Road Rage

A good long while ago I remember seeing a poster for a new (or, as it is, old) concept wherein two films are shown for the price of one (a double bill feature release). Better yet, two of the hippest directors around (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez) were set to pen this (at least these days) uniquely marketed film prospect.

It’s been months since I first heard this idea and, thanks to an extremely poor response at the box office, the two films have now been organised for individual release in Australia (and in other parts of the world). Sufficed to say I was pissed off. My friends and I had anticipated a night reminiscient of our high school days, when we’d have horror/thriller nights devoted to popcorn and limited, squashed seating in our homes. Of course we could still do that now but it’s just not practical or necessary.

Which is, from what I gather, exactly what the audience has been thinking about this Grindhouse idea. Why struggle to stay awake through two films, than see them both for what they are individually, with the appropriate rest periods?

Even so, I thought the idea was cool and being a cheapskate, the two-for-the-price-of-one thing still appealed. I was going to see it at the closest Drive-In movie complex (of which there are very few left). We figured they’d show the Tarantino and Rodriguez upon the release of the second film (in this case Rodriguez’s Terror Planet)). Alas I’ve now heard that as of 31st October 2007 Bass Hill Drive-In has closed down.

It’s strangely poetic and telling of this generation’s response to the idea of a fun night out, watching films of degenerate quality in terms of sound but elite quality in terms of storyline, direction, acting and screenplay.
Tarantino might have been disappointed (perhaps clinging to the idea that we’re missing out on something special the public had in the 70’s) but Rodriguez says he understands the response completely (according to an interview found in last month’s issue of Empire. As much as I hate to admit it I tend to agree with Rodriguez. Come to think of it, very few of my friends were actually keen to see the double bill. A lot of my friends are either not horror/thriller people or find themselves too busy to stay up past their bedtime to watch two films which they could have savoured better on two separate occassions.

Either way I’m a fan of both directors and last Tuesday I decided to see Death Proof (which has recently been released in limited cinemas in Australia).
In short, I loved it. This is classic Tarantino. It doesn’t matter what the story is, in the end the direction and the dialogue keeps me intrigued in any of his projects. I’m yet to come across a director which better provides dialogue speckled with talk about absolute crap. And it’s not uninteresting crap, it’s “that’s so true,” seemingly off-the-bat cafeteria chat.

The film plays out in two parts. It’s a bit like Kill Bill in this way. The first half is serious, sexy, sensuous and strangely ambiguous. Tarantino teases us for a long time with a keenly self-aware abscence of horror. We even find the character who we know (at least from the trailers) to be the psychopathic maniac of the film quirky and likeable (even though it is Kurt Russell playing the role). He sure is smooth with the ladies (particularly in the way he manages to talk a flirtatious but nonetheless comparably shy woman into giving him a lapdance). Notably, I feel like I’m watching an old 70’s-style dusty film. The jukebox spins records, the reel is old-school and jumpy, and yet they’re using mobile phones and discussing the signs of the times.

The second half of the film is a lot more fun and funnier! I was almost a bit hysterical and felt I had to contain myself from whooping and laughing raucously. It takes a lot to get me in that mood so I was massively impressed and entertained. The car chase scenes were cleverly constructed, the dialogue breezy and colourful, the characters loveable and cultured.

It wasn’t the perfect film (I did find myself looking at my watch sometime through the first half of the film; it certainly doesn’t start with a bang). It does work its way up fast though.
My advice is don’t expect this film to change the world and don’t take it too seriously. Tarantino’s films have often been acclaimed for their philosophy on life. For once though this guy is enjoying the genre for what it really is.

The soundtrack, as usual in a Tarantino film, is slick with relatively unknown “classics” from an earlier era.

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch – Hold Tight
April March – Chick Habit [buy]

I give Death Proof 4 out of 5 stars.

You can see what Margaret and David gave this film out of 5 stars here.

In other news, director of Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly’s new film has been released in the States. Thankfully it looks very different from DD (I loved DD but whenever a director tries to reclaim the feel of their first film it usually pales in comparison). And it sure looks a lot bigger in scale. Exciting and timely end-of-the-world stuff which might not go down well with the critics but is sure to please the (not so) underground fanbase. The film is called Southland Tales and is set for release in Australia sometime in January.

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