporter review  Kirk Honeycutt at Cannes, May 20, 2009


Todd McCarthy  at Cannes from Variety, May 20, 2009


Anne Thompson  at Cannes for Thompson on Hollywood from Variety, May 20, 2009


Channel 4 Film


Emma Jones  BBC News at Cannes, May 20, 2009


Tarantino film the talk of Cannes  BBC News at Cannes, May 20, 2009


Cannes 2009: 'Inglourious Basterds' review    Dave Calhoun at Cannes from Time Out London


Time Out Chicago (Ben Kenigsberg) review [5/6]


The Daily Telegraph review [3/5]   Sukhdev Sandhu at Cannes, May 20, 2009


James Christopher  Inglourious Basterds at the Cannes Film Festival, at Cannes from The London Times Online, May 21, 2009


Tarantino's nastiest Basterd  Guy Dixon from The Globe and the Mail, August 19, 2009


The Globe and Mail (Rick Groen) review [2/4]  Pulp Fiction Set in a Era of Tragic Fact, August 25, 2009


Jonathan Owen   Inglorious? No. Bastards? Never. Meet the real Tarantino war heroes, from The Independent, May 17, 2009


Geoffrey Macnab  First Night: Inglourious Basterds, Cannes Film Festival, from The Independent, May 21, 2009


The Independent review [3/5]  Dog Soldiers, by Anthony Quinn from The Independent, August 21, 2009


Tarantino's Basterds is a Cannes turkey  Peter Bradshaw at Cannes from The Guardian, May 20, 2009


Cannes film festival: Only one winner when Tarantino takes on Hitler  Mark Brown at Cannes from The Guardian, May 20, 2009


Going Cap in Cannes  Xan Brooks at Cannes from The Guardian, May 20, 2009


Blog: Why Tarantino is a real enfant terrible at Cannes  Catherine Shoard at Cannes from The Guardian, May 20, 2009


Damon Wise introduces Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds   Damon Wise from The Guardian, August 15, 2009


Quentin Tarantino: champion of trash cinema  John Patterson from The Guardian, August 17, 2009


Inglourious Basterds: one star from Peter Bradshaw   Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian, August 19, 2009


Inglourious Basterds is cinema's revenge on life  David Cox from The Guardian, August 20, 2009


Cannes '09 Day 8: Basterds for breakfast  Wesley Morris at Cannes from The Boston Globe, May 20, 2009


The Boston Phoenix (Peter Keough) review


Boston Globe review [2.5/4]  Ty Burr


Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [3/5]


Tulsa TV Memories [Gary Chew]


Quentin Tarantino's 'Basterds' is a glorious mash-up - Los Angeles ...  Glenn Whipp from The LA Times, August 16, 2009


What do Jewish film critics have against 'Basterds' avenging Jews?   Patrick Goldstein from The LA Times, August 28, 2009


Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan) review


Chicago Tribune (Michael Phillips) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]


The Call Back  Lynn Hirschberg looks at Tarantino’s audition of Diane Kruger from The New York Times, May 3, 2009


‘Bunch of Guys on a Mission Movie’  Kristen Hohenadel interviews Tarantino from The New York Times, May 6, 2009


After Days of Cringing at the Screen, a Reason to Smile Sweetly   Manohla Dargis at Cannes from The New York Times, May 21, 2009


‘Inglourious’ Actor Tastes the Glory  Dennis Lim from The New York Times, August 12, 2009


The New York Times (Manohla Dargis) review  August 21, 2009


At Slow TV, a terrific debate on the new Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds featuring Adrian Martin and three other critics/scholars.    Inglourious Basterds, Can Hollywood Rewrite History?  Hosted by Age critic Philippa Hawker, the speakers are (in order): Mark Baker, director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization, Adrian Martin, film critic and co-director of the Research Unit in Film and Cultural Theory, Jan Epstein, film critic and broadcaster, and Nathan Wolski, lecturer in Jewish Studies.  This event was presented by the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization in association with the Research Unit in Film and Cultural Theory at Monash University, from Slow TV on YouTube, Part 1  (29:01), Part 2  (27:12), and Part 3   (22:09)     


Inglourious Basterds - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Lilian Harvey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Lilian Harvey - Bibliography, Photographs, Postcards and Tobacco cards   Virtual Film History


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Lilian Harvey  Silent Ladies


DJANGO UNCHAINED                                          D                     58

USA  (165 mi)  2012  ‘Scope                 Official site


Slavery was not a Sergio Leone spaghetti western.                 —Spike Lee


Slavery as entertainment?It is in Quentin Tarantino’s world, where next to nothing about slavery is learned by watching this film.   


In matters of racial understanding, historical or otherwise, it’s a curious thing about fantasy, as it doesn’t really fit anywhere, but exists in a netherworld all its own.  Some may take delight in the imaginings of male revenge fantasies where women are mere afterthoughts, while others will wonder what’s the point of bringing a comic book, super hero sensibility to matters of actual American history?  Do we really need, as an example, a heroic Abraham Lincoln riding a thunderous horse through the rebel lines killing Confederates at Gettysburg bringing victory to the Union, or a Southern version where the Confederacy is victorious?  As these events never actually happened, one might question the purpose of anyone presenting movies in such a manner.  And so it is with slave fantasies that exist outside historical reality, where one wonders who gains from this perspective, or simply what’s the point?   The idea of a white savior director retelling a revisionist, wish fulfillment black slave fantasy makes about as much sense as a movie with Jesus rising up and murdering Pontius Pilate right there on the spot.  Is the world a better place for having experienced such a rendering?  In typical Tarantino fashion, this is another B-movie blaxploitation saga set a few years before the Civil War about an escaped slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) that wreaks havoc and a trail of dead bodies along the way as he seeks to find his missing wife on their road to freedom.  As this director has done since his earliest films, he continues to immerse his films with the use of the word “nigger,” using the historical pretext to literally bombard the viewer with its over-use by both black and white characters, as if intending to either find humor or neutralize the meaning of the word.  Of course, just the opposite happens, as the repugnant peculiarity of hearing the word “nigger” repeated so often is like hearing a bell ring repeatedly with each use, calling attention to itself again and again, where it doesn’t shock or provoke, but regrettably plummets into a sinkhole of adolescent tastelessness, as it has throughout Tarantino’s entire career.  


While the film plays out like an irreverent spaghetti western, using stereotype and exaggeration, what’s missing is the everpresent tone of danger and suspense in Sergio Leone movies, where the bad guys (Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach) are often as cunning and conniving as the hero, where extreme character ingenuity places the outcome in doubt.  In this film, like blaxploitation movies, the outcome is never in doubt, as the world is broken down into good and evil, and evil gets a taste of its own medicine.  The problem here is not the revenge fantasy itself, such as the bumbling Klu Klux Klan raid that amusingly gets hung up on the pettiness of seemingly insignificant details, but the loathsome degree of wretched sadism that goes along with it, which brings a repellant nature to the film.  Outside of two central characters, Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz, a highly successful bounty hunter, and Foxx as Django, a young apprentice in the trade, who operate as a professionally trained team throughout, and an always convincing appearance from Samuel L. Jackson as an ever faithful yet uppity house “nigger,” there is no character development whatsoever.  If this were a rollicking screwball comedy where people were continually being made fun of, perhaps exaggeration and excess would be relevant to the style of humor, but much of this is no laughing matter, and is instead simply endless talking waiting around for something vile to happen, where the foul and tasteless use of the n-word passes for the otherwise missing drama, where the South is continually reduced to typical ROOTS (1977) style set pieces and sadistic white stereotypes, people with a salacious appetite for the most gruesome aspects of slavery.  For a near 3-hour film, this can only be described as excessive, especially when it’s being passed off as Hollywood entertainment.  Waltz is easily the most entertaining character, while as a German European he’s also the least racially offensive, relishing his role as a skilled marksman, who has a way of concealing that fact through his endless verbiage which acts as a smokescreen or camouflage for his real intentions, murder for hire.    


Foxx is a bit preposterous in the role, as he quickly shifts from a nearly inaudible chained slave huddled together with other similarly shackled men to a highly skilled black cowboy with excellent horsemanship and near perfect shooting skills, where the audacity of what comes out of his mouth would no doubt have gotten him shot in real life, but in this version people somehow avoid the temptation, perhaps enthralled by the prospective financial incentives offered by Dr. King, a method used to lure out his targets.  Waltz’s introductory gift for gab is charming, where his flowery elucidation of the English language in the remote, uneducated frontier of the American West has an element of the patently absurd about it, where most of the humor is in the earlier stages of their friendship.  By the time they get to a slave plantation in Mississippi, where the continuously smug Leonardo DiCaprio continually overacts as the smarmy plantation owner who happens to be in possession of Django’s wife, a slave supposedly given the mythical name of Brünnhilde (Kerry Washington) by her white German mistress, the bounty hunters are knee deep in Southern Gothic plantation lore, expressed through a series of ever increasing levels of sadistic horror viewed with varying degrees of pleasure, such as witnessing a slave get eaten alive by a pack of wild dogs, or casually watching, over cocktails, Mandingo fighters battle to the death.  Why this needs to be exhibited as entertainment fodder in the film is an open question, as in SHOAH (1985), Claude Lanzmann makes a 9 and ½ hour Holocaust documentary without ever showing the death camps, and Rolf de Heer’s THE TRACKER (2002) reveals the wisdom and cultural insight of a chained black Aboriginal in the Australian outback, continually differentiating between the brutal racism of his white captors and the sly intelligence of his own character.  Rather than escalate these cultural differences in a journey of mounting psychological dread, Tarantino simply leads us where he predictably always leads his audience, into a nihilistic, apocalyptic hellfire of explosions and gunfire, where bodies are strewn across the screen in a landscape of the collected dead, where it may as well be zombies getting blown away.  This is a sorry excuse for a movie turning the wretchedness of slavery into sports bar entertainment. 


Exclaim! [Scott A. Gray]

Any way you slice it, B-movie maestro Quentin Tarantino's blaxploitation/spaghetti western hybrid can cozy up to Death Proof as one of his slightest efforts. That's not to say that there isn't plenty of fun to be had, if you're in the mood for a well-shot, ultra-bloody action comedy packed with Tarantino's distinct wordplay — there is. However, Django Unchained feels more like the work of a man getting his ya-yas out than a purposeful look at the horrors of slavery.

As Dr. King Shultz (a former dentist turned bounty hunter), Christoph Waltz proves that a great deal of the appeal of his Oscar-winning turn as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds came from how he sounds reciting Tarantino's dialogue. Shultz shares Landa's general zeal for conversation and picking at verbal smokescreens. This is a good thing for the film's entertainment value, but further evidence of Tarantino's difficulty creating distinct voices for his characters.

This is something he does a far better job of achieving with Django. After being freed by Shultz — to help him identify a trio of criminals carrying a hefty bounty — Django Freeman signs on as a deputy bounty hunter. Initially there's little more than a cheap recurring joke based upon the surprise of townspeople seeing a black man proudly astride a horse and the good doctor's polite and professional handling of violent conflict, but when Shultz agrees to help Django rescue his wife from cotton magnate Calvin Candie (a scenery nibbling Leonardo DiCaprio), a plot is set into motion that's pure Tarantino.

Shultz encourages Django to adopt the character of a black slaver — the lowest form of scum in Django's books — to deflect the potential suspicions of Mr. Candie and his associates while the two infiltrators negotiate the purchase of a fine Nubian specimen to compete in a despicable underground fight circuit as a cover for their real object of desire.

Foxx does a tremendous job imbedding his character's seething rage within the confines of a different variety of hate: self. How people hide themselves in roles is amongst Tarantino's chief concerns once again, but aside from the subtle barbed exchanges between Django and head house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), this theme isn't particularly well fleshed-out.

The sheer demands of gleeful violent revenge win out at the end of the day, with the picture devolving into the same "burn it all down" mentality displayed in Inglourious Basterds, but without that film's mechanism of being part of a scenario that had a greater influence on the larger problem of persecution.

As fun as it can be to see a bunch of racists get brutally slaughtered, Django Unchained doesn't leave much of an impression to chew over, and it's hard to ignore that this basic plot was already addressed much more efficiently and comically in the final season of Chappelle's Show.

Opinion: Quentin Tarantino creates an exceptional slave  Salamishah Tillet from In America from CNN, December 25, 2012, also seen here:  Salamishah Tillet

Quentin Tarantino set out to make his newest film, “Django Unchained,” to avenge Hollywood’s amnesia of slavery.

“How can you ignore such a huge part of American history?” the director recently told Newsweek magazine. “Hollywood didn’t want to deal with it because it was too ugly and too messy.”

On this point, he is right.

Unlike the preponderance of movies on other historical atrocities including the Holocaust, which Tarantino tackled in "Inglorious Basterds" there have only been a handful of Hollywood films made on American slavery. And none were directed by an African-American.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of those movies were racist.

Dating back to D.W. Griffin’s “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915, white slave masters were heroes and formerly enslaved African-Americans were villains.

“Gone With the Wind,” the 1939 box-office smash, did no better as slave characters like Prissy, Mammy and Uncle Peter appeared as docile and happy servants.

These two films alone dominated all subsequent Hollywood representations of slavery until late 20th-century movies such as “Glory,” “Amistad” and “Beloved” depicted African-Americans as resistors.

But films on slavery have never been about the past alone.

They are influenced by the way we see our racial selves in the moment and also help shape those images. More often than not, slavery is the historical backdrop against which filmmakers and audiences can gauge their own racial problems or progress.

“Django Unchained” is no different. Though set two years before the Civil War, the movie is very much Tarantino’s 21st-century racial fantasy.

There is much to criticize in this film: the excessive use of the N-word, gratuitous gun violence and its male dominance. Women are objects of apathy or sympathy and are not as nearly as complex or charismatic as any of the male characters. This is very much a movie about how men, white and black, navigate America’s racial maze.

And there is much to defend.

The slave-turned-bounty hunter Django, who rescues his wife from slavery, is an African-American hero never seen before on the big screen. He alone is capable of the brilliance, moral courage and swagger needed to resist slavery.

And yet his exceptionality comes at a price: Unlike "Amistad’s" Cinque or "Beloved’s" Sethe, he seems to exist in a vacuum. Most of the slave characters he meets are not his equals; they are flat, naive, and as in awe of him as the audience. And they barely dent racial stereotypes.

The emphasis on black exceptionalism is not just in Tarantino’s film. It has been a problem in the post-civil rights era, one that should be defined as much by the everyday killings of youths such as Trayvon Martin as much the re-election of the first African-American president.

Instead, racial progress is too often determined by the exceptional success of people such as Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

It is true, as Princeton professor Imani Perry writes in her book “More Beautiful and More Terrible,” that “the African-American figure of note and achievement is evidence for, and in some instances a sign of, the chipping away at the infrastructure of white supremacy.”

But our constant celebration of their individual success as the only proof of racial progress is too risky.

Perry warns: “Either the person or people are seen as role models and lauded for their attainments and transcendence of the 'bear' of race, or they are viewed as inauthentic, illegitimate, and threatening.”

Conservatives tout “exceptional African-Americans” to deny contemporary structures of racism, and liberals applaud them for transcending race. In both cases, the ongoing racial inequities that affect the majority of African-Americans today are seen as a thing of the past, as a bygone of the era of slavery.

Clearly, most Americans, much less African-Americans, will ever be able to become Obama or Oprah. But in our modern era, their achievements become a stand-in for all African-Americans. They prove how easy it is for all people to attain the American dream or how deficient African-Americans are when they don’t.

We should be aware that “Django Unchained” is a film that could not have been made at any other racial moment. But by privileging the few, we do not have to deal with the severe racial inequalities that most African-Americans confront in education, employment, health care and the criminal justice system.

As we cheer Django on in his revenge, we ought to ask ourselves: What happened to all the other slaves in America? Those who had neither Django’s guile nor guns? If we are serious about avenging the past, we must deal with the legacy of their lives in our present.

Black and white and read all over  Tal Rosenberg from The Chicago Reader

The line on Django Unchained, the latest from Quentin Tarantino, is that it's a companion piece to his previous feature, Inglourious Basterds. Both are genre pieces that function as racial revenge fantasies: the war movie Inglourious Basterds shows Jewish-American soldiers slaughtering Nazis in occupied France, and the western Django Unchained follows a freed slave in the antebellum south as he guns down hillbillies, plantation owners, and Klansmen. Both movies play fast and loose with history: Inglourious Basterds ends with Hitler being assassinated, and Django Unchained, set in 1858, is filled with implausible characters and events. Tarantino may be a stickler for period details—most of the rooms are candlelit, most of the characters have terrible teeth, and excess beer foam is wiped off with a stick—but his vision of the south also includes rap tunes, a German bounty hunter, and Australian bad guys who seem to have stepped out of Crocodile Dundee.

Despite this questionable history, though, Django Unchained has deep roots in the American literature of the 1850s. The most popular book of that era—aside from the Bible, of course—was Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, it had sold a half million copies by 1857, when it was flying off shelves at the rate of 1,000 a week. Today most people are less familiar with the book than with the racial epithet it spawned: in the 50s and 60s especially, "Uncle Tom" became synonymous with blacks who changed their behavior or appearance to ingratiate themselves with whites. Oddly, this epithet is far removed from Stowe's conception of the character as a Christ figure, which was a radical notion in antebellum times. Django (Jamie Foxx) is more like the Count of Monte Cristo, to name another character from 19th-century literature, but the history of Uncle Tom's Cabin can tell us a lot about Django Unchained.

In the book Uncle Tom is a middle-aged slave sold downriver again and again until finally he ends up the property of Simon Legree, a monstrous plantation owner who forbids him from reading the Bible and commands him to thrash other slaves. When Tom refuses, he's beaten to death by his overseers but expresses his forgiveness just before he expires, which moves them so powerfully that they convert to Christianity. The character turned out to be remarkably elastic: as Linda Williams reports in her book Playing the Race Card, traveling theater companies created their own dramatizations of the novel, know as "Tom shows," and each subsequent version strayed farther from the book. By the turn of the century, there were versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin that had hardly anything to do with Stowe's story; some portrayed Tom as a foolish, old minstrel-show character, and others ended happily, with Tom surviving.

These distortions only continued when Uncle Tom's Cabin hit the big screen. In the first known movie version, from 1903, the aging, potbellied Tom is played by a white actor in blackface, and black actors playing slaves dance merrily at the beginning of each scene. A later version, from 1914, departs radically from the novel when another slave, whose life Tom has spared earlier, returns the favor by stalking and killing Simon Legree. So Tarantino's great innovation—creating a tale of black vengeance in the antebellum south—hasn't only been done before, it was done nearly a hundred years ago, and under the aegis of Uncle Tom's Cabin, no less.

The other major American literary trend of the 1850s was the growing popularity of dime novels: cheap, throwaway stories that favored action over introspection, fantasy over reality, and directness over metaphor or symbolism. The pulp fiction of their day, dime novels were responsible for many of the western archetypes that filtered into the movies, including the spaghetti westerns that inspired Django Unchained. Django escapes from slavery after his owners are killed in a bloody shootout with Dr. King Schultz (Dr. King—get it?), a German dentist turned bounty hunter who's played by Christoph Waltz. The doctor wants Django to lead him to a gang of killers he's pursuing, and after hearing the story of Django's lost love, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), he offers to help rescue her from Candieland, a notorious plantation run by the brutal Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a lover of Mandingo fighting.

Django Unchained may be entertaining and occasionally funny, but its ideas don't really hold up. The characters' racism is supposed to be shocking, but we've all seen this sort of stuff in countless dramas and historical documentaries. Strip away all the hip music and spaghetti-western set pieces and you're left with True Romance (1993), which Tony Scott directed from a Tarantino script. When Candie compares the skull of a black man to that of a white man, his monologue is nearly identical in content, tone, and delivery to a conversation between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken in True Romance. Django's frequent visions of Broomhilda are reminiscent of Christian Slater's fantastical conversations with Elvis in the earlier movie, and the penultimate shootout in Django Unchained recalls the bullet-riddled finale of True Romance. The opening credits of Django Unchained are virtually identical to those of Jackie Brown, with the protagonist walking in profile to bombastic, orchestral soul music.

Jackie Brown is Tarantino's best and most lasting film; its characters are the richest and most fully formed, and their motives grow deeper and more nuanced with each viewing. But since that movie Tarantino has largely abandoned character development and introspection; the people in his more recent movies often register as props or caricatures, which can make their motivation seem sketchy. Schultz is presented as a mercenary, yet he agrees to undertake the likely suicide mission of freeing Broomhilda because she speaks beautiful German. The supposedly formidable Candie fails to grasp that Broomhilda and Django know each other despite the fact that they both have the letter R branded on their faces. Yet Tarantino doesn't seem to care; the whole story is absurd anyway, so who needs rounded characters?

The only complex character in Django Unchained turns out to be Stephen, Candie's trusted old slave hand, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Ironically, Stephen is a classic Uncle Tom—the stereotype, not the actual character—and whether or not Tarantino understands the implications of this, Jackson obviously does. Balding and white-haired, shaking uncontrollably and hobbling around on a cane, Stephen epitomizes the way blacks were portrayed in the early days of cinema. But appearances are deceiving, and the revelation of Stephen's true self is the biggest surprise in an otherwise unsurprising film. The only other actor who acquits himself admirably here is DiCaprio, who seems to revel in the film's silliness, donning eyeliner, sipping strange cocktails out of coconut goblets, and growing giddy over white cake.

When Inglourious Basterds was released, Daniel Mendelsohn wrote a scathing Newsweek essay in which he argued that Tarantino, by creating a film in which Jews exact revenge on Nazis, was equating the victim with the victimizer. No one should be surprised that the director would construct another movie on this cracked ethical foundation, but that doesn't mean Django Unchained has anything important to say about race, or that anyone should use race to attack or defend it. The real problem with Django Unchained is not race hatred but Tarantino's predictable and uninspired treatment of it.

How “Django” gets slavery wrong  Tarantino Unchained, by Jelani Cobb from The New Yorker, January 2, 2013


On the Big Screen: DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)  Samuel Wilson from Mondo 70: A Wild World of Cinema, December 2012  


In Defense of Django  Adam Serwer from Mother Jones, January 7, 2013


World Socialist Web Site [David Walsh]


Keli Goff: The Racial Slurs in 'Django' Aren't Racist, But the Racial ...  The Racial Slurs in 'Django' Aren't Racist, But the Racial Violence May Be, by Keli Goff from The Huffington Post, January 2, 2013 


Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, reviewed by Richard Brody ...  The Riddle of Tarantino, by Richard Brody from The New Yorker, December 28, 2012


Django Unchained Reviewed: Tarantino's Crap Masterpiece : The ...  David Denby from The New Yorker, January 22, 2013


Press Play [Steven Boone]  Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED and the Many Spike Lees, December 28, 2012


Unchained Melody: Two Troublemakin' Bruvas Take on Tarantino's ...  Steven Boone and Odie Henderson from Big Media Vandalism, January 1, 2013


Quentin Tarantino, Slave To His Habits: Django Unchained, Reviewed  Will Leitch from Deadspin, December 18, 2012


Django Unchained Upends the Western | Village Voice  Scott Foundas, December 19, 2012 [Omar P.L. Moore]  Django Kinda Sorta On A Short Leash, Via Tarantino, December 21, 2012


Django Unchained: What Kind of Fantasy Is This?  Annalee Newitz from io9, December 28, 2013


Critic After Dark [Noel Vera]  December 29, 2012


Critic After Dark part 2 [Noel Vera]  February 3, 2013


Tarantino's incoherent three-hour bloodbath -  Andrew O’Hehir, December 26, 2012


David Thomson reviews Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained ...  Django Unchained Is All Talk With Nothing to Say, by David Thomson from The New Republic, January 5, 2013


Jonathan Romney on Django Unchained: It's good, then it's bad ...  Jonathan Romney on Django Unchained: It's good, then it's bad. Well, it is Tarantino, by Jonathan Romney from The Independent, January 20, 2013


Sight & Sound [Nick Pinkerton]  January 2013


Daily Kos: The Truth About 'Django Unchained'  Ryan Brooke


Slant Magazine [John Semley]


PopMatters [Cynthia Fuchs]


Pajiba [Steven Lloyd Wilson]


NPR [Stephanie Zacharek]


Flavorwire [Jason Bailey]


Filmleaf [Chris Knipp]


The A.V. Club [Nathan Rabin]


indieWIRE [Eric Kohn]


Review: 3 Different Opinions On The Good & The Bad Of Quentin ...  The indieWIRE Playlist


The Atlantic Wire [Richard Lawson]


Electric Sheep [Alex Fitch]


Erik Lundegaard


Paste Magazine [Tyler Chase]


Surrender to the Void [Steven Flores]


Conservatives Freak Out About Django Unchained  Aisha Harris from Slate, December 19, 2012


Django Unchained: I Laughed, I Was Bored. I Pumped My Fist, I Felt Nauseated.  Dana Stevens from Slate, December 24, 2012, also seen here:  Slate [Dana Stevens]


When Blaxploitation Went West: Django Unchained Seems Tame by Comparison  Aisha Harris from Slate, December 25, 2012


Was There Really “Mandingo Fighting,” Like in Django Unchained?   Aisha Harris from Slate, December 25, 2012


Tarantino is the baddest black filmmaker working today  Eric Deggans from Slate, December 27, 2012


What Django Unchained and Lincoln Have in Common: A Woman Problem  Allyssa Rosenberg from Slate, December 27, 2012


Could a black director have made “Django”?  David Sirota from Slate, December 28, 2012     


Why Samuel L. Jackson’s “Uncle Tom” Is Tarantino’s Best Character Yet   Aisha Harris from Slate, January 8, 2013


Tarantino flunks American history  Kimberly Ellis from Salon, January 13, 2012


Tarantino drops the N-bomb  Mary Elizabeth Williams from Salon, January 14, 2013


Tarantino gives the NRA ammo   Andrew O’Hehir from Salon, January 14, 2013


Quentin Tarantino talks to himself  Brian Gresko from Salon, January 14, 2013


REVIEW: Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' A Bloated Bloody Affair ...  Alison Willmore from Movieline, also seen here:  Movieline [Alison Willmore]


Quentin Tarantino Says Slavery Still Exists Via 'Mass Incarcerations' & The 'War On Drugs'  Frank DiGiacomo from Movieline, December 19, 2012


Quentin Tarantino's 'Django' Klansmen Inspired By John Ford: 'To Say The Least, I Hate Him'  Jen Yamato from Movieline, December 26, 2012


Spike Lee Criticizes 'Django Unchained' — Antoine Fuqua Defends ...  Antoine What-The-Fuqua? Spike Lee Should Debate Tarantino On 'Django Unchained' by Frank DiGiacomo from Movieline, January 2, 2013


Heart of Dixie | Film Comment | Film Society of Lincoln Center  Geoffrey O’Brien from Film Comment, January/February


Critical Dialogue: Django Unchained | Film Comment | Film Society ...  Max Nelson from Film Comment, January 13, 2013 [Vern] [The Lady Miz Diva Vélez]


Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained': The Good, the Bad - Alternet  Jazmyne Z. Young and Asani Shakur from Alternet [J. Olson]


The New Yorker [Anthony Lane]


Time [Richard Corliss]


Django Unchained (2012)  Jeffrey Overstreet from Patheos


Film Freak Central Review [Walter Chaw]


HitFix [Drew McWeeny] [Jordan Hoffman]


Angeliki Coconi's Unsung Films [Morad Moazami] | Django Unchained  also seen here:  The American Spectator : Django Unchained


Django Unchained Review- The Good, Bad and ... - Ruthless Reviews  L. Ron Mexico from Ruthless Reviews 


Eye for Film [Anne-Katrin Titze]


KPBS Cinema Junkie [Beth Accomando]


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ReelViews [James Berardinelli] - theatrical [Jamie S. Rich]


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The QNetwork [James Kendrick] [Luke Bonanno]


Home Theater Info DVD [Douglas MacLean] [Jeffrey Kauffman] [Brian Orndorf]


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California Literary [Matthew Newlin] [Emma Simmonds]


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Afro Punk [Zeba Blay]  April 30, 2012 [Mike Cameron]


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Combustible Celluloid Review - Django Unchained (2012), Quentin ...  Jeffrey M. Anderson [Laurence Washington]


Georgia Straight [Mike Usinger]


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The Huffington Post [Mike Ryan]


'Django Unchained': Quentin Tarantino’s Answer to Spielberg’s 'Lincoln'  Joe Weiner from The Nation, December 25, 2012


Spike Lee Calls 'Django Unchained' 'Disrespectful'  Rolling Stone, December 27, 2012


Quentin Tarantino, Postmodern Racist - Film Forum on  Mubi Forum, January 2013


Quentin Tarantino on Django Unchained and the Problem with ...  Allison Samuels interview from The Daily Beast, December 10, 2012


Quentin Tarantino unchained - Page 1 - Movies - Minneapolis - City ...  Karina Longworth interview from Minneapolis City Pages, December 19, 2012


Tarantino 'Unchained,' Part 1: 'Django' Trilogy?  Henry Louis Gates, Jr. from The Root, Pt. 1, December 23, 2012, also seen here:  Tarantino 'Unchained,' Part 1


Tarantino 'Unchained,' Part 2: On the N-Word  Henry Louis Gates, Jr. from The Root, Pt. 2, December 24, 2012


Tarantino 'Unchained,' Part 3: White Saviors  Henry Louis Gates, Jr. from The Root, Pt. 3, December 25, 2012, also seen here:  'Django Unchained' and the White Savior: What Tarantino Says 


Tarantino: “I find the criticism ridiculous”  excerpts from Henry Louis Gates interview with Tarantino at Salon, December 29, 2012


Quentin Tarantino: my inspiration for Django Unchained  Gavin Edwards interview from The Observer, December 29, 2012


Tarantino, DiCaprio, Foxx Say 'Django Unchained' Plot Was 'Tough'  Alex Waterfield and Lauren Effron report on Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden’s interview from ABC News, January 8, 2013


'I'm Not Your Slave': Quentin Tarantino Slams Interviewer  Christopher Rosen from The Huffington Post, January 11, 2013


How Quentin Tarantino Got Those Crazy Blood Spurts in ... - Vulture  Kyle Buchanan interview from The Vulture, January 13, 2013


Entertainment Weekly [Owen Gleiberman]


The Hollywood Reporter [Todd McCarthy]


TV Guide [Jason Buchanan]


Variety [Peter Debruge]


Time Out London [Tom Huddleston]


Time Out New York [Joshua Rothkopf]


The Observer [Philip French]


The Guardian [Peter Bradshaw]


Quentin Tarantino defends depiction of slavery in Django Unchained  Andrew Pulver from The Guardian, December 7, 2012


Django Unchained wins over black audience despite Spike Lee criticism  Ben Child from The Guardian, January 3, 2013


Django Unchained: is its portrayal of slavery too flippant?  Candace Allen from The Guardian, January 10, 2013


Has Django defused the 'n-bomb'?  David Cox from The Guardian, January 14, 2013


Django, Lincoln and America  Adam Mars-Jones from The Guardian, January 25, 2013


Quentin Tarantino not 'wasting time' over Spike Lee     The Telegraph, January 4, 2013


Quentin Tarantino in furious rant over Django Unchained violence questions  Andrew Hough from The Telegraph, January 11, 2013


Boston Globe [Wesley Morris]


The Star-Ledger [Stephen Whitty]


Philadelphia Inquirer [Steven Rea]


KUHNER: Jamie Foxx and the rise of black bigotry  Jeffrey T. Kuhner from The Washington Times, December 13, 2012


Washington Post [Ann Hornaday]


Cleveland Plain Dealer [Clint O'Connor]


The Cleveland Movie Blog [Marcie Gainer]


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San Francisco Chronicle [Mick LaSalle]


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Los Angeles Times [Erin Aubry Kaplan]


'Django' an unsettling experience for many blacks - Los Angeles Times  Erin Aubry Kaplan


Chicago Sun-Times [Roger Ebert]


New York Times [A.O. Scott]


DVDBeaver Blu-ray [Gary Tooze]


THE HATEFUL EIGHT                                          B+                   90

USA  (168 mi, 70mm version 187 mi)  2015  ‘Scope     


It’s less inspired by one Western movie than by Bonanza, The Virginian, High Chaparral,” Tarantino said. “Twice per season, those shows would have an episode where a bunch of outlaws would take the lead characters hostage. They would come to the Ponderosa and hold everybody hostage, or to go Judge Garth’s place — Lee J. Cobb played him — in The Virginian and take hostages. There would be a guest star like David Carradine, Darren McGavin, Claude Akins, Robert Culp, Charles Bronson or James Coburn. I don’t like that storyline in a modern context, but I love it in a Western, where you would pass halfway through the show to find out if they were good or bad guys, and they all had a past that was revealed. “I thought, ‘What if I did a movie starring nothing but those characters? No heroes, no Michael Landons. Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens.’”


—Tarantino quote by Mike Fleming Jr. from Deadline, November 10, 2014, "Quentin Tarantino On Retirement, Grand 70 MM Intl Plans For ‘The Hateful Eight" 


Outside of Pulp Fiction (1994), this is easily the most fun film in Tarantino’s career, and the reason is largely the towering performance from Samuel L. Jackson, where this is something that only he could have pulled off, a perfect mix of intelligence and outlandish humor, where he’s like an eloquent spokesperson for the times who literally grabs our attention before he walks us through this movie like our own personal guide.  While he’s only one of several well-defined characters, curiously he’s not even the man in charge, as that would be Kurt Russell’s John “The Hangman” Ruth, doing his very best John Wayne imitation as a notorious rifle-toting bounty hunter who always brings his wanted outlaws in alive so they can have a proper hanging, which in the era of the American West is the closest thing to defining justice.  Part of the attraction to the film is that it was released in two versions, one a 187-minute “roadshow” that includes an opening overture and intermission, shot on 70mm which can only play in selected theaters equipped with appropriate reel projectors, where this resembles the glorious spectacle of the golden age of Hollywood, while an alternate digital cut will be shown in regular theaters without an overture and intermission, where the film itself is about 6-minutes shorter, using alternate takes of earlier scenes shot on 70 mm that might look distorted on smaller screens.  Of note, this is the first western scored by Ennio Morricone, the music behind the Sergio Leone westerns, in 40 years, the 6th collaboration between Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson, while it is the third film in a row where someone is shot in the testicles.  Imagine an entire movie resembling the extraordinary opening sequence from INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009), one of the most unique examples of protracted storytelling, where the extensive lead-up to whatever happens next is a film in itself, filled with its own plot twists and dramatic crescendos, where the audience is drawn into a different time frame, as patience is a virtue.  Tarantino seems to be saying “Stick with me, and I won’t let you down.”  The resolution of these scenes, at least to some, have always been a disappointment, as a fury of violence always prevails, where it just becomes a bit too predictable.  But no one can deny the power of Tarantino’s theatrically-inclined, dramatic construction of a scene, building tension throughout, with peaks and valleys, where he slowly and patiently builds up to that momentous edge that he eventually crosses.   


Opening on a lone stagecoach led by a six-horse team driving its way through a snowy blizzard in Wyoming, set sometime after the end of the Civil War, the nation has not exactly mended its wounds, as a good deal of lingering resentment hovers over the country like a festering wound, but all that is kept tightly under the vest as a wicked storm approaches.  The mountainous landscapes are put to good use as the audience gets a whiff of the widescreen Ultra Panavision 70 format, where the last Cinerama film to be shot in a similar format was KHARTOUM (1966) a half century ago.  But as Tarantino is one of the last remaining holdouts insisting upon shooting his movies on celluloid, compared to everything else that we see in theaters today, the look is spectacularly vivid and crisp.  John Ruth is transporting his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to Red Rock in order to watch her hang, while also collecting the $10,000 reward, but he picks up two stragglers along the way, Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, a particularly successful black military leader in the Civil War, whose claim to fame is carrying around with him at all times a genuine letter written by Abraham Lincoln, while also transporting 3 dead bodies worth an $8000 bounty, but also Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix, the newly appointed sheriff of Red Rock who once rode with his notoriously racist father‘s Confederate renegades, developing a reputation as a degenerate killer.  The political divide between these two decorated war veterans on opposite sides increases the racial tensions, creating immediate antagonism, with John Ruth ready to bust heads if there’s any trouble, though Mannix warns them both they’ll have a difficult time collecting their bounties if something happens to him, as the sheriff pays out the reward money.  The worsening weather forces them to stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery to wait out the storm, though Minnie and her loyal sidekick Sweet Dave are both mysteriously missing, with Cowboy Bob (Demián Bichir) supposedly left in charge, along with a motley group of criminally inclined outcasts sidelined by the raging blizzard outside.  Sizing up the situation, including a broken front door that needs to be hammered shut after each opening, the two bounty hunters suspect something is up and form a pact protecting their property from the others, as each one of the guests looks eminently suspicious. 


Divided by chapter headings, we are slowly introduced to the twisted group of unsavory characters trapped inside a single room with no way out, where their pasts and secret motives are revealed, while their notorious reputations curiously precede them, as they all get acquainted waiting for the first one to blink before they make their move.  Spanning around the room, along with the stagecoach driver, O.B. (James Parks), we meet Tim Roth in a bowler hat as Oswaldo Mobray, who contends he’s the hangman at Red Rock, Michael Madsen as Joe Cage, an irritant and lowlife, and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), an unrepentant racist idolized by Mannix, but despised by Major Warren, particularly for his gruesome treatment of black Union soldiers during the war.  While John Ruth and Major Warren suspect there is someone working against them in the room, perhaps more than one aligned with the prisoner, they maintain their pact of working together as they don’t know who it is, but taking no chances, they do disarm all the suspects, creating an uneasy tension that suffocatingly chokes on its own inherent, claustrophobic cabin fever atmosphere.  As prejudices and resentments are revealed, it’s surprising how these few men coincidentally brought together by a storm have already heard of all the others and developed opinions about what kind of men they are, with all manner of trash talking taking place, but none more venomous than Major Warren’s contempt for General Smithers, which leads to the most grandiose and extraordinary story of the film, an extended soliloquy by Jackson, whose performance dominates the film, none more memorable than his provocative comments and personal insults reserved for the General, taking great pleasure in cornering the man into a position of weakness and disadvantage, then slowly tightening the screws, literally stripping away any pretense of manhood, leaving him disarmed and completely exposed, offering him a firearm within an arm’s reach, goading the man, literally toying with him until he has no other alternative but to reach for the gun, only to be shot down in cold blood, yet presumably deemed self-defense under the circumstances.  This theatrical display reveals Tarantino at his best, as it’s an extremely well-written scene, set up by such antagonistic character extremes, embellished by the most vulgar and detestable humor imaginable, yet somehow it’s an exceptional and memorable moment leading into the intermission, where viewers will have plenty to talk about. 


On the other side of the intermission, Tarantino himself indulges in a little narration, offering unseen clues the audience may have missed, turning this into a variation on Agatha Christie’s best-selling 1939 novel And Then There Were None, a murderous chamber drama where ten people have been invited to a remote location by a mysterious stranger, where each of the guests holds a secret leading to someone else’s innocent death, and then one-by-one, the guests themselves start dying.  First published under the name Ten Little Niggers, the book went through a series of title changes, including Ten Little Indians (The History of 'Ten Little Indians' - before settling on the words drawn from a nursery rhyme.  While it’s not nearly as simplistic as that, the film instead moves in a more circuitous path, where each of the characters has a major scene, with each one revealing themselves to be abhorrent and revolting, with Daisy Domergue, the object throughout of nonstop abuse, outshining all the other men for the dubious honors of the most vile character of them all, where Major Warren is the closest thing to a protagonist.  As they weave their way to unraveling the underlying mystery, complete with a flashback sequence with the delightfully plump Dana Gourrier as Minnie, Zoë Bell as Six-Horse Judy, and Gene Jones as Sweet Dave, the stage is reset with different implications, yet a good deal of the film is an appropriate commentary on xenophobia and the racial divide in America, exposing the roots of the race hatred, and showing how little progress has been made in the last 150 years, as we are still dealing with the same visceral anger that has plagued America throughout its contentious history, perhaps best expressed by the seemingly neverending sentiments from the Civil War.  When Major Warren suggests, “Let’s slow it down.  Let’s slow it way down,” it allows the audience to reevaluate our own history but also enjoy the art of storytelling, where Tarantino is simply having a blast with this film, returning to his own roots, as the one-room structure certainly resembles his own existential Reservoir Dogs (1992), which recalls the hopeless futility of Sartre’s No Exit, a portrait of eternal damnation, where the ultimate realization is “Hell is other people.”  While it’s often brutal and excessively violent, and once more there are grotesque uses of the n-word, this is the one Tarantino film that seems designed for a theatrical stage, as even the flashback sequences are set in the same location, so expect to see possible variations in the future, yet this original casting is sublime, as the fun on the set cannot be denied, as they are all in complete synch with the director’s sick humor and tendency for tastelessness, where it’s not lost on the viewer that the director ironically heralds this spectacular 70mm widescreen “Ultra Panavision,” and then sets a 3-hour film in the suffocating confines of a single room.  Nonetheless, through a witty structure of endless dialogue, politics makes strange bedfellows, and the final alliance in the film is perhaps the strangest of them all, where the Lincoln letter, in all its ambiguous implications, figures prominently.  


Cine-List - CINE-FILE Chicago   Kyle Cubr

The eighth feature by Quentin Tarantino is the first film to be released in Ultra Panavision since the 1960's. Including both an overture and intermission, the roadshow edition of THE HATEFUL EIGHT is the director's homage to great American epics like BEN-HUR and IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. The film is set shortly after the Civil War in the mountains of Wyoming during a blizzard. John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to Red Rock in order to watch her hang and to collect the $10,000 bounty on her head. Along the way, he rescues two men (Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins) from the elements and eventually they are all forced to stop at Minnie's Haberdashery to wait out the storm. There they meet four strangers, and the eight's dubious pasts and secret motives are revealed in typical Tarantino fashion. EIGHT is Tarantino's most political film to date. Racial tensions and the strained relations post-Civil War between the North and the South are unearthed through intense dialogue and shocking flashbacks. Jackson's role as Northern Major Marquis Warren is the lynchpin that allows these topics to be explored. The cinematography is grandiose and vivid--not a micro fraction of celluloid is wasted and the attention to detail is exquisite. The most striking feature of this film is Ennio Morricone's dynamic score. From the first chime of bells during the overture to the last string hit of the final credits, Morricone takes the viewer on an aural journey that punctuates the stunning visuals on screen. The score is haunting, alluring, and disarming all at once. It wouldn't be a Tarantino film without gratuitous violence, blood, or cussing, and EIGHT is no exception. Tarantino expands upon these familiar controversial aspects of his filmmaking to include some disturbing physical violence against women. Leigh is used as a literal and morbid punchline; she is struck whenever she speaks out of line. Her performance is volatile and she plays the kind of character people love to hate, further complicating the violence directed towards her as she is not a sympathetic character." The second half of the film can be described as a cross between 12 ANGRY MEN and THE THING, juxtaposed with the director's trademark aesthetics. Is this the film that will bring celluloid back from the fringes of modern filmmaking? Probably not, but it does strengthen the cause, much like Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan have recently. THE HATEFUL EIGHT successfully brings back a sense of spectacle in going to the movies. The roadshow version is an impressive achievement that should not be missed.

Review: The Hateful Eight | Quentin Tarantino - Film Comment  Steven Mears, January/February 2016

Posters for The Hateful Eight proclaim it “the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino.” This calculation appears to omit Death Proof, his segment of Grindhouse, which is something of a missed opportunity because including it would make the new work Tarantino’s . In a sense, that’s what it is anyway—not because the film, set in post-Civil War Wyoming, is his most dazzling or soul-baring creation, but because it’s the grandest monument to his style and all the indulgence and chutzpah it connotes. If you dig Tarantino, you’ll be in 70mm heaven; if “dig” has no place in your vocabulary, you’re in for a long three hours.

Like the characters on screen, I found my convictions shaken by each new plot development. I thrill to the robust strains of Ennio Morricone’s first original Western score in over three decades (which also samples his themes from The Thing and Exorcist II: The Heretic). I’m in awe of Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson for reviving the Ultra Panavision 70 process used on Ben-Hur in 1959 and defunct since Khartoum in 1966—curiously dispatched in service of what is essentially a filmed play, most of which takes place indoors. I marvel at what is likely the most formidable cast the director has assembled since the Nineties, though some members are distinctly underutilized. And as much as anyone, I enjoy his dialogue, even as it exists strictly to ratchet up tension between bursts of apocalyptic violence.

But the first act (or two chapters, as is Tarantino’s presentational wont) gives way to tedium, as a muttonchopped bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his feral quarry (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are induced to share their stagecoach with a fellow fugitive-hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a Southerner (Walton Goggins) claiming to be the new sheriff of the town waiting to hang Leigh’s prisoner. It’s as if Tarantino, believing the interrogation prologue to Inglourious Basterds to be the best-written scene of his career, undertook to redraft the sequence at nearly feature length. If nothing else, the first hour of The Hateful Eight concludes the director’s quarter-century experiment in how long characters can jovially threaten one another while waxing baroque before the audience retreats.

Investment picks up considerably when the Hateful Four are compelled to wait out a blizzard at a trading post already occupied by a quartet of dubious characters (played by Demian Bichir and Tarantino alumni Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern). Before the first pot of coffee is brewed, it has become clear that intrigue is afoot. The director’s penchant for exploitation puts an ultraviolent spin on a classically genteel Agatha Christie locked-room mystery. No one has to tell Tarantino that his script borrows freely and lovingly from staples like André De Toth’s wintry 1959 classic Day of the Outlaw, though someone might have reminded him that De Toth’s film clocked in at 92 minutes.

Just as Donald Sutherland attributed his lesser character to “the back half” of The Dirty Dozen, not all of the Hateful Eight are created equal. Bichir and Madsen are most underserved by the screenplay; the latter, in particular, is saddled with a one-note gorilla role. Jackson and Justified’s Goggins know their way around an elaborate soliloquy, even if they’ve done it all before and better. The undeniable standout here is Leigh—one eye blackened, dried blood coating her muzzle, the ferocious engine driving the many plots. Tarantino even allows her an improbably lovely musical interlude before the shooting resumes.

Roth’s executioner speaks of frontier justice as “apt as not to be wrong but always thirst-quenching” (literally so in a revolting flashback involving Jackson, which offers a puerile “corrective” to racism typical of the director). After eight and a half films it’s clear this is the director’s philosophy, too. He deserves credit for devising a narrative—his first since 1997’s Jackie Brown—that isn’t explicitly revenge-driven from the outset. But one longs for interstitial moments like when a smitten Robert Forster sheepishly buys a Delfonics album after hearing it played in Jackie Brown’s apartment. Thirsts can be quenched in many other ways.

You’ve Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight  Adam Nayman from Cinema Scope

If we can begin with a parlour game—and on the evidence of The Hateful Eight, our American Psycho laureate Quentin Tarantino is lately beloved of such Funny Games—let’s play Six (not Eight) Degrees of Separation. The score for QT’s al dente spaghetti western was originally written in 1982 by Sergio Leone’s house composer Ennio Morricone for John Carpenter’s The Thing, which was a remake of a 1951 movie directed (in all but name) by Howard Hawks, whose John Wayne-starring westerns—the pinnacle of which, Rio Bravo (1959), was semi-remade by Carpenter as Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)—had set the Hollywood standard against which Leone contrasted his nasty, brutish and increasingly distended oaters.

What makes Carpenter’s version of The Thing so fascinating is how it schizophrenically splits the difference between its official source material and the template of the Hawksian western. With its all-male ensemble fending off a deadly interloper from inside a remote facility in the Arctic, it doubles down on Assault by once again evoking the basic siege scenario of Rio Bravo (minus the Angie Dickinson analogue Carpenter had included the first time out), but inverts it: instead of battering against the walls from outside, here the threat hides in plain sight by burrowing within a succession of human hosts. Once again casting his perpetual muse Kurt Russell as a swinging-dick Wayne/Eastwood manqué (following his sneering turn as Snake Plissken in Escape from New York [1981]), Carpenter paid homage to his Old Hollywood godhead Hawks even as he followed his own nihilistic voice by having the besieged defenders tear each other apart (literally) rather than band together. It’s an act of simultaneous veneration and mutilation that turns   The Thing—a film that is already richly suggestive of an era’s encroaching social and biological perils—into a commentary on itself.

To circle back to the matter at hand after this very Tarantinian digression: one possible way to approach the pachydermous beast that is The Hateful Eight is as a hybrid tribute to/remake of Carpenter’s The Thing, complete with Kurt Russell doing his Duke act once again in his role as a grizzled bounty hunter. Which, by the logic of assimilation, means that Tarantino’s film contains the same basic DNA as its primary host, as well as the assorted inspirations that that host had imbibed in its turn—not to mention a whole other raft of references, homages and imitations that Tarantino has harvested from scores of other literary and filmic sources, the listing of which could well take three hours and seven minutes, which is how long Tarantino’s film runs (overture and intermission included). And one possible way to look at Tarantino at this point is as the artistic equivalent of Carpenter’s parasite: an unscrupulous shape-shifter who will throw on any disguise that suits his purposes before moving on, leaving the host party hollowed out as he proceeds on his relentless mission of conquest.

Twenty years after Pulp Fiction (1994) won plaudits for its supposed deviance from Hollywood business as usual, Tarantino stands as perhaps the most powerful—and, in a heavily qualified way, the most free—studio-backed filmmaker in Hollywood. He’s the new Spielberg (or at least his lantern-jawed, Gen-X doppelgänger), and ever since his counterfactual Holocaust corrective Inglourious Basterds (2009), he’s made a comparable bid for “seriousness.” If The Hateful Eight is in many ways the exact opposite of the sort of film Steven Spielberg would make, it is, paradoxically, precisely the sort of movie that only a Spielberg-sized titan could ever get made in the first place. The money men behind it clearly trust QT’s track record—which might be foolish, since, leaving the question of the film’s overall quality aside (and perhaps open forever, like an uncauterized wound), this is Tarantino’s most audience-alienating film to date. A line from The Thing springs to mind: “I don’t know what the hell’s in there… but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

The Hateful Eight’s three-minute overture (surely it could have been eight, but who’s counting) holds on a slightly abstract, hand-drawn image of (eight) snowy mountain peaks underneath Morricone’s creepy, repeating (count ’em) eight-note piano figure—a defiantly old-school manoeuvre that is clearly intended as an invitation for the initiated and, perhaps, a screw-you to those ignorant of the history of exhibition. The first live-action images are scarcely less languorous: widescreen landscape shots of Wyoming (courtesy of Robert Richardson) cut in a magisterial rhythm by Fred Raskin until settling on a carved stone figure of Jesus on the cross, a lonely marker on the side of the mountain road travelled by Russell’s bounty hunter John Ruth and his captive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) en route to the town of Red Rock, where the latter will be hanged for murder. In their path stands Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is looking to hitch a ride on their stagecoach—a transaction that, naturally, requires extensive discussion. When the newly formed trio picks up another straggler—Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), an ex-marauder turned aspiring small-town sheriff—further long, drawn-out negotiations are elicited, to the point that the stagecoach driver, O.B. (James Parks), has to insist that they pick up the pace before the whole party is engulfed by a blizzard.

This is surely a knowing joke on Tarantino’s part: whatever else he may be lacking in, he is certainly not bereft of self-awareness. In Basterds, Tarantino’s verbal over-indulgence was nicely tied to the story’s emphasis on masquerade and linguistic deception; in Django Unchained (2012), the form/content equation was similar but the language was baggier and more florid, perhaps to make up for the comparative lack of compelling narrative complication. The twin revenge plots of Basterds, elegantly paralleled for two-plus hours before converging, for maximum self-reflexive impact, in a cinema on fire, represented Tarantino’s best-ever storytelling, whereas Django’s slow, processional structure felt a bit like goldbricking. For The Hateful Eight, Tarantino adopts the form of a chamber piece: after Ruth and his passengers reach a humble haberdashery on the edge of Red Rock to wait out the storm with a quartet of guests already ensconced there, the film stays in one place for two hours. This leaves the characters with precious little else to do but talk, and, trapped along with them, the viewer is compelled to listen to their chatter to such an extent that the stir-craziness onscreen starts to become contagious.

Said talk is, of course, on the hostile side, as Tarantino has divided his dramatis personae so that they represent a duly contextualized cross-section of 19th-century western types. Jackson’s Warren fought with the Union against the South and made a habit of killing good ol’ boys even after the surrender, which irritates Goggins’ goofy hick and infuriates the physically frail, retired Confederate general (Bruce Dern) who’s plunked down by the fireplace like an old piece of furniture. “Bob the Mexican” (Demián Bichir) is communally shunned (by Warren as well) on account of his south-of-the-border background, while Ruth’s comparatively enlightened racial attitudes are undermined by his vicious treatment of multiple murderess and wanted gang member Daisy, who is first glimpsed sporting a black eye and takes no end of physical (even more than verbal) abuse from her captor during the journey and for most of their stay—an extended Punch-and-Judy routine that feels as if Tarantino designed it as a test of his audience’s delicate modern sensibilities.

I suppose that one of the big questions about The Hateful Eight is whether Tarantino is exploiting his retrograde period setting as an excuse to indulge in more multi-directional political incorrectness than ever before, or if he’s seriously trying to comment on the iniquities of American history—or, in a reading even more attractive for the sympathetically minded critic, he might be projecting a vision of our own regressive present through the lens of the past. A case can be made for all sides, and that strategic ambiguity gives Tarantino licence to draw out and amp up the unpleasantness like never before. As in Django, Tarantino seems to revel in having a costumed cast of movie stars hurl the N-word around willy-nilly, with Jackson once again on hand as a kind of walking get-out-of-jail-free card; Leigh, meanwhile, is so relentlessly tortured and terrorized that viewers of any gender could be forgiven for bailing even before the various plot turns confirm that, in the pitiless, kill-or-be-killed universe being conjured up here, her Daisy is hardly an innocent. And yet when the toothy Brit Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) suggests reducing the tension by dividing the space into locations representing different areas of the country (i.e., the bar is Philadelphia), the microcosmic implications are immediately resonant, and hardly because they seem to belong to some safely stowed-away past.

On the contrary: The Hateful Eight is a film about what its maker sees as eternal verities of division and disagreement. And if, in the absence of profundity, QT offers up only heaping portions of provocation, it’s also possible that these two items can become one if mashed together hard enough—or else form some sort of flailing, half-ingenious, half-ludicrous monstrosity (some thing). Suffice it to say that Spike Lee might actually explode, John Cassavetes-in-The Fury-style, if he were to watch the last scene of Act One, an extended monologue by Jackson directed at Dern that mobilizes racial and sexual paranoia in a baldly confrontational way. The bullseye of this precisely targeted tactical strike, by the way, lies offscreen, and it’s as big as Tarantino’s fan base. It’s a moment as discomfiting (and brilliantly acted) as Jackson’s Uncle Tom turn in Django, but, seemingly emboldened by that film’s success, Tarantino goes even farther here, to the point that some will have to laugh it off while others will insist that that’s impossible. (Another line from The Thing, for when things really start to go crazy in the snow: “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”)

So this is the other big question of The Hateful Eight: Is Quentin Tarantino fucking kidding us with this thing? This hugely scaled 70mm roadshow presentation that’s mostly close-ups of people sitting indoors? This showboating cavalcade of callousness that actually pauses at one point—long after the nasty talk has been replaced by actual physical violence, but still with plenty of time to go until the final curtain—to introduce a whole new set of characters whose status as slaughter fodder is sickly apparent from the word go? This inventory of appalling actions and notions in which the dramatically legible motivations of the blackguards and brigands in Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Jackie Brown (1997) are twisted into misanthropic abstractions? There are no entry points here for the audience; these people (including Michael Madsen, QT’s original, ear-slicing inquisitor, and as such a terrifying presence in Hateful despite his character’s apparent passivity) are all unrelievedly, implacably awful. It’s like Carpenter’s The Thing except here, everyone is already infected, and as such expendable—though their gradual whittling down doesn’t even elicit the nasty satisfaction of seeing them what deserves it get theirs.

If there is an ultimate boogeyperson here, though, it’s Daisy—and I suspect that whereas Warren’s speech at the end of Act One is an example of Tarantino’s mastery of shaggy-dog jokes that bite, the increasing emphasis on Leigh’s (amazing) performance, in which lyrical longeurs (she sings a song like Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo) coexist with a fury barely contained inside the character’s increasingly flayed, stained and disfigured skin, is where Tarantino’s real anger (or is it derangement?) lurks. It’s truly ugly, and it demands explication. And if Tarantino is not a moron—which he almost definitely is not—then it’s curious and crucial to consider why he pins this entire teetering edifice on the (frankly unforgettable) image of a broken but ferocious woman facing down two men who must literally pull together in order to withstand her assault.

The reference points for this final act are endless and probably intentional: at different moments, Leigh-as-Daisy could be Linda Blair in The Exorcist (1973) or even poor, scapegoated Sissy Spacek in Carrie (1976), to name two other terrifying, bloody avatars of feminine power. Like Carpenter, Tarantino brings the horror movie into the terrain of the western as a means of re-landscaping genre cinema, but he also sticks closely to The Thing by faithfully reproducing Carpenter’s and-then-there-were-two climax with a white guy and (spoiler, I guess) black guy as the last ones standing (or staggering)—except that he also actually gives us a stand-in for the great, insidious, unknowable threat that the earlier film could only embody as a Lovecraftian FX obscenity.

It’s hard to say if The Hateful Eight would be a better or a lesser film if it deigned to clarify the meaning of this substitution, or of having this unfathomable tableaux (which rhymes with that early shot of Christ) followed by the reading aloud of a letter first referenced in the early stages of the film—originally attributed to Abraham Lincoln—describing the sacrifices, compromises, and promises of America at the end of the Civil War. It’s hard to say if this scene, and the film itself, is more offensive and/or politically astute if that letter (which keeps having its veracity challenged) is authentic—thus rendering the Great Emancipator retrospectively short-sighted in his optimism—or a forgery, which lets Honest Abe off the hook while showing how easily his legacy can be twisted by opportunists. Either way: screw you, Steven Spielberg.

It’s also hard to say if I really truly believe any of the above, or if Tarantino the alien finally operates, like the Thing, by turning critics into his gibbering mirror images, passing on grandiloquence that makes us talk around what we really think. Which, in this case, is that The Hateful Eight may really be sort of terrible. But here’s the thing: I’m also thinking that the only thing harder than enjoying or even respecting this grotesque, disturbing, potently affective and probably commercially unviable endurance test of a movie is dismissing it out of hand. So I defer, one last time, to The Thing, specifically its final lines: “Why don’t we just wait here a while, and see what happens.”

Familiar Refrains and Minor Variations: Quentin ... - Senses of Cinema  Familiar Refrains and Minor Variations: Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eighth, by Jeremy Carr, March 2016


Sight & Sound [Michael Atkinson]  January 8, 2016