It’s no surprise, considering the name of this blog, that I am a huge Quentin Tarantino fan. Honestly, my obsession with Tarantino movies is no joke and as I get older (and weirder) my admiration for his outlandish cinematography continues to grow on a near psychotic level. My baptism into the world of Red Apple cigarettes and Big Kahuna Burger’s, came with my first viewing of the iconic 1993 feature ‘Reservoir Dogs’. Premiering just a year after I was born, (crikey) ‘Reservoir Dogs’ has tirelessly survived the test of time, as a strong and dynamic example of independent film-making, rooted by intelligent references to hard-boiled fiction and classic American cinema.
Despite Tarantino’s definitive style, in recent times I have become more concerned with the way in which his cinematic contributions are incited by a tenacious appetite to push boundaries and challenge the representation of commercially proscribed themes in film. I still regard ‘Reservoir Dogs’ as an intangible model of contemporary film-making which manifests his astute ability to draw on classic and cult influences, but in his most recent work, his films have been revised with a focus on packing the brazen screenplays with memorable scenes, which pay testimony to social and historical taboos – and it’s just this stylistic approach, which allows us to look upon Quentin Tarantino as an advocate in the movement of modern film, as well as an auteur.
Tim Roth, Reservoir Dogs (1993) A first love.
Whenever I talk about Tarantino, I have to restrain myself from spiralling into a tirade of fangirl nonsense, so as part of this series, which explores influential female characters in film, I’m going to try and stick to the brief! Wish me luck.
So, how do you even begin to break down the most iconic women in Quentin Tarantino films? Over eight, feature length movies he has gifted us with a full ensemble of bad-ass, beautiful and bright women, including the foxy, chain-smoking siren, Jackie Brown, the adorably naïve and afraid Fabienne (Pulp Fiction, 1994), the charming and vengeful Shoshanna (Inglorious Basterds, 2012) and the brilliantly gruesome Daisy Domergue (Hateful Eight, 2016). As a writer and a film-maker, he has an incredible knack of constructing characters which are perfectly unbalanced and totally fascinating. He takes influence from cinemas most saturated stereo-types and revises them with exceptional style. Now, although I have a place in my heart for every Tarantino character, (shout out to Max Cherry!) I felt it was only right that I explored, who I feel to be the most influential female film character in a Tarantino film, The Bride.
Pai Mai (Chia-Hui Liu) and The Bride (Uma Thurman) - Kill Bill Vol1. & Kill Bill Vol.2
The Bride aka Beatrix Kiddo was introduced to audiences in Tarantino’s striking ‘east meets west’ martial arts flick Kill Bill. When the final cut exceeded four hours, the movie was eventually split into a double bill and released consecutively with Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003) and Kill Bill Vol.2 (2004). Now, on the surface Kill Bill exceeds every expectation of a high-impact, martial arts movie with a plot that charters a female assassins’ bloody revenge against the ‘Deadly Viper Assassination Squad’. It’s gory, exciting and at times, fantastically theatrical but on closer inspection, we find that the creative constructs of the Kill Bill series makes for a way more mature product than your average blood-lusting martial arts western.
If we were to talk in terms of traditional, representation of gender-led roles in mainstream action films, Uma Thurman’s portrayal of The Bride would put us on our (theoretical) arse. Beatrix Kiddo doesn’t aim to emulate the masculine archetypes found in the conventional martial arts films of the 60’s and 70’s. She still stands for femininity and female values without compromising on the strength and sincerity of her role.
The Bride takes on the 'Crazy 88' with the 'Hattori Hanzo Sword' in Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003)
I can’t help but feel that the overriding theme which fuels the narrative and directs the direction of the film (besides revenge, that is) is motherhood. Maternal motifs are referenced in every plot point and Tarantino succeeds in making a cheap caricature of the ‘American Mom’ – specifically within the ‘Venita Green’ scene, which disparages the typical suburban mother set-up. It may have appeared to be quite an overt move, to have an unexpected pregnancy as part of the narrative, considering a female protagonist, but the movie does all but make her a victim. It appears that Beatrix’ independent identity begins to form ‘once that strip turns blue’, with a visible transition from assassin to bride which mirrors her uncertain stability between good and evil, hunter and hunted.
Her evolution throughout the film is presented as a predatory movement, reinforced by more humanistic themes which spark an affinity across the rest of the female cast; take for instance, the idea of feminism! The notion of feminism remains paramount throughout both films, with O-Ren Ishii’s significance in Kill Bill Vol.1 acting as a paramount notion for female empowerment, presented as an authority over the male dominated Yakuza. In the final scene of Vol.1, an exchange between Ishii and Kiddo distinguishes the correlation between the two women, as Isshii accepts and acknowledges her fate to her equal avenger - ‘For ridiculing you earlier, I apologise.’
Vernita Green (Vivica A.Fox) and Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) Kill Bill. Vol 1 (2003)
There are so many female characters in Tarantino movies, which have been influential in so many ways but The Bride has always struck a real chord with me. She is physically strong, determined and human. Her capacity to be a real bad-ass is not at all faltered by her compliance to be sensitive and sincere and it’s these qualities, which make her so refreshing in a genre which has been so over-concentrated with masculine perspective and weak representations of women. Plus – She, definitely wore THAT yellow boiler suit better.