Sunday, April 08, 2007


I was worried Grindhouse might come off as some huge wankfest, an inside joke, one that I'd be sadly way, way in on, for all the hours of my life spent watching the z-grade fodder Rodriguez and Tarantino are mining here. It is still, mostly, an in-joke, or, not an in-joke, but a valentine composed in a very specific foreign (to most) language. And I thought it was great. Even Planet Terror, which I expected to not care for. Aside from Sin City, most of Rodriguez' films have been clunky exercises. PT is beamed straight in from 80's sci-fi/horror schlock, movies which tried to capitalize on films like Total Recal, The Terminator, The Thing and a zillion others. It's a near perfect recreation of those knock-offs, which got by on gore, sleaze, nudity, sadism, and when possible, all those combined. I had to laugh early on for all the dead-on wooden line readings, the pointlessly ugly digressions, and the manic stabs at humor. All perfectly rendered. That said, PT's title credits are the sexiest I've seen in some time with Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer. Yikes. New crush #1 launched by these movies. I'll keep the rest of this on PT brief, but it's really kind of amazingly deft and skillful and way more clever than you might think. It's runs low on gas towards the third act but soon picks back up. Great flick. Perfect slice of 80's cheese.

I've got a lot more thoughts on PT. Rodriguez is most slavishly devoted to to the gimmick here, scratching up the print, throwing in a missing reel, etc.

Tarantino's Death Proof, however, is the one that's clearly not really content to just be fond homage. It's pushing back at the whole Grindhouse idea: the first thirty or forty-five minutes is all dialog, talk between girlfriends about boyfriends, sex, other girls, scoring weed. It's a summery, top-down, 70's vibe. It's an ill fit, sort of, following PT, and with the aesthetic Grindhouse aims to present. None of these films, the originals, took their sweet time talking, hanging out in bars, watching rain from the porch. Tarantino is just making a Tarantino movie here. There's no gimmicky digital aging of the print, though there are a few moments of juddery frames, dropped dialog. A reel is missing here as well. But all these feel like perfunctory nods to the project.

Kurt Russell is Stuntman Mike, and he hits several notes, all of them golden: dangerous bad boy, kind of lame guy hitting on girls one third his age, psychopath, and one last twist that I'll leave unsaid.

New crush #2 is Zoe Bell, as herself, a Kiwi stuntwoman. I've sent a telegram to her, proposing marriage. I'll keep y'all informed.

Death Proof has a killer, epic car chase, ripping through the backroads of Lebanon, Tennessee. It's here the 70's is practically reconjured.

Death Proof is more problematic than PT, which shouldn't be surprising, given Tarantino's particular gift for taking genre convention and dropping real life inside it. I need to see it again to get a handle on it. As canny as PT is, there's no real difficulty in "getting it."

I can't see Grindhouse being a hit. It takes a kind of film literacy most people are quite happy to do without. But, if you do, it's three hours of awesome.


Melanie said...

Saw Grindhouse tonight, too. Some Easter basket full of vroom. I kind of want to marry Zoe myself. I know that stretch of road in Lebanon, I'm pretty sure. Haven't seen a good car chase in a long time; have a number of responses to Tarantino.

Melanie said...

ok, so the chase was outside Austin. But it fooled me, and I've never seen anywhere in TX that looked like home.