Dan Friedman
No Pulp, p.2

At the heart of Pulp Fiction is the mysterious shining suitcase, the search for which begins and ends the film. Although we never know what is in it, we know that it is able to motivate the actions of the characters (and, subsequently, the speculations of a myriad of internet film buffs). Whether it symbolizes the love of money that is the root of all evil, the desire that causes Buddhist suffering, or is just a marker for the radically unknowable barely matters; what matters is that it cannot be reduced. It is the centre of a film whose characters constantly question their relation to it and to one another and whose questions are unanswered.

In contrast, Kill Bill has at its heart a cold steel desire for revenge. In contrast to the polysemous, ambiguous, and never-explained suitcase, which itself stands as one of a number of incentives the revenge motive is explicit, monomaniacal and all-consuming. Not only Thurman's character but the film itself has internalized the cultish bushido mantra of single-minded revenge sounded out by the maker of Thurman's samurai blade: nothing else matters. There is a dull totalitarian certainty to the film even in its most spectacularly gory sequences or in its scintillating appropriation of directions, forms, and styles.

As David Denby noted in The New Yorker, the net effect of the excessive violence and the singlemindedness of the plot is to deaden the emotions of the viewer. There is simultaneously so much (violence) and so little (plot, character). Denby stopped there, ending his brie freview by saying that he walked out "feeling nothing" I want to take up where he left off because if we stay with Kill Bill and examine its cinematic language, we realize that, as with modern literature, modern cinema is not solely interested in sentimental entertainment. Deprived of all depth, the film luxuriates in surface: visual beauty, virtuoso direction and outrageous violence.

The film opens with the deeply erotic panting of a woman who we quickly find is not gasping from the out-of-body sensation of sexual ecstasy, but with the desperate attempt to prevent her last breath from escaping her beaten body. The shot stays with the heinously bruised Thurman right until the final bullet. As this opening black and white sequence draws to a close she is indeed shot just after she reveals that the child she is bearing belongs to Bill, the man at the other end of the gun. This sets the tone for the film, which follows scrupulously observed and located individual violence with sumptuously orchestrated and lit group violence. In an implicit use of the well-worn observation that both guns and cameras shoot, the cold-bloodedly erotic shooting of the film follows the return trajectory of Thurman's bullet as it heads towards Bill and revenge.

[1]       2       [3]       [4]       [next->]
Image: Miramax Films

November 2003

Niles Goldstein

France and Antisemitism
Michael Shurkin

Jay Michaelson

No Pulp
Dan Friedman

Raphael Cohen

Koby Israelite
Matthue Roth

Josh's Jewish Reminders
Josh Ring

Our 390 Back Pages

David Stromberg

Zeek in Print
Fall issue now on sale

About Zeek


Contact Us



From previous issues:

Eye Candy
Michael Shurkin

The Aesthetics of Power
Michael Shurkin

What is Charlie Kaufman Doing?
Dan Friedman