Monday, November 03, 2003

Kill BillSo I saw the new "Kill Bill" movie this weekend in Fukuoka. (Which is just recently opened in Japan). Because it is an hour drive to the nearest movie theater, and because movies are so expensive in Japan, I very rarely go through the trouble of seeing anything in the theaters. In fact, I can count on my hands the number of times I've gone to the theaters in the 2 plus years I've been in Japan now.
But I thought I had to see this movie, as a long time Quentin Tarantino fan, I felt I had to......
No that's a lie. The truth is I'm more of a band wagon fan. I started getting into his stuff in high school, when everyone thought he was the coolest thing ever. And my favorite film of his is "Jackie Brown", which all the "real" Tarantino fans aren't so hot on.
But I admit his films are pretty clever. And since a lot of "Kill Bill" took place in Japan, I was curious to see how this was done.
Japanese people, like people all over the world, are in love with Hollywood and American movies. And at times can get pretty excited when their own country is referenced in an American movie.
I myself have taken a new interest in "Japan as it is depicted in American movies" since I arrived here. All those references to Japan which used to go in one ear and out the other suddenly make me sit up and take notice. And unfortunately, I've noticed that the way Japanese, and Asians in general, are portrayed in Hollywood is often in either a villain role, or stereo typical role (Japanese tourist with camera, etc). So I've got a new issue to whine about now, but perhaps I'll save my rantings for another post.
Anyway, I was really expecting a lot of hype in Japan about the new "Kill Bill" movie, since it does deal a lot with Japan. And to be fair the movie is doing pretty well in Japan. All my Japanese friends of around the same age have either seen it already or want to see it. (As with in America, Tarantino's ultra-violent style doesn't appeal to the older people so much). And the theater I went to was certainly filled to capacity.
But again, given the love affair with hollywood in Japan, I was expecting more excitement about how prominently Japan is featured in a big blockbuster American movie. For instance, I mentioned the movie to a teacher at my school, who saw it on my recommendation. Now at the time I recommended it to her, I hadn't seen it yet. I just said it had already been out in America for a few weeks, and most of my friends seemed to really like it. She said she watched most of the movie with her hands over her face because of all the blood and killing, and I apologized for recommending it to her, but tried to talk about the Japanese connection. Wasn't a lot of the movie filmed in Tokyo? Wasn't a lot of the dialogue in Japanese? Weren't famous Japanese actors featured in the movie? And she just shrugged most of these off, which is typical of most of my conversations about this movie.
Another example: after leaving the theater, I was talking to the Japanese girl I had seen the movie with. Isn't it interesting how much Japanese language was in that American movie? And again, she just kind of shrugged it off as well.
Of course this was after I had seen the movie, so I can understand a little better at this point. It is yet another movie in which the Japanese are portrayed as villains. And rather clumsy buffoonish villains at that, given how easily Uma Therman slices through them.
Now, lest anyone think I'm getting a little overly sensitive in my old age, I do acknowledge that the movie is a satire. The unrealistic fight scenes in which Uma Therman slices through a whole army of Japanese Yakuza, and the ridiculous amounts of blood, are a satire on this genre movie. As well as a satire on how Japanese people are usually depicted in hollywood, everything from the Kato masks to the green hornet music is a satire.
I'm just saying that if there was a Japanese movie, with a Japanese protagonist slicing through as many Americans as easily, and a Japanese friend said to me, "Isn't it great that our movies are taking such an interest in your culture? Look, there was even some English and some American actors in that movie." I probably would have told him to go blow it out his ear.
But about the movie in general: A little too violent for my tastes. Although if I think about it, Tarantino's movies have always been pretty violent, huh? I mean that scene in "Reservoir Dogs" when the cop gets his ear cut off and is then doused with gasoline...that wasn't really easy to watch either, was it? But there was enough other clever stuff in that movie to make me overlook it, and to want to not only watch the movie, but re-watch it as well.
I thought in "Kill Bill" a lot of the cleverness was gone, and just the violence was left, but if you want to disagree with me, send me an e-mail (or comment below).
Of course with any Tarantino movie, half the fun is always the sound track. And in this case, Tarantino's choice of having Mexican sounding music in a lot of the scenes involving Japan seemed vaguely fitting to me. A lot of people might not think so, but it makes me think that Tarantino might have had a similar experience to mine: He was in Japan for an extended period of time, and then all of his friends joined a Salsa band, and he had to listen to them practice every damn night of the week, and for ever after Japan and Salsa music were fused together in his mind.
Oh, also I assume in the American theaters all the Japanese was subtitled. In the Japanese theaters the English was subtitled, but all the Japanese dialogue was left unsubtitled. So it was a bit of a struggle, but I'm fairly pleased with how much I was able to catch (if I can be allowed a moment of patting myself on the back).

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