15 years of Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol.1 and how it changed the director's image
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Previous to Kill Bill Vol.1 , Tarantino was synonymous with non-linear films, inundated with hyper-masculinity and popular culture. Though the director had crafted a number of iconic female protagonists, that have become part of the cultural zeitgeist: from Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), to Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), 2003’s Kill Bill is the movie on everyone’s lips when thinking of the strongest. From the protagonist Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), to her nemesis O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), the film is inundated with badass female characters holding their own in Tarantino’s cinematic world, otherwise often inundated with machoism.
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15 years later, enter any costume party and it is highly likely that you will spot someone dressed in the iconic yellow and black catsuit, donned by the protagonist, who was largely inspired by Thurman. It follows Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), also known as The Bride, who wakes up from a four-year coma, after her jealous ex-lover Bill (David Caradine), attempts to murder her on her wedding day. Fired by her insatiable desire for revenge for everyone who had contributed to the loss of her last four years of her life, she complies an unscrupulous hit-list, which results results in a vibrant affair of violence and retribution.
The largely inspired by grindhouse cinema, which is linked to the type of cinema frequently located in a seedy part of town, screening B-grade, low-budget movies that feature gobs of gratuitous sex and violence. Tarantino’s skill for story-telling and detail, sees him managing to inject a sense of kinetic energy into this aspect of cinema, taking it from lowbrow to high brow, and even garnering the attention of the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
It’s a film motivated by revenge, presenting the drives and the pitfalls, which motivate a large hand of the characters, in true Tarantino style pulling in all the pop culture allusions possible. The revenge movie is a prominent part of Chinese cinema, prominently the ‘Angry Bride’, who seeks revenge on all those who have wronged her, reflected in Kiddo’s assassination of her female counterparts. O-Ren Ishii’s tale is a classic twist on the Hong Kong revenge picture Lady Snowblood (1973), which centers around a girl who devotes her life to avenging her parents’ death. This exploration of cinematic history, allowed Tarantino to alleviate his own movie as a modern urban ‘myth’.
The film remains loved by many for its postmodern cool and black humour. Iconically when The Bride bites the tongue off her potential rapist and makes a swift exist in the offensively tacky Pussy Wagon, it not only plays on the conventions of ‘grindhouse’ humour, but sees the protagonist uplifting herself from derogatory sexual objectification.
Although the movie is far from a feminist film, its protagonist epitomises female independence, in a character which is not boiled down to a one-dimensional prototype. It showcases the best of Tarantino’s niche style, and remains a cult film for generations to come.