The Hateful Eight

January 19, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

When I went to see “Pulp Fiction,” all those years ago, I have to confess that I did really wanted to see it. However, it was one of the defining moments in cinema for me. I can remember actual moments in that theater, staring at the screen, that will be forever cemented in my head. With that film, Tarantino changed movies. He took gratuitous violence, already present in many films, and he elevated it to the level of art. By doing so, he created an aesthetic of violence, wherein the banality of his violence became a detached hipness. But now, more than 20 years later, everyone does Tarantino; his bloody fingerprints are all over Hollywood. As a result, there is nothing revolutionary about it any more. The banality of violence is no longer hip, it’s just banal. The real shame for Tarantino is that he is also a remarkably gifted director. In many ways, this film is a masterwork of building suspense. A small group of shady characters are stuck in a one room cabin in a snow storm in 19th Century Wyoming. Tarantino builds the tension beautifully through tight camera angles, tense dialogue and a beautiful use of space and sound. The wind howls and whips outside the fragile cabin. Steam rises from their breaths and from the cups they hold, sometimes creating a great visual; when you can see the sharp exhalations of breath from words spoken harshly, it creates another level to the tension. Tarantino has always shown an astute understand of the use of music in film. Ennio Morricon’s score fits perfectly and manages to raise anxiety without being heavy-handed or cliché. In one great scene, reminiscence of “Reservoir Dogs,” Demián Bichir, attempts to plunk out a Christmas carol on an old piano while the tension between two characters builds slowly towards an explosion. This is all such brilliant stuff that I was frustrated with how distracting I found the copious amounts of cartoon violence. Tarantino is a strong enough director that he could have made this film with far more subtle violence, had he chosen to. I was also put off by the continuous need for profanity and for “the n-word,” in particular. One might argue that the word was in popular use at the time but, it seems to me, that it is disingenuous to pretend historical accuracy while Samuel L. Jackson plays a character who seems lifted right out of the 21st century. It appears that Tarantino just likes the naughtiness of being a White guy who gets away with using that word. In fact, that seems to sum up the whole problem with his work. In so many ways, he keeps trying to be the young rebel. It really is a shame. If he would just give up the adolescent rebellion that once made him a  revolutionary filmmaker, he might discover that he is actually a great one.

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