Thursday, August 11, 2011

Morality, Mortality and the Tarantino way



Yesterday, I got an opportunity  to revisit Kill Bill – Volume 2 all over again. Why? Because I can (Quentin says so too, when you ask him about why he includes so many violent and bloody sequences in his films?). And because they played it on DTH – I am a sucker for TV reruns; somehow the image quality on TV beats those home video screenings on DVDs hands down.

So, as I was flipping channels, searching for a movie I could watch on a rainy Chennai evening, my trigger-happy fingers screeched to a halt as soon I saw Uma Thurman wiping her tears to the sounds of Tomayasu Hotei’s Battle without honor or humanity. The flipping stopped then and there. My eyes remained glued to the telly, watching The Bride, minutes away from being buried alive. But my hands got busy searching for my cellphone as I furiously texted my equally crazy movie buff of a friend, to whom this blog posting is dedicated, pleading her to switch on her TV.

That done, I settled down with a plate of piping hot noodles, God bless the Japanese. Thanks to the miserable redneck Budd, Bill’s bro as played by the indefatigable Michael Madsen, The Bride does get buried alive. As my friend and I exchanged notes on the Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei, I almost overlooked the snappy pace at which the movie progressed. There’s no question about how much I love the Kill Bill series. But it’s surprising how short it gets with every subsequent viewing. Maybe, knowing all the dialogues by heart and committing the order of scenes to memory can do that to an individual.

Now, coming to the reason why I started off this blog post in the first place. Somewhere near the end of the epic film, Bill, played by the enigmatic David Carradine (R.I.P.) asks The Bride if she really believed she could lead a life devoid of crime and killings. And the Bride regales him with the tale of the last assignment that Bill had sent her on – to assassinate Lisa Wong. The Bride goes on to tell him how Lisa herself sent an assassin to dispose off the Bride. The assassin disguised as a room service agent goes by the name Karen Kim.
Kill Bill Volume 2
But, here’s the catch, moments before the Bride could have her head blown off in her hotel room, an act of providence saves her from what seems to be an immediate death. As Beatrix Kiddo aka the Bride stands at her door, having just discovered that she’s pregnant, the applicator of her pregnancy tool kit drops to the floor, and the bride bends over to pick it up, just in time, as Lisa Wong’s assassin Karen Kim blows a hole in her door that misses the Bride by a hair’s breadth.

Their confrontation brought back to memory a scene from Inglourious Basterds – namely the aftermath of the tavern shootout that leaves just about two survivors to speak of, Bridget von Hammersmark and Sergeant Wilhelm, who (surprise…!!!) had discovered just a few minutes before that he’s become a father. 

Inglourious Basterds
Moving back to Kill Bill 2, The Bride beseeches Karen Kim to spare her life, considering the fact that she’s just become a mother. And in turn, The Bride would spare Karen's life. The assassin relents and retreats. And she even goes so far as to drop a ‘Congratulations’ on her way out.

Now, consider the fate of Sergeant Wilhelm from Inglourious Basterds. The young soldier is faced with imminent death at the tavern post the shootout. And Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine argues with him about the prospect of letting the injured Bridget von Hammersmark walk free. They even reach a settlement, which means Wilhelm’s son doesn’t have to grow up without a daddy to play catch with. But just moments after the conversation, Bridget pumps the soldier’s chest with a hail of bullets and he drops dead.

Bridget's reasoning seems to be that letting him live would jeopardize the Allied mission. But, the audience is left wondering about the shadow of parenthood that was so unrightfully snatched, or rather robbed off little Wilhelm. And we’re also left wondering about the moral complexity of the scene. Do they orphan a kid or compromise the fate of the world? This question led me to another equally disturbing sequence right at the start of Kill Bill Volume 1

Kill Bill Vol 1


The scene in question involves The Bride confronting Vivica Fox’s character Vernita Green aka Copperhead at the latter's suburban home in Pasadena, Texas. Having smashed the living daylights of the living room, The Bride and Copperhead are interrupted midway when Vernita’s four-year-old daughter makes an entry as she’s just back from school. After packing the kid off to her bedroom, Copperhead offers The Bride coffee and beseeches her to spare her life, in the name of her daughter.

To which, the bride categorically says (sic), “Bitch, you can stop right there. Just because I do not wish to kill you in front of your daughter, does not mean parading her around will inspire sympathy. You and I have unfinished business. And not a goddamn fucking thing you’ve done in these last five years, including getting knocked up is gonna change any of that.”

Making her stand clear, and dashing Vernita’s hopes of a peaceful life as a housewife, the Bride discusses with her, the prospects of when they can go at each other, old school style. And that’s when Vernita attacks the bride with a firearm concealed in a carton of  breakfast cereal, aptly named 'Boom'. But the uber-quick Bride responds like lightning, slamming a knife into Vernita’s throat before she can even blink an eye. This entire sequence transpires right before the eyes of Vernita’s daughter Nicky, who’s just witnessed her mother falling to the Bride’s vengeance.

The Bride doesn’t attempt any consolation for the kid. Instead, she tells her, “Years from now, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.” It’s a great chance for a filmmaker to pick off from and set off on a new tangent altogether. But the fact remains that the Bride did whack a woman who cried out to her on behalf of her child. The Bride is under the impression that Vernita and those who helped execute the massacre at the El Paso chapel in Texas, where the Bride was to be married, were responsible for the death of her baby. And, for that, they all deserved to die. And that’s all there is to it. Mortality. Morality. And the Tarantino way.

This post is an entry to the Reel-Life Bloggers contest organized by wogma.com and reviewgang.com

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