10 out of 10 – ‘Kill Bill’

DIRECTED by QUENTIN TARANTINO            2003/2004          248 minutes         USA

Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair: The Film and the Experience


In the fall of 1992, the film club, at what was then Glassboro State College in New Jersey, was heading into Philadelphia for movie night. We could see whichever film we wanted at the city’s preeminent art house and the club would pay for it. I don’t recall what other films were playing but a few of us chose to see a little known film called Reservoir Dogs. Going in I knew nothing of the director, I knew who was in it and I only had the one sheet to go off of. Hey it was a free movie so we’ve got nothing to lose.  A couple hours later I found myself so energized by what I had seen, I remember those of us who watched it couldn’t stop talking about it. We were all so thrilled to be studying film and filmmaking. Overnight I became a Quentin Tarantino fan and I couldn’t wait for what he was going to do next.

As it turns out nothing prepared me for what would be next. His next film would be Pulp Fiction. This film is considered by many to be his crowning achievement. I was blown away by Pulp Fiction. Where does one start? With the structure of the film, the dialogue, the acting, the directing? Everything was firing on all cylinders. The film had a vitality, an energy all it’s own that no matter how many times I saw it it still felt fresh. I loved the non-linear structure that was a joy to try to piece together. There were so many scenes that I remember from the film, it was a classic.  Then came Jackie Brown. Oddly enough I actually liked this one more than his first two. Even more strange is that I can’t remember a lot about it as I’ve only seen it a few times. Why did I like this one more? The characters.  I was completely enraptured in Pam Grier and Robert Forster’s performances. Yes they were written by Elmore Leonard, but these two flesh and blood characters were so well adapted that all I wanted was to just see these two on screen.  I’m going to have to revisit this one very soon.

With several classic crime potboilers under his belt what was Tarantino going to do next. Word was circulating that he was planning on doing a martial arts movie. The thought of that was just mouth watering. Soon we learned that this martial arts movie was now going to be one truly epic one. As its impending release grew closer it was announced that Tarantino’s latest film is actually a four hour plus action opus. FOUR HOURS!!!  This is going to be amazing. However, even I knew then that there was no way they were going to release a four hour long action movie. When the teaser trailer for the film hit I was beside myself eagerly awaiting its release. The title of the film was Kill Bill.

I still thought they would be releasing a much shorter film maybe 2 ½ to 3 hours long. Either way Kill Bill was on my must see list. At some point, I imagine to insure the film’s integrity, the Weinsteins and Tarantino agreed to split the film into two and release them a few months apart. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 were born.

I absolutely loved these films.  I prefer Vol. 2 to Vol. 1. Yes Vol. 1 had the action but Vol. 2 had the drama and heart of the entire film. Kill Bill melded everything I loved about Tarantino’s previous films. The energy, the characters, the rich dialogue, the structure, all of it. I truly appreciated his intent to make an homage to the classic martial arts epics of the past while creating his own rich world of characters in the process. There are countless memorable scenes in both films. The stunning opening of Vol. 1 that leads into Nancy Sinatra singing over the credits.  The “Pussy Wagon.”  O-Ren Ishii’s back story told in anime. The insane showdown at the House of Blue Leaves. The Bride and O-Ren’s fight. And these are just from Vol. 1.  Vol. 2 featured the great sequence where Elle Driver takes the time to explain to Budd how the snake that bit him earned its name. The powerful buried alive scene. The fantastic training sequences with Pai Mei. The fight between The Bride and Elle Driver. Finally Bill’s awesome monologue about the duality of comic book superheroes. These scenes alone are merely the tip of the iceberg.

While I loved these two films I hoped to be able to see the complete cut one day. At the time I figured it was just a matter of putting the two together and just dropping the intro that opened Vol. 2. In fact when I saw the first showing of Vol. 2 at midnight it was preceded by Vol. 1. I had thought that was about as close as I’d get to seeing the two films as one. I was wrong.

Several years after the films were released Tarantino screened the complete four hour opus at the Cannes film festival.  It was very well received.  The film became known as  Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair. I was pretty envious that others got to see it but I figured that means it’ll eventually arrive on blu-ray/dvd and would finally be able to see the complete film.  This is one of the reasons why I never purchased the two on blu-ray, I was waiting for the whole bloody affair. Blind buy, sight unseen, I wouldn’t give it another moments thought, I must own it.

In late February of 2011, it was announced that Tarantino will be doing the March  programming for the New Beverly Cinema. Tarantino had recently purchased the LA repertoire theatre thus allowing it to continue to operate so it sort of made sense that he would do some programming. He had previously done an entire month of grindhouse films that including the film Grindhouse. While it’s always exciting news when QT does a program but what this program contained is the holy grail of the QT universe.  It was announced that Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair will have a one week engagement at the theatre. Exciting news! Myself and about 1800 moviegoers were fortunate enough to acquire tickets to this event that sold out incredibly fast. With only eight showings during the run, it wound up being the hottest ticket out there since I believe this was the first time it was being shown theatrically in the United States.

There are changes and additions throughout the entire four hour running time which thankfully included an intermission. Right off the bat the oft quoted Klingon proverb that tells us vengeance is a dish best served cold is no longer there. Instead there is a dedication to filmmaker Kinji Fukusaku. The film plays out like before until the O-ren anime sequence. There are some added shots of violence that had no real impact on the piece but were a welcome extension.

Now the part I was most looking forward to. The 88 Keys fights in color. In the original the sequence switched to black and white and when it was over The Bride blinked everything back to color. Throughout the fight there are some alternate angles, more gore, different takes of shots we’ve seen before and a few added sequences. One of which involves a very young member of the 88 Keys. I really enjoyed this sequence but wasn’t expecting the alternate angles and additional scenes. Overall it made a fantastic cinematic fight that much better.

Now came a change that I wasn’t anticipating. In the ending of Vol. 1, Sofia Fatale has her arm cut off at the House of Blue Leaves and is unceremoniously dumped at a hospital.  She is then recounting what the Bride told her to tell Bill. It concluded with Bill asking Sophie if the Bride is aware that her daughter is still alive. I remember seeing that and going whoa that was a great cliffhanger. In The Whole Bloody Affair Sofia is put through much, much more. The Bride proceeds to torture her for information and cuts off her other arm. Sophie recounts to Bill what the Bride told her and it concludes with The Bride looking down at Sophie in the trunk and telling her “They’ll all be dead as O-ren.” Fade to black. Intermission.

I had wished that I never saw Vol.1 and Vol. 2. When the Bride comes to Bill’s villa and discovers B.B., her daughter, is still alive we already knew that and were just waiting for them to reunite. However imagine the impact of it all when we the audience discover that B.B. is still alive at the same time as The Bride. I really wish I could have experienced that reveal for the first time as it was intended. It really changed the whole feel of what came before. Sure she was entitled to revenge but most of that was because she thought her daughter was dead.  If she knew she was alive would she have done things differently? Would all of that past bloodshed have been necessary?

Vol. 2 opened with a recap of the events of Vol. 1. After the intermission, The Whole Bloody Affair immediately opens with the next chapter in the story. From here on, Vol. 2 is unchanged. At least now in the end credits the names and characters are fresh in your mind because you’ve seen them only a few hours ago as opposed to 6 months prior.

The Whole Bloody Affair is the only version of Kill Bill that I want to own or watch. Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 may be on TNT or something but I won’t pay as much attention. I haven’t watched any of the films since seeing it at the New Beverly. I’m hoping for the day that they finally release it on Blu-Ray/DVD. Absorbed as a whole it is just an amazing piece of storytelling.  Never a dull moment and the four hours do go by pretty quickly. I have a feeling that my love for this film clouded my judgment of Inglorious Bastards and Django Unchained. I wasn’t a big fan of the former but did enjoy the latter. Neither come close to matching what Tarantino pulled off with The Whole Bloody Affair.

Outstanding story, fine direction, impeccable acting, great action sequences and a powerful screenplay are only a handful of reasons why I gave this film a 10 out of 10.

If you’ve never seen the Kill Bill films then I would say wait until they release the definitive version for your first experience. If you’ve seen both then The Whole Bloody Affair is a must see that is guaranteed to change your perception and improve your opinion of the Tarantino masterpiece.

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