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stephen_speicher

Movies: Kill Bill

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I agree with RadCap that novelty (particularly with regard to style) is a very poor standard of artistic greatness.  Something new is only good if it is good by other, objective, standards--its newness by itself is not enough.

I do not think anyone here has suggested that novelty is the standard of artistic greatness, nor has anyone suggested that novelty is good in and by itself. Note that, in regard to film, Ayn Rand herself suggested a novelty as a valuable approach for the prospect of a film version of her story Red Pawn. Miss Rand wanted the plot in the film to reach all men, from "the dullest to the most intelligent." With that purpose in mind she invented (explicitly) a novel approach.

"The novelty of what I propose to do—and I believe it is a novelty, for I have never seen it done deliberately—consists in the following: in building the plot of a story in such a manner that it possesses tiers or layers of depth, so that each type of audience can understand and enjoy only as much of it as it wants to understand and enjoy, in other words so that each man can get out of it only as much as he can put into it." [Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 7]

Note also that Ayn Rand has proudly referred to Atlas Shrugged as a "stunt novel," for more reasons than just plot.

But for another, art is not a matter only of style or form, but an integration of form and content.  The most technically brilliant film in the history of the craft would be worthless if its content were utterly empty.

Again, I do not think anyone has said otherwise. Content is one reason why I think that, though Sophia Coppola demonstrated brilliant directing ability in Lost In Translation, I much prefer Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

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There is WAY too much to tackle in the above posts, so I will have to limit my post to a few key statements. Lack of comment on any other ideas neither indicates agreement nor lack of interest in them.

--

"remember her discussion of characterization, where she compares two different versions of the early scene in the The Fountainhead in which Keating asks Roark for career advice? That's an example of AR's innovation in style."

Difference in style is not innovation in style.

--

" You may well be right to grant techological achievement and advancement in filmmaking, to be an artistic statement on its own. Or, at least, to underscore the importance of techological advances applied to the art of making films."

I may agree with the second sentence. I do not agree with the first. Since the story is what makes film "art", the technological advances do not stand on their own, any more than photography stands on its own. At least not AS art. (And, though I don't think you were suggesting otherwise, a work of architectural art is not less than art because a technology did not exist when it was created. For instance, great works of architecture are not diminished because we can now make buildings with steel instead of stone.)

The reason I agree with the general idea expressed in the second is simply because advances in technology make it possible for the artist to be MORE selective in his recreation of reality. Way before digital technology was mainstream, I knew it would revolutionize filmmaking as an art because it will allow the director full control of the entire 'canvas'. Absolutely nothing need be left to 'chance'. The director need not even be limited by the physics of a soundstage or a location. And he won't be limited to the physics, emotions, or understanding of a work by an actor.

Once digital flimmaking progresses further, to the point that all elements can be made to look as if they were photographed (and that point WILL be reached), the director will be limited ONLY by his imagination.

However, such technical innovations do not make great art (one need only look at a "Charlie's Angels" film to understand this). It is what the director chooses to do with those innovation which make them art - OR dreck. Ultimately it depends on how he integrates those technical innovations into a style which is in turn integrated with the story he seeks to tell.

--

"The incorrect assuption is that Ayn Rand did not innovate in the technical aspects of writing.

This is simply untrue - Ayn Rand invented, developed and created many stylistic and dramatic mechanisms."

That was not the point I was trying to make. You were saying that making new types of cranes and the like to be able to show something which couldnt be seen before in that way, were what made the directors you referenced great. In my attempt to show that it is not technology that makes art, I tried to demonstrate that AR did not create any NEW technology when she wrote AS (or her other works).

She formed sentences following the existing standards. She used verbs to identify the actions of the nouns etc.. She used paragraphs to separate thoughts, ideas, etc. She used Chapters and sections. She had protagonists. She had villians. etc etc etc. In other words, she did not 'invent' anything new when it came to the technical side of the novel.

That she used all these things to describe new situations, and used them to ends different than those who came before her is not *technical* innovation.

As Stephen points out, she DID innovate. However, I would identify those innovations as STRUCTURAL and stylistic, not technical. She took the existing technology and used it in a unique way. The same could be said of Howard Roark. He did not invent steel or elevators or cranes, etc. He took the existing technology and used it in a unique way to create unique buildings.

Of course, as has been stated, such uniqueness does not make that use "art" let alone great art.

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Radcap, I think we are all saying quite similar things about film, but from varying perspectives and with different emphasis. Here is another quote from Ayn Rand which may be of interest.

"D. W. Griffith was a great pioneer of film technique. Lillian Gish came to regard him as a master of the film art, as a genius martyred by his time....The first — The Birth of a Nation — was a sensational turning point in motion-picture history. Released in 1915, it introduced so many technical innovations that the industry fed on copying them for years. It was the first full-length film that told a sustained, dramatic story on a large scale. It was the first film to use big crowds in skillfully staged battle scenes. It was the first to introduce a moving camera. It was the first to make extensive use of close-ups—against the objections of the company bosses. (When Griffith first used close-ups some years earlier, the front office objected: 'We pay for the whole actor, Mr. Griffith. We want to see all of him.' )" [The Objectivist, "Books—Lillian Gish: The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me," November 1969.]

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Many people don't realize it - but Steven Spielberg is an amazing director. He constantly comes up with new shots, new ways to establish the tone, emotion, and meaning of a scene.

Guess what film Spielberg himself admires?

From Betsy Speicher's CyberNet

In the April 1999 issue if In Style , STEPHEN SPIELBERG recommends "The Fountainhead" as THE video to watch.  "That film will never go out of style. Gary Cooper is magnificent. I've seen it about ten times. It taught me to follow through on an ideal all the way."

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What I am asking is how best to weigh the various elements of a movie (or any artwork for that matter) to be the most objective.

You weigh them on different scales using a standard appropriate to the different aspects you are measuring and relating them to what is actually in the work of art.

For example:

Personal reactions: What do I feel about this film? What is it in the film that makes me feel this way? Why?

Philosophical evaluation: What are the explicit and implicit philosophical premises of the film? (Sometimes the implicit and explicit premises conflict with each other.) Are the premises true or false?

Esthetic appraisal: How well does the filmmaker use the means available to him? Do his choices serve his purpose well?

====

If you do this, you should come up with three separate evaluations. It is perfectly fine, and often quite accurate, to say: It's a great (esthetically) film, espressing loathesome values, and I hated it!

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I saw the uncut full color Region two (Japanese) release of Kill Bill. It swaps the black and white crazy 88 scene with a full color version. The anime sequence is also longer and there are different camera angles.

Anyone else see the movie as it was originally intended?

I just got back from the theaters after watching KB2 and it just didn't have the same impact as the first one.

I loved how in the first one the technical brilliance of Oren, Gogo, etc were demonstrated.

The fighting wasn't impressive at all in the second one.

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  I saw the uncut full color Region two (Japanese) release of Kill Bill. It swaps the black and white crazy 88 scene with a full color version.

The change is yet another homage to the old kung fu flicks. One of them features a large-scale fight sequence that is quite gory. In the original asian version, it is in color; for U.S. release, it was put in black and white. Does this guy know film history or what? :-)

I'm hoping after KBv2 reaches DVD, an Extra-Special Ultra-Super-Cool Unrated Collectors Limited Edition (Deluxe Version) comes out with all the trimmings, such as this extended anime seuqnce, more behind-the-scenes / making-of info, and a fight sequence (in which Bill goes on a mission) that was cut entirely.

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I'm hoping after KBv2 reaches DVD, an Extra-Special Ultra-Super-Cool Unrated Collectors Limited Edition (Deluxe Version) comes out with all the trimmings, such as this extended anime seuqnce, more behind-the-scenes / making-of info, and a fight sequence (in which Bill goes on a mission) that was cut entirely.

Be still my beating heart.

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"I think we are all saying quite similar things about film, but from varying perspectives and with different emphasis."

I think I can agree with this statement. ;)

I will say though (probably in closing) that, while KBv1 shows very good technical mastery of photographic and editing techniques, because there is no real story, I cannot consider it a great work of art, nor can I call QT a great director (because a director needs to be more than just a good photographer or editor).

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If you do this, you should come up with three separate evaluations.  It is perfectly fine, and often quite accurate, to say:  It's a great (esthetically) film, espressing loathesome values, and I hated it!

Thank you Betsy. That's what I have been thinking. When someone gives a movie reccomendation it really is useless unless the person indicates what he liked and why he liked it. Just giving a list of films with no explanation contributes little. I will remember your rational criteria the next time I either ask for of give a reccomendation for a film.

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Incidentally -- and, this is unconnected to the above, but was triggered by the thought of epistemology in film -- I'm curious what you think about Christopher Nolan's Memento? I think of that film as a rare explicit visual presentation of epistemology.

I'm curious what you have to say about Momento Stephen. In his Omnibus movie review of 2002, Robert Tracinski was critical of it. He argued that there was ambiguity concerning the actual history of the lead's wife; ie whether she was alive or killed by the lead character. He also criticized the film for the moral ambiguity of the lead character (I forget his name). With regard to the film's epistemological approach, he argued that the film showed man as not being able to arrive at knowledge.

I would have to think more about Tracinsky's epistemological comments but I do agree with him about the moral status of the lead character. I lost respect for him after witnessing the final (or beginning actually) scene. He became an anti-hero in my eyes. This dampened the whole movie for me.

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I'm curious what you have to say about Momento Stephen. In his Omnibus movie review of 2002, Robert Tracinski was critical of it.

First, let me say that, even though the name be the same, many times Objectivists feel they have seen a different film from the one reported by others. Years ago we had an interesting discussion speculating on why there is so much disagreement about films amongst Objectivists.

Second, Betsy identified different levels on which one may judge a film, and in previous posts some of that criteria was alluded to. People should be clear in their own minds as to the reasons they like or dislike a film, lest their judgments be misunderstood.

Anyway, here is what I wrote when the film first came out. There were a few public replies as I recall, but not many. However, I must say I was surprised to receive a huge number of private responses, mostly from those who wanted to echo what I said. Here is what I wrote:

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have been hesitant to mention this film because I suspect that

many here may not 'get it', or just not like it. However, I

decided that _Memento_ is such an unusual and noteworthy movie

that I should bring it to the attention of those who might enjoy

it as much as have I.

This is definitely _not_ a sense of life sort of recommendation,

but rather one which is based on the unusual status of being an

epistemological type film. Specifically, the film dramatizes and

concretizes the epistemological importance of having a context

for knowledge, and it does so in a highly unusual manner.

Without giving much away, the main character seeks vengeance for

the rape and murder of his wife, but he is hindered by the fact

that the only memories he retains are those up to the time of the

murder of his wife. The trauma he received has caused him to

lose the ability for short-term memories -- he literally cannot

hold onto memories from extended moments to moments. He then

devises a means by which he can transfer valid conclusions he

reached and facts he discovered at one period of time, to the

next. The process by which he does this, and the manner by which

he is portrayed, is simply fascinating on an epistemological

level.

One other unique aspect of the film is that the story is told in

reverse. I don't mean literally reverse action, but rather the

film starts with the final segment and continues on backwards

through previous segments to arrive at the events at which the

story logically begins. Ordinarily I would consider such a

technique to be a gimmick, but it makes perfect sense in the

context of this film.

Also, the film requires a continually active mind; slip away from

what is going on and you may lose the sense of the film. I have

never experienced a movie where such continual mental

participation is so required.

Again, let me stress that this is _not_ a good sense of life

film. But, for those who may have enjoyed films such as _The

Usual Suspects_ or _The Spanish Prisoner_ (a favorite of the late

great Charles Sures), then you may find _Memento_ a fascinating

experience. The overall plot is at times difficult to follow, but

in my opinion it is brilliant in conception.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Thank you Stephen. I agree with your assessment of Momento. I too felt it was an intellectual challenge and therefore a rewarding experience. And I also did not have an affinity for it on the sense-of-life level.

I'd be inerested in your speculation why the vast divergence of opinion when it comes to movies among Objectivists; should you wish to discuss it.

I intend to watch Kill Bill on your reccomendation and from your articulate discussion of its artistic merrits. However, its never available at the video store when I go. :P

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"However - it is important to note that the director's job does not classically include writing the story."

[This was the first line of a beutifully written post that was mistakenly erased by RadCap in the process of trying to refute it. Accident? I don't think so! This is a conspiracy to shut me up! They're all in on it! They are trying to take over the...!]

--

Edited by: Admin. The above has been Santized for your Protection by the Forum Minister of Truth.

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Until I saw Vol. 1 I knew virtually nothing about Tarantino. I watched the "Making of ..." on the DVD, and sought out interviews with him about this film, and it is now perfectly clear that every aspect of that film was consciously chosen, completely puposeful. He himself is very single-minded about film -- film is his life -- and his awareness of the art and craft of filmmaking is simply astounding.

Well, I guess I'll have to see Kill Bill vol. 1. I was under the impression that his movies were totally irrational, but this one at least appears not to be that way. I would like to know where to find some of the interviews with Tarantino, other than the "making of" that comes with the DVD. I did read the interview with David Carradine that someone linked to, which was interesting.

I'd just like to add that one of my favorite Westerns, Only the Valiant, is a favorite because it is completely purposeful, with every scene, every line of dialogue contributing to the advancement of the plot. And what's more, it has an excellent theme.

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For those of you who may have wondered if erandor had a split personality for a moment there, rest assured - he is completely fine. *I'm* the one with the mental problem.

Last night I pressed the Edit button instead of the Quote button, which annoyingly enough are right next to each other. Thus I accidentally overwrote Eran's post - and in the proces made my words seem like his. Rest assured, they are not. The situation has been rectified however, and now my words are exactly where they belong - in my mouth.

I apologize for any confusion this may have caused - especially to Eran.

Signed - The Forum Minister of Truth

==

"However - it is important to note that the director's job does not classically include writing the story."

True. However, whether a director chooses to write a story himself, or instead choses the work of another, that choice does not have a bearing on whether the art he produces is great or not (though one can argue that it does make the director greater if he has both written AND directed a great film).

The point of my statement was that the essential lack of story deprived the film of what makes it art - and deprived the director of the ability to integrate his photography and other technical skills with what makes them art. THAT definitely affected my assesment of him AS a director, and is why I identified QT as a "pretentious photographer" (as AR identified the type).

--

Speaking of stories - and specifically the reference made earlier to Red Pawn - I have read the plot summary of that early work of hers (probably like most here). If I recall correctly, the preface to that summary made mention of a script which had been derived from it. Has anyone read the actual script? Is it available somewhere, somehow? I would be very interested in studying it. Not only to see what Ms. Rand actually wanted to show on the screen, but to see a concrete example of how she handled the transition from summary to script (and in a piece which was NOT condensed from a longer work - a la The Fountainhead).

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  I would like to know where to find some of the interviews with Tarantino, other than the "making of" that comes with the DVD. 

My wife just handed me the April 29 issue of Rolling Stone which has an interview with Tarantino and Uma Thurman. The most interesting interview, to me, was the 4/25/ interview on Dateline NBC, which I recorded directly on my computer. However, it is 438 Mb, so it might be a bit much to send. There are loads of other interviews all over the magazines. A search on google.com for "quentin tarantino interview" turns up a bunch.

I'd just like to add that one of my favorite Westerns, Only the Valiant, is a favorite because it is completely purposeful, with every scene, every line of dialogue contributing to the advancement of the plot.  And what's more, it has an excellent theme.

I remember seeing that when I was a little kid. Gregory Peck. Thanks for mentioning it. I'll look for that film and see what I think of it now that I am a grown-up. :angry:

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Speaking of stories - and specifically the reference made earlier to Red Pawn - I have read the plot summary of that early work of hers (probably like most here). If I recall correctly, the preface to that summary made mention of a script which had been derived from it. Has anyone read the actual script? Is it available somewhere, somehow? I would be very interested in studying it.

About five years ago I put ARI in touch with Greg Goldwyn at the Samuel Goldwyn Company. At that time they had serious plans for bringing the story to film, and I believe they had the original Paramount script.

I never heard anything further about it, though. You might just contact the Samuel Goldwyn Company at 310-552-2255, assuming they are still around and have the same number. If you have difficulty reaching Greg Goldwyn, try Julie if she still works there.

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... the April 29 issue of Rolling Stone which has an interview with Tarantino and Uma Thurman.

Oops. I never before read Rolling Stone and now, having looked at the first few pages of the "interview," I regret mentioning it. Though I was able to discern a few comments of interest, wading through the bizarre style, perspective, and content is not worth the effort. Sorry.

Now, the cover picture of Tarantino and Thurman ... that's a different story. :P

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I found a transcript of that interview here: From Video Clerk to Box Office Icon I was expecting something a little longer, but it is interesting anyway.

Thanks for this URL.

If you compare the video to the transcript you will find a less than a scholarly transcribing of what was said. I am constantly dismayed by the carelessness and apparent lack of concern for accurately reproducing what has occurred. A scholar in any field will always devote full attention to properly transcribing and documenting quotes from others. Whoever did this transcription at MSNBC displays little respect for the facts of reality.

I do not mean to imply that they significantly changed, purposefully or otherwise, the meaning or intention in the video. It is that they treated actual words spoken casually enough to leave out some and replace some with others, yet leaving the impression that this was an accurate transcript of the words in the video. Shameful.

Regardless, having an online source for the video is nice. Thanks for providing that.

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I would like to opine about the film Kill Bill, the namesake of this thread, even though the discussion has gone off topic somewhat. This is the most immoral film I have seen since Tarantino's last abortion of morality, Pulp Fiction. The sense of life need not be mentioned - it repulses me, and any lover of reality. Endless bloodshed, evil people killing evil people - what is there for an objectivist to love here? What does it say about values and morals? And how is it Romantic?

The concept of "revenge" is only properly used by moral people or nations, such as America is justified in using the concept of revenge against Osama Bin Laden or others of his ilk. Because all of the characters in Kill Bill are depraved violaters of individual rights, none has the right to self-defense or revenge. They all deserve to be brought to justice. The film's premise - that Uma Thurman's "revenge" is morally justified despite her evil occupation as an assassin - is erroneous.

Another problem with the film is its disgusting conflation of violence and values. Violence is seen as an end in itself by Tarantino, a form of entertainment and even humor. This is bizarre and unacceptable. Violence is only properly used IN DEFENSE of values, not as a value in itself.

I think these problems show the philosophical and moral bankrupcy of Tarantino and his work. I also think they negate any other virtues the film might have - philosophy is ultimately the most important aspect, followed by sense of life, followed by story - all three are sorely weak in this film, and I cannot help but think that Tarantino must hate life to make such malevolent films.

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