Thursday, November 01, 2007

Death Proof


While its better to approach most movies without much knowledge about them, some background information is helpful - maybe even necessary - to enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. This is one of the 2 movies (the other one is Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror) that make up Grindhouse, a re-creation of the 'Grindhouse experience' – 60s and 70s low-budget movies high on sex, violence and gore, shown as double-features. Not having been part of the Grindhouse era, the nostalgia factor is no there for me in Death Proof. There is the novelty factor but once that wears off, the movie feels rather inconsistent with some great action and uninteresting talk.

Tarantino here is presenting an experience rather than a movie. So the movie comes with the elements of the movies of that era like scratched film, abrupt jumps, apparently some missing reels and stretches with loss of color. Right from the opening credits(including the studio logos and the rating announcement), the movie takes us back to the 60s and 70s and the soundtrack is filled with songs from those times.

The movie is essentially two long conversation pieces, each of which is followed by some hi-voltage action. So we get 4 women talking about whatever’s on their mind (mostly sex and guys) followed by Kurt Russell, a stuntman, harassing them. Then we get 4 new women talking about whatever’s on their mind (mostly sex and guys) followed by Kurt Russell, a stuntman, harassing them. But the second quartet of women is not ready to take things lying down and decide to pay him back.

I could watch Pulp Fiction several times just for its scripts. The conversations between Travolta and Jackson, Travolta and Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel and Travolta and Jackson are all legendary and consisted of one delicious line after another. The conversations between the women here don’t come close to the same level. There’s a lot of profanity but just using four-letter words and talking openly doesn’t make a conversation interesting. The talk among the second set of women has a few nice chunks(like what follows after one of them reveals she carries a gun) but not enough to make their entire conversation engaging or memorable.

The action sequences almost act like payoffs for these long, slow talks. The first one is violent and visceral and shakes us up. It is short but shocking, especially since we have no idea what's coming at that point. The second one has less violence but is superbly choreographed with Zoe, a real-life stuntwoman(she is one in the film too), showing a lot of spunk. The lack of CGI shows and makes the proceedings quite suspenseful but the more crowd-pleasing aspect of the climax feels a bit short.

A question for anybody who has seen the film: The movie appears to be set in the 70s, which matches the time period of the Grindhouse movies. But there are some anachronistic elements like a modern cell phone, text messaging, a reference to Angelina Jolie and Gone in 60 Seconds, etc. Are these bloopers specifically inserted to point out that the movies of this genre didn’t care about things like that? Or am I wrong about the movie being set in the 70s?

5 Comments:

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Word of Caution, Mr B... for all of Tarantino's movies leave logic, intelligence, morals, politics and all things decent, at the door before you step in. As you have rightly pointed out, it is an experience... for the senses... without any senses! Add Rodriguez -his other demented half - to the this list too.

 
At 3:55 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

...

Did anyone in the 'Bay Area' see Evano Oruvan?

 
At 11:56 PM, Blogger KayKay said...

Anon, To appreciate Quentin Tarantino (QT) is to know he doesn't make movies so much as pay homages to the flicks that captured his imagination while working as a video store clerk many years ago. If Reservoir Dogs & Pulp Fiction were referencing blacksploitation and Kill Bill a tribute to Kung Fu, Yakuza and Spaghetti Westerns, then his and Robert Rodriguez'(RR) Grindhouse is a nod to low budget exploitation flicks of the '70s.

"for all of Tarantino's movies leave logic, intelligence, morals, politics and all things decent,"

Unlike Tamil movies, you mean???

BB, the jarring note of cell phones in a supposedly '70s looking flick must be accepted, like all other things, as part of the terminally skewed, chronologically challenged "Tarantinoverse" that's part and parcel of all of QT's flick.

Think, if you will, of the sherrif who appears at the half way point, Earl McGraw. This was the same character who appeared in Kill Bill after the church massacre and the same one who had his brains blown out in "From Dusk Till Dawn". So, which events in which movie happened first?

Anyway, as you may well have guessed, you're reading a die hard QT fan here. So thanks for including a review of his movie in your blog. Have you seen its companion piece, RR's "Planet Terror"? Far more action packed, way more silly and grotesquely more violent. Looking forward to your review of that.

 
At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KayKay, have you been in the US and seen Grindhouse movies of the 70s? If not stop your fake BS about QT. We all know that whatever you know about QT is probably googled off the net, including Grindhouse movies. You were not there in the 70s and obviously the nostalgia factor is not there. So stop your fake defense.

"the jarring note of cell phones in a supposedly '70s looking flick must be accepted, like all other things, as part of the terminally skewed, chronologically challenged "Tarantinoverse" that's part and parcel of all of QT's flick."

In other words, COPOUT.

Stop dissing on Tamil movies to show off that you are somehow a fan of superior cinema. We can see through your fake veneer.

 
At 7:16 AM, Blogger KayKay said...

Anon (sigh! Call yourself something, anything except Anonymous which represents a lack of testicles), my defense of QT is about as genuine as a fan's and an actual experience of Grindhouse flicks may enhance but certainly doesn't detract from the enjoyment of homages made in their spirit.

Try doing a bit of research on a movie's genesis (yeah, Googling does work!) and see if it doesn't enhance your experience and appreciation of it. I'm QT's fan and that's my right. Hate him,that's your right.But don't make half assed comments about QT's movies lacking logic and intelligence while defending another Film industry that thinks it's cool to pair geriatrics with college girls, mistakes stalking with persistence and still reckons slapping women is an acceptable form of asserting one's manhood.

But then again, you'd be first in line for the next Vijay flick, so why am I talking to you?

And like I said, grow balls and use a name.

 

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