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Friday, 2 November 2007

Shibuya - Kiwi - Grunt - Dismemberment - Death Proof is a stunning justification and a precious reminder of the power of rejection as Tarantino reimagines himself following the appallingly bad movies that preceded it (the Kill Bill franchise).

Shibuya: At a movie house right smack in the centre of Tokyo's main groove (a locus of trade, love hotels, labyrinthine alleys, overpriced coffee shops, gangsters and a dog on a monument) I walked out into the buzz and bustle following Pulp Fiction. The year: 1994. I remember Karen didn't like it but Darrell and I wafted into the street (a street so crowded you either shuffled with the mass of humanity or weaved in and out, careful not to bump your fellow humans off the footpath).

We knew there was something different and we knew that the rules had changed. What we didn't know was that, 13 years later, and again playing a cameo role (in this movie Tarantino is a bartender wearing a cowboy shirt with black-and-white-checked shoulders), the boy from the video store would again come up with the goods.

Vanessa Ferlito plays Arlene. In the scene (pic) Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell; here Tarantino has done for Russell what he did, in Pulp Fiction, for John Travolta) asks this gorgeous-looking woman: "Are you afraid of me"? Arlene: "Yes." Stuntman Mike: "Is it my face?" Arlene: "No, it's your car."

It's your car.

There is no obvious category in which you can reliably place Stuntman Mike. 'Psychopath' sort of fails to reach the level of evil he represents. Something like 'unadulterated cruelty' comes closer, and it's especially because, in this conversation-rich experience, Stuntman Mike is extremely eloquent. Charming, even.

Four dead girls and Stuntman Mike is in hospital. Here, we get a nice interlude placed neatly between the scenes of raw auto-porn that constitutes much of the film. The throaty growl of an eight-cylinder car at full throttle makes up a decent part of the soundtrack. The bar scenes that open the movie are accompanied by some fetching tunes, probably from the 70s (the era the film seems to borrow from most heavily), but it's the effect of speed and the inherent danger of it, that form the nexus of allure that defines the appeal of the film.

Arlene's lap dance is a fascinating vignette of ersatz desire since, although it's Stuntman Mike who gets the benefit of her performance, it is only when behind the wheel of his car that he expresses his real urge: to demolish, obliterate, ransack, and dismember. The ultimate experience of the modern age: to destroy using the products put at our disposal by the efficiency of industrial production married to private enterprise, and the empowering drive of a universal franchise.

The logical next step is to pursue total control by exploiting these achievements. As for the law, well, that interlude is a Socratic exchange of wisdom between the older cop Edgar McGraw (Michael Parks) and his son Edgar (James Parks; the real-life father-son combo is delightful). If he does it again, says the older cop, he'd better not do it in Texas.

Change of scene (and the film shifts to monchrome; these nice touches of cinematographic elegance are ideal analogues of the excellent script, written by Tarantino himself) to Lebanon, Tennessee.

And here we get a beautiful little surprise: Zoe (Zoe Bell, playing herself) is a Kiwi. But is she as beautiful as Vanessa Ferlito? It doesn't matter as much as another thing. Karen was wrong, I was right: Tarantino is a genius.

I walked out of the cinema into the underground carpark, got into my 200-kW, V6, beige Toyota, and drove home alone but happy.

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