Of the many topics brought up in the oodles of comments following the cinetrix's post here, Eddy Faust brought up this one: "I can't believe no one is bringing up Kill Bill, Vol. 2, which has one of the most subversive climaxes in modern-day action cinema." Of course, the HFPA have also barely brought it up, merely nodding in its direction with a feeble two noms, one each for Uma Thurman and David Carradine.
Eddy's also remarked: "And everyone wants to come down on QT because Kill Billl is a collage of influences past, but that's like saying DJ Shadow's Endtroducing wasn't one of the best albums of the 1990s because it was all made up of samples." Filmbrain, even though he has his "problems with QT and the KB films," liked that one, and actually, I've been surprised - again, pleasantly - by how much discussion of KB has followed. I'd thought people were as sick of arguing about it as so many of us have become of even thinking about the Jesus movie and the Bush movie (both of which we've all mercifully left well enough alone), but evidently not. Good for us.
Let me add another vote of approval for Eddy's DJ Shadow analogy and also for his point that what QT's done here isn't simply remix a few favorite tunes (well, a lot, actually); he's also made something his own. And I enjoyed the hell out of both volumes; saw Vol 1 twice and 2 only once, unfortunately, but I look forward to the eventual DVD extravaganza in which we get to see the whole shebang in one fell swoop - plus, hopefully - listen to QT talk us through his references and sources and tell us what a kick it was for him to have Chiba and all the rest right there in front of his own cameras. If there was ever a movie ripe for the full exploitation the DVD offers, here it is.
All that said, far as I see it, Kill Bill is no Jackie Brown. I don't know what it's like over in the States, but here in Germany - well, Jackie Brown must have been a very cheap buy. Several TV stations here show it about twice a year, so that means it's almost in constant rotation. And you know, zapping around, unwinding at night, if I happen across it - it nabs me each and every time. I have no idea how many times I've seen it by now, in whole or in part.
I remember John Powers remarking in a piece for the LA Weekly that incorporated an interview with QT that he suspected that QT himself didn't realize JB is his most mature work. Now, I thoroughly enjoy listening to DJ Shadow, and I think I've got just about everything of his that can be gotten, loaded up in iTunes. I admire the artistry of his work; but I suspect that it won't be as immortal as a good solid song by, say, Dylan or, I dunno, Thom Yorke. Yes, I'm aware of the conservative implications of what I'm saying here, and yes, it worries me a little to hear it coming from me. I could be wrong. Maybe I even hope I am.
But the consistency of the world of JB allows for vastly richer character development, for one thing, than the episodic world of KB. JB has a single narrative that grows in complexity with its characters as well, whereas, in KB, we simply move onto the next adventure. There are many lovely little worlds created in KB, one of my favorites being the inside the plane/outside the plane sequence as the Bride flies into Tokyo - the sword-holders for each seat, the artificiality of the model of the city at night, the motorcycle - but the worlds keep changing with each episode and we, the viewer, don't have the chance to really grow into them before it seems that the very laws of physics have been switched on us again.
That said, it could be argued that QT is saying something about our view of Asia through movie eyes. In America, the kitchens, both vols 1 and 2, look like suburban kitchens as we all know and loathe them, for example. Budd's trailer, the shithole where he works, the hospital where the Bride's been out for a while - all as we know them. The further east we go, the more reality gives way to - not just surrealities but to alternate, movie realities, wherein, at one point, we even slip into the anime flashback.
Again, as I write, I appreciate these aspects of what QT set out to do all over again; but overall, KB still leaves me less impressed than JB, and I think one measure of the difference is this: Consider both films, in their own ways, partially at least, something between an outright love letter and a supreme vehicle for their respective actresses. Comparing the acting skills of Uma Thurman and Pam Grier is a hopeless apples-n-oranges exercise, but put it this way: Love 'em both, but Thurman is no slouch and Grier is no Meryl Streep. And yet, Grier is a thousand times more convincing as Jackie Brown than Thurman is as the Bride. Thurman is thrown abstracts to work with - revenge, maternal love - while Grier gets a concrete world and a point-by-point plan.