Death Proof

I don’t know about Quentin Tarantino films. I loved From Dusk Till Dawn and the Kill Bills, but almost everything else I admire, but wouldn’t say like. It’s possibly his characters – they’re often lauded as realistic and cool, yet to me seem devoid of redeeming qualities, and are usually people I’d cross the street to avoid. It’s generally a bitter worldview, and maybe I just don’t like being exposed to it.

This is all lead-in to saying I caught a preview of Death Proof this evening. It’s a film with an interesting development, starting off as part of the double-bill ‘Grindhouse’, then released separately, and 30mins longer, for international audiences. It was followed by a live-via-satellite Q&A with QT and Zoe Bell, one of the actress/stuntwomen from the film. I was looking forward to it.

The film is an homage to ‘grindhouse’ movies, designed around exploitation of women, swearing, drugs, violence etc.. I’m not familiar with the original genre, but I can happily believe Death Proof did a fine job of recreating the style. I didn’t like it much, though. It’s already being softened in memory, but I made a point of telling myself to remember how unpleasant it was. The violence was explicit, as you’d expect, but much less cartoony than Kill Bill. I’ve nothing against on-screen violence, it’s just that I prefer not to see brutal, realistic scenes unless they’re for a good reason. Plenty can find it entertaining for its own sake, but I can’t personally deal with it very well: it tends to get in my head, bringing up images of real-life news events and depressing me. Similarly, I can’t feel any empathy towards characters disposed to violence: there’s a scene in which where the audience is intended (as QT said in the interview) to root for a particular side, but I didn’t at all. I also thought the much-lauded dialogue was a little heavy on the swearing – maybe it’s how people actually talk, but when emotional scenes consist of endless repetitions of the word ‘bitch’, I get bored.

I did like the style: the low-budget filmmaking effects, including shifting colours, badly-timed cuts and static camera, added to a vivid atmosphere of 1950s-esque open-plain America merged with modern conveniences. The action was extremely tense, and I found myself lapsing into my recently-acquired habit of shrinking back into the seat, hand over my face. The story was also unpredictable, which I always like. The music, as ever with QT films, was good enough that I’d happily pick up the soundtrack on its own.

The Q&A was a little long, but interesting enough. One audience member demanded to know why the characters hadn’t acted in a particularly rational way during one scene, which struck me as an odd question, given the nature of the film. QT came across as quite the force, quickly taking control of the stage and making sure things ran exactly as he wanted.

I’m aware it’s an homage to a particular genre, and I could see it was well-made, but it wasn’t my thing. Just a little too nasty.