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Death Proof Critique


#1

Ok, well I was recently reading up on articles regarding Death Proof, and came upon this one which I thought was interesting.



My question is, do you agree? Post your comments.





"QT and his entry Death Proof, on the other hand, failed dramatically in his part of the exercise. In a way, his encyclopoedic knowledge of these films and the set formulas of their respective genres seemed to force his hand, painting his way into a corner, and there a few major problems here. First, it is obvious that he has such a puritanical view of those old films’ production that he sacrifices his good sense and natural instincts as a director, instead becoming subservient to his nostalgic recreation of the worst parts of these films( i.e. long dialogue sequences, meandering plot). I understand that the “real” grindhouse movies didn’t have much action because there was so little money for special effects. However, when someone like Tarantino has already committed himself to a making a movie which is going to be largely dependent on its script, it would seem prudent for him to take that opportunity to really bring us his highest caliber work in the writing department. If he’s decided that we the audience are going to be treated to a strict reconstruction of his favorite style, wouldn’t it make more sense to use it as on opportunity to at least use his natural gifts of stylized dialogue in this setting to elevate to something of more substantive quality?



One would think so, which is why it was quite shocking to see the audience subjected to all of the lame car talk, table talk, and porch talk that was foisted upon us. The diner scene was particularly awful; there is a difference between capturing the conversational nuances in human interaction, and then there is spinning the camera around while people have an insipid girly gabfest in which Quentin lifts everything wholesale from the opening sequence of Reservoir Dogs, only this time squeezing all of the fun and humor out the banter. A suggestion: if you’re going to rip yourself off from one of your earliest movies, it would be best to make sure the dialogue is fresher and more urgent at the risk of your young QT making older QT look like he’s lost that touch.



Also, the two act structure, while an interesting experiment, was an utter catastrophe. It is understandable that he would hate having to pick between two of his favorite old time styles of horror subgenres, the traditional slasher film and the female revenge film(I’m picturing copies of I Dismember Mama and Ms. 45 floating around QT’s disembodied head while the tune, ‘Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind’ plays cheerily in the background). Sadly, he could have had his carnage and eaten it, too. While he might not have been able to plausibly do both in their entirity, he could have somehow done a far better job building a narrative bridge between the two scenarios he loosely and absurdly posits. The problem with the structure as it stands, is that the two tones of these halves are so markedly different, that there is no way for the viewer to feel a satisfactory sense of cohesiveness between them, despite the obvious link of Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike character, and frankly, that’s a rather tenuous link at best.



The Mike of the first half is a mean spirited, downright scary mystery man, while the second Mike we see is only a sadist until he begins losing, instead turning into a whimpering sad sack, quivering and cowering in what was originally designed to be a menacing weapon. It is reasonable to a degree that this is an aspect of the plot that probably needs to be played up in an homage to women’s revenge films, as the turning tides of feminist rage are meant to show how deeply flawed and inherently fake and flimsy this masculine guise really is when the misogynist killer begins to get a taste of his own medicine. What I cannot understand, however, is the choice to show him at polar extremes. The logic is flawed if the director believed that the audience would feel a greater catharsis seeing such a man at his most sinister and brutal turning into such a whiny, spineless manchild. Rather than taking that much more joy in the comeuppance, there was a greater sense that the audience felt that it was patently ridiculous to see the pendulum swing so far to the other direction.



Part of the inherent frustration here is that most slasher films contain, from a formulaic standpoint, a bit of the empowering female revenge aspect anyway. With a bit of better storytelling, or structuring, Death Proof would have been better off keeping with the dark, rugged pulp of the first half and leaving one of the original girls to live and seek vengeance for her dead friends; at least in that scenario there would have been an emotional component that would have made sense if the revenge aspect was truly that important. The idea of a slasher film done in this non-conventional manner was an exciting concept, as murdering a string of victims with a car instead of claws or a machete was a fun spin on the traditional concepts that Death Proof is trying to bow to, and for someone who is as intent on adhering this strictly to the tenets of genre movies, QT had to know that he could have covered the female empowerment angle when the ubiquitous “survivor girl” would have dispatched Mike anyway. In fact, this would have been an excellent place to really delve deeply into some of the gender discussions about horror movies that have been increasing so much in recent years, especially considering that many scholars almost uniformly agree that slasher films are extremely Freudian, with the killer’s weapon being representative of the penis. How easy and fun would it have been to see that line of reasoning brought into a slightly subverted slasher film in which the weapon itself(the car) is already a phallic symbol?



This isn’t to say that there weren’t glimmers of hope within this entry; as usual Tarantino’s approach to scoring the film was masterful, and the actual chase scenes in the second act are quite thrilling. The problem is that we don’t get enough of any of the elements(bloody kills/sex/fatal comeuppance) that slasher/revenge fantasy fans have likely come to see, and when coupled with an abrupt and less than savage ending that will amuse some and infuriate others, the audience just doesn’t have enough to get worked up into a bloodthirsty lather over, which is a key factor in the success of these kinds of films."



http://www.thekern.blogspot.com/


#2

This review asserts that Quentin’s encyclopedic knowledge of cinema bit him in the ass in the construction of the screenplay. Quentin didn’t want to follow the most direct formula of the slasher film because to him it would have been self-referential. Kind of like what he mentioned in that interview that got posted on here yesterday. (“Detective Carpenter, Inspector Craven heard from Commissioner Hitchcock, and he is pissed!”) He took certain aesthetic properties of the slasher film and then melded them into a Roger Corman kind of car chase movie. Quentin dedicated the screenplay to Charles B. Griffith, one of the kings of B-movie screenwriting, writer of A Bucket of Blood, Little Shop of Horrors, the biker gang cult classic The Wild Angels, and Rock All Night. Rock All Night was part of the double feature poster responsible for Robert and Quentin coming up with the idea for GRINDHOUSE in the first place. These movies were low budget but they weren’t without a good deal of action. I cite Grand Theft Auto, Cannonball, and Vanishing Point as three examples. The film was written with a pure drive-in mentality. This is Quentin’s “What if I didn’t make Reservoir Dogs and started out with an exploitation film?” movie. If this were a film made in the sixties or seventies, it would be one of those flicks produced with the money for a huge car crash in the first act and a long car chase in the third act, and build a movie around it, with limited locations. A low-budget filmmaker does what he can with what he has at his disposal. This is the aesthetic to which DEATH PROOF was made.



Conversational nuances in human interaction? Can’t chicks just talk? I hear this all the time about this movie. Are men really that misogynistic? Have I missed the boat here? There was a lot of character depth, exposition, and foreshadowing in this dialogue that was missed by the same people who bitch about it because they were probably sitting there like Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang listening to their teachers and parents mumble and drone. Men talk: cool, interesting. Women talk: huh? Is that the way it goes? Horseshit.



The scene in the diner was done in a single take, unlike the opening of Reservoir Dogs, which was shot with multiple cuts. Do you know how difficult it is to accomplish such a long take? That’s a crew and a cast on their motherfucking A game! Don’t misconstrue this to be me knocking the opening of Reservoir Dogs. It doesn’t lower the opening because it was shot in multiple cuts. To me the single take in the diner is very low budget indie. IJt’s sorta like, “Look, we only got so long to shoot, they won’t let us shoot in this diner for long, the owners want us to get in and get out, and we don’t have the time in the schedule to stay here so long either; I’m gonna need everyone to be able to do this in one take and we move on – depending on how good this take is, depends on whether it’s in the movie.” Those actors had their shit DOWN. That was fucking awesome, that scene.



There’s a really great book on the horror genre and three of the major subgenres called MEN WOMAN AND CHAINSAWS. Quentin mentioned reading the book on Elvis Mitchell’s radio show. It’s a great book. A very informative book. In a slasher film, nearly everything is Freudian. The killer is basically neutered by his impulse to kill, neither male nor female, almost prepubescent by nature and must adopt a phallis, his knife or machete, to penetrate. And the only way for the final girl, who’s gone through three quarters of the film innocent and virginal in the end has to stand up for herself, must accept the masculine role for herself and those that died so she might live, and in doing so has lost her innocence. (Note also that Zoe adopts her own phallis against Stuntman Mike, that large wooden plank.) Something has prevented Stuntman Mike from being a complete man in his life. Maybe its playing second fiddle to the star in the many tv shows for which he’s provided stuntwork. Whatever it was, it’s left him barren inside. Stuntman Mike has nothing going on down there. He is subject neuter. The lapdance never got him off. Killing Pam definitely did. The collision definitely did. The car has become his phallis. His replacement for his cock. The car IS his cock. When he gets shot, he’s essentially lost his sex drive. And the chase and the knocking into him is the attempt to castrate him, which is finally done at the end. It follows the Roger Corman credo: when the monster is dead, the movie is over. Rosario plants heel in face, and the THE END title card comes to the forefront like a speeding bullet, drive-in movie style.



To acclimate the cast to their concept, Quentin and Robert hosted a double feature of their own, Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE followed by Sergio Martino’s TORSO. A horror movie and a giallo. GRINDHOUSE is patterned almost the same way. You get a horror movie and a terror film. Both are exploitation films suitable for grindhouse viewing, even if the genres are dissimilar.


#3

interesting analysis, mike.



very informative.


#4

Actually, sadly, I do agree.

[quote]The diner scene was particularly awful[/quote]


Yes indeed. This is some of the worse writting Ive ever heard in a mainstream movie(did Ed wood write this script?). Just my opinion, I know most of you guys dont agree. To me its shockingly bad. Thats why I formed the opinion QT made it that way on purpose. I keep telling myself that over and over. Still, I liked the movie or I should say I liked parts of it. I actually really like the first half. The second half is so lame to me I can hardly stand to watch it again. Although the last scene is cool the car chase is limp as Mikes dick.


I cant understand why the QT fans love this film so much. It does have some cool points, like QTs scenes (love em!), but over all the story is -- well there isnt much of a story. It simply doesnt seem like a QT film to me and ive not been so disappointed since Lucass brought back Starwars.

I hope the master will be back soon with another kick ass flick but Im going to skip over IB more than likley as I dont like war movies.

#5

i saw the film 4 times and i like it a lot and i tend to enjoy this diner scene more and more but the first time i saw it i was bored to death by it, especially because the second part opens with the parking scene (i liked it but it is long and nothing much happens), then the discution in the car (cool but long again) and then this scene (again). at this point, i wanted the film to, literaly “cut to the chase”. I wanted something to happen, a tension smg… In the dvd presentations of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown QT always introduces some very cool scenes that have been cut or shorten saying that he cut them because it was important to move forward and to arrive to the important parts. and I think some trimming down could have helped here…


#6

I won’t say that the dinner scene was awful but I won’t say that is was good neither. It was too long, but that’s what Grindhouse movies are about.


#7

I hate these kinds of critiques. Its not about the art, its about how every last piece of information in the film has to be exactly consistent with this guys psychoanalysis of what he thinks the film should be.



He’s trying to take away the joy of the films experience by picking it apart until he gets people to say: It wasnt that good cuz YOU said so.



Fuck that. I loved the entire movie. Not because its correct in every psychological way to this guy, but because I loved it for what it was.



If you dont like the dialogue, you probably werent a QT fan to begin with. Theres no difference quality wise between the dialogue in Pulp or Death Proof. Its all great. Its just coming from different people/genders. Its classic QT slice of life dialogue.



You can ruin ANY film by overanalyzing it and looking down your nose at it. Sorry but I have too much respect for artists to do that.



You’ll find that most good artists dont listen to critics at all, which is a great thing. Imagine if a genius like QT actually listened to this dork and changed his style. It would ruin everything about why we love his work.


#8

did the movie entertain? check. was it a lot of fun? check. did it have great actors? check. was there a great chase sequence? check. is the soundtrack good? check. is it a movie you wanna see again? check. is it a movie you can watch with friends and have fun? check. is it quotable? check.

analyze the film what you want, bloggers of this planet, but it’s an exploitation flick. it wants to entertain, and it does. period :wink:


#9

Why do online bloggers (forget critics) have to psychoanalyze everything? It always sounds the same to me, its like a brain diarrea spewed out into a review. Then you get these people who read it and become zombies and start agreeing with them. lol.



If youre gonna review a film, review it, but dont do that psychobabble BS. Its pretentious and pointless. No artist thinks in those terms when they make a film.


#10

[quote=“countmalachithrone”]
You’ll find that most good artists dont listen to critics at all, which is a great thing. Imagine if a genius like QT actually listened to this dork and changed his style. It would ruin everything about why we love his work.
[/quote]

QT does… he is one of the only directors who is always quoting critics and he always said that the critic Pauline Kael was a great influence. He also stated that he loves critics who tend to deeply analyses films. the book MEN WOMAN AND CHAINSAWS is a great example of that, it is a scholar book not a “fun” book to read. Also, just reread some of the interviews he did on the film: it is not supposed to be “just” an exploitation film (that’s what Planet Terror is, as good as it is) it is supposed to be much more elaborated than that. QT even said that he considers it one of the best screenplays he ever wrote, which, considering the ambition of the guy and all the amazing scripts he already wrote, means a lot…


#11

There you go.


#12

[quote=“tonyanthony”]
QT does… he is one of the only directors who is always quoting critics and he always said that the critic Pauline Kael was a great influence. He also stated that he loves critics who tend to deeply analyses films. the book MEN WOMAN AND CHAINSAWS is a great example of that, it is a scholar book not a “fun” book to read. Also, just reread some of the interviews he did on the film: it is not supposed to be “just” an exploitation film (that’s what Planet Terror is, as good as it is) it is supposed to be much more elaborated than that. QT even said that he considers it one of the best screenplays he ever wrote, which, considering the ambition of the guy and all the amazing scripts he already wrote, means a lot…
[/quote]

He may listen to certain critics analysis’ on other peoples films, but he doesnt base his art on what critics think his films should be. I doubt QT listens to most critics these days. Theres not enough good ones. Pauline Kael is dead.



Death Proof IS better than Planet Terror because its not so one note and simple. It was elevated to something more than RRs tongue in cheek remake of the exploitation film. Thats partly why I disagree with this blogger. He’s saying its not.



I just dont think this guy gets what QT does or how he creates his work.



Artists like QT do not sit down and say: OK, how can I appease John Q. Critic? Thats not what being an artist is about. QT makes his art according to HIS standards because he has been a critic for 20 + years himself. He just worked at a video store instead of writing a column in a paper.


#13

Of course he doesn’t!


#14

The diner scene was beautifully done. I dont even know why people dont like it. It has all the charm of The Dogs diner scene but done in one continous take instead of one with little cuts. I really enjoyed that conversation, it seemed so realistic and thats when you get to feel like youre hangin out with the girls and gettin to know them before the crazy shit happens.


#15

I’m not saying it was bad, I enjoyed it. It was just too long.
[quote=“countmalachithrone”]
The diner scene was beautifully done. I dont even know why people dont like it. It has all the charm of The Dogs diner scene but done in one continous take instead of one with little cuts. I really enjoyed that conversation, it seemed so realistic and thats when you get to feel like youre hangin out with the girls and gettin to know them before the crazy shit happens.

[/quote]
I’m not saying it was bad, I enjoyed it. It was just too long.


#16

That doesnt make sense either. It was a conversation that played like normal ones do. When youre talking with people do you stop and say: “This conversation is too long for me?” No. You guys must have the shortest attention spans ever. You want QT dialogue, then when he gives it to you, you complain! lol.


#17

[quote=“countmalachithrone”]
That doesnt make sense either. It was a conversation that played like normal ones do. When youre talking with people do you stop and say: “This conversation is too long for me?” No.
[/quote]

yeah you’re right… next time i’ll go to the movies, i will expect to see the main character to be stuck in the traffic for 2 hours because when i’m stuck in the traffic this is how long it usually lasts!! ahahah


#18

[quote=“moviemike”]
This review asserts that Quentin’s encyclopedic knowledge of cinema bit him in the ass in the construction of the screenplay. Quentin didn’t want to follow the most direct formula of the slasher film because to him it would have been self-referential. Kind of like what he mentioned in that interview that got posted on here yesterday. (“Detective Carpenter, Inspector Craven heard from Commissioner Hitchcock, and he is pissed!”) He took certain aesthetic properties of the slasher film and then melded them into a Roger Corman kind of car chase movie. Quentin dedicated the screenplay to Charles B. Griffith, one of the kings of B-movie screenwriting, writer of A Bucket of Blood, Little Shop of Horrors, the biker gang cult classic The Wild Angels, and Rock All Night. Rock All Night was part of the double feature poster responsible for Robert and Quentin coming up with the idea for GRINDHOUSE in the first place. These movies were low budget but they weren’t without a good deal of action. I cite Grand Theft Auto, Cannonball, and Vanishing Point as three examples. The film was written with a pure drive-in mentality. This is Quentin’s “What if I didn’t make Reservoir Dogs and started out with an exploitation film?” movie. If this were a film made in the sixties or seventies, it would be one of those flicks produced with the money for a huge car crash in the first act and a long car chase in the third act, and build a movie around it, with limited locations. A low-budget filmmaker does what he can with what he has at his disposal. This is the aesthetic to which DEATH PROOF was made.



Conversational nuances in human interaction? Can’t chicks just talk? I hear this all the time about this movie. Are men really that misogynistic? Have I missed the boat here? There was a lot of character depth, exposition, and foreshadowing in this dialogue that was missed by the same people who bitch about it because they were probably sitting there like Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang listening to their teachers and parents mumble and drone. Men talk: cool, interesting. Women talk: huh? Is that the way it goes? Horseshit.



The scene in the diner was done in a single take, unlike the opening of Reservoir Dogs, which was shot with multiple cuts. Do you know how difficult it is to accomplish such a long take? That’s a crew and a cast on their motherfucking A game! Don’t misconstrue this to be me knocking the opening of Reservoir Dogs. It doesn’t lower the opening because it was shot in multiple cuts. To me the single take in the diner is very low budget indie. IJt’s sorta like, “Look, we only got so long to shoot, they won’t let us shoot in this diner for long, the owners want us to get in and get out, and we don’t have the time in the schedule to stay here so long either; I’m gonna need everyone to be able to do this in one take and we move on – depending on how good this take is, depends on whether it’s in the movie.” Those actors had their shit DOWN. That was fucking awesome, that scene.



There’s a really great book on the horror genre and three of the major subgenres called MEN WOMAN AND CHAINSAWS. Quentin mentioned reading the book on Elvis Mitchell’s radio show. It’s a great book. A very informative book. In a slasher film, nearly everything is Freudian. The killer is basically neutered by his impulse to kill, neither male nor female, almost prepubescent by nature and must adopt a phallis, his knife or machete, to penetrate. And the only way for the final girl, who’s gone through three quarters of the film innocent and virginal in the end has to stand up for herself, must accept the masculine role for herself and those that died so she might live, and in doing so has lost her innocence. (Note also that Zoe adopts her own phallis against Stuntman Mike, that large wooden plank.) Something has prevented Stuntman Mike from being a complete man in his life. Maybe its playing second fiddle to the star in the many tv shows for which he’s provided stuntwork. Whatever it was, it’s left him barren inside. Stuntman Mike has nothing going on down there. He is subject neuter. The lapdance never got him off. Killing Pam definitely did. The collision definitely did. The car has become his phallis. His replacement for his cock. The car IS his cock. When he gets shot, he’s essentially lost his sex drive. And the chase and the knocking into him is the attempt to castrate him, which is finally done at the end. It follows the Roger Corman credo: when the monster is dead, the movie is over. Rosario plants heel in face, and the THE END title card comes to the forefront like a speeding bullet, drive-in movie style.



To acclimate the cast to their concept, Quentin and Robert hosted a double feature of their own, Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE followed by Sergio Martino’s TORSO. A horror movie and a giallo. GRINDHOUSE is patterned almost the same way. You get a horror movie and a terror film. Both are exploitation films suitable for grindhouse viewing, even if the genres are dissimilar.

[/quote]

:o



Holy crap, that was one of the best posts I’ve read about Death Proof on this forum, probably THE best post. It was just the kind of answer I was looking for. A very interesting take on the matter. Brilliant!!



A few things; By “phallis” do you mean “phallic”? The wooden plank Zoe uses - I remember it to be a metal pole, maybe I’m wrong?



Dude, post more things like this. :slight_smile:


#19

[quote=“tonyanthony”]
yeah you’re right… next time i’ll go to the movies, i will expect to see the main character to be stuck in the traffic for 2 hours because when i’m stuck in the traffic this is how long it usually lasts!! ahahah
[/quote]

No, thats not what I meant. It was just a natural conversation that people would have in a diner at breakfast. Like the one they had in Dogs or in Pulp with Vince and Jules. So what if it wasnt about K-BILLYs super sounds of the 70s or Jules walking the earth? It was like 7 or 8 minutes long and it didnt bother me one bit. I honestly enjoyed listening to them talk. I loved the whole thing about Abby, Zoe and the ditch (based on a real incident during Kill Bills shooting), the funny moment where Lee calls Zoe an Aussie, Kim’s gun, Zoes Dodge Challenger bit. It was all great and it went by fast for me.


#20

[quote=“countmalachithrone”]
No, thats not what I meant at all. It was just a natural conversation that people would have in a diner. Like the one they had in Dogs. So what if it wasnt about K-BILLYs super sounds of the 70s?
[/quote]

to me the tone of both scenes is different. i tend to think that the scene is dogs is closer to the jack rabbit slim scene in PF, because of the structure and the way both are directed and edited. those scenes are really “cinema-scene”, the dialog is not like real people talking. in RD, the scene has three parts: madonna, K-Billy and tipping and each one is shot in a different ways: for instance, the second the tipping part starts we switch to close-ups… in DP the scene is closer to i don’t know something Robert Altman could have done. Even though the dialog is good, it lays on the actors and, to me at least, the actors are simply not as great as in reservoir dogs (no offense but rosario is no Harvey keitel).