Thursday, April 09, 2009

Other-worldly radiant and a force to be reckoned with

I recently saw Kill Bill 2 for the third time. There are very few movies I have seen or would see that many times. I love this film. I love what Tarantino does with characters. He gives them time to etch themselves slowly on the screen, filling in between the lines and bringing themselves to life. I love the archetypal journey of a woman, a hero, a fighter and conquistador who is courageous and fierce.

I'm with a male friend. We're at the scene where Uma has been buried alive in a nailed shut coffin. [...] And out she comes. Pounding, swinging and clawing her way through this mess. She's covered in dirt and blood and sweat and she's looks better than I've ever seen her.

"She's beautiful," I say. He looks at me quizzically. "Uma."

"I've always thought Uma Thurman was beautiful," he says.

"Hmm. Sort of. But she's gorgeous now. Her hair is matted, there's @#$% all over her, she's bleeding and she's a ... mess. But she's more self-possessed than I've ever seen her. She's far more beautiful than when she's in her perfect dresses, dolled up or playing stupid hookers."(Smart hookers are fine.)

I remember reading an interview with Uma after the making of Kill Bill. She was talking about how Tarantino claimed to love her. "What kind of love is this?" she said. "He's constantly covering me in @#$% and dirt... This is love?" I think Tarantino knew exactly what he was doing. You take a born-pretty girl and you dress her up in pretty things, curl her pretty hair and she becomes empty. Vacuous. The only thing she can claim as a self identity is her one dimensional beauty. But take a pretty girl and throw some @#$% on her, and make her fight her way out of it and she'll grow to be other-worldly radiant and a force to be reckoned with.

If you watch this scene, and it is a great scene - a director at the top of his game - notice, first and last: Robert Rodriguez' score. Rodriguez wrote the score and gave it to Tarantino for free. Rodriguez based the score on music from epic gunfight westerns, with some Asian and Mexican influence thrown in.

Next, if you are a man, notice you are inevitably stirred by the entirety of the circumstances: the intimacy - we are in the coffin with Uma; woman in peril; woman in bondage; Uma; Uma flat on her back (except for your wife, or except for sunbathing, how often do you ever actually see a woman laid out flat on her back?); woman wriggling out of her boots; sexy boots - well broken in; woman moving slowly - any slow movement is sexy; audible breath of effort - any passionate breathing is sexy; tough as nails woman about to fight to the bitter end - now THAT is sexy. Notice the overt use of the flashlight as phallic symbol. Notice her abdomen is uncovered, and we get teasing glimpses. "C'mon ... you ... bitch". Uma is focused. Grimacing in concentration. Grunting. Seeking release. And the music swells louder. She is released, and she sincerely kisses the razor which helped her get there.

Notice Uma has discarded her nice boots, yet now keeps her razor. A warrior has her priorities.

She says "Okay Pai Mei, here I come." Pai Mei taught her to generate explosion via extremely short thrust. Now, Uma shifts focus; serious grunting begins. The action gets somewhat unpredictable: instinctive, spur of the moment. Faster.  Uma goes for it.

Uma's codename is "Black Mamba". When she now comes up through the dirt, she undulates. Listen very closely: she makes a couple of light and natural grunts of effort.

She gets there. She grasps and clenches at handfuls of ... something ... anything.

And she collapses beside the grave, spent by her effort, gasping for breath.


Look at the camera position for the extreme close-up between :30 and :32. What is our perspective? What does Uma do during the 2 seconds we are viewing from this perspective? We again view from this perspective at 2:05, 2:16, 2:20. Consider Uma's reactions during each of these close-ups.

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