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Short review – thinking about it, this is really a film that deserves to be seen fresh. I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely sold on it leaving the cinema, but I’ve warmed to it since then. I find I can’t really talk about it without throwing out spoilers, which is a shame, because there’s a lot of meat to this film. It’s not as coherent as I’d have liked, but Tarantino’s throwing out a lot of ideas here. Not his best film, but one of his most interesting. Christoph Waltz is especially good as the main villain, and it’s worth checking out just for his performance.

Spoilers for the Nazi killin' buisness )

Death Proof

Nov. 5th, 2007 09:36 pm
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I’m thinking there’s a lot of people who came out of the cinema wondering why Tarantino’s new movie was so shoddily edited and done on such cheap film.

See, I can understand that Grindhouse didn’t do too well in the States. I can understand that cinemas were unwilling to show a longer-than-average film that really didn’t have mainstream appeal, especially when Tarantino’s contribution is a full length movie on its own. But you need to say that the film you’re showing was originally part two of a double feature; that its entire artistic goal is to recreate the b-movie experience – because otherwise you’re confusing the hell out of an audience expecting a regular action movie.

Fortunately, I was aware of Death Proof’s history, so I enjoyed the hell out of it! Tarantino’s managed to perfectly recreate the b-movie aesthetic without falling into parody. Oddly, the film isn’t set in the seventies – characters have mobile phones, text message each other. It jarred me somewhat the first time, but I think on the whole it works quite nicely. This isn’t meant to be a classic b-movie – it’s a brand new b-movie, an artefact from a parallel world where grindhouses are still profitable.

The b-movie and Tarantino go together perfectly – and not just because of his clear affection for the genre. One of the things that really weakens most real b-movies is how slow paced they are. Partially, this is because seventies movies tend to be rather slow paced anyway – but also, there’s the fact that a b-movie producer can’t afford to fill the film with non-stop action, so there’s plenty of often quite dull filler. If you want to create a b-movie that feels like a b-movie, you have to make it feel like it’s been padded out, but nobody wants to watch padding. Solution? Death Proof fills out the film with long conversations that don’t really go anywhere – it’s still padding, but hey! It’s Tarantino dialogue! (Personal favourite – the bit about how you never call a New Zealander an Aussie. The shocked silence is perfect!)

I also liked the shoe-string budget feel the plot has. I can see some exploitation film-maker getting hold of a stunt car left over from another production and having a flash of insight – why not make a movie about a movie prop?! Brilliant!

Hopefully Death Proof will do well enough that an international release of Grindhouse will happen – though I doubt it will. Perhaps if the advertising had made even the slightest effort to explain the idea behind the movie – that it’s a twenty-first century b-movie – it would have a chance, but right now it’s going to confuse more people than it entertains. A shame, really. As I said, I loved the hell out of it.

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David Newgreen

June 2017

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