Monday, December 28, 2015

The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino

There are two types of Mystery plots. First, there's the Agatha Christie kind where a small group of people are confined somewhere and they have to figure out which one of them is the killer. Then, there's the Columbo type, where you see who is guilty of the murder, then you watch the lead character try to figure it out while the criminals try to elude his or her investigations.

Shot on 65mm in Ultra Panavision 70 on location in Telluride, CO filling in for Wyoming, in falling snow storms in the mountains, The Hateful Eight (2015, Quentin Tarantino) is a momentous cinematic achievement. With big performances from a cast led by Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Dern and a grandiose wild game ensnaring score by Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight is a hell of a western.

But The Hateful Eight is also a confined Agatha Christie type Mystery that all takes place in one cabin among eight principal cast members.

Tarantino proved with Reservoir Dogs (1992, Tarantino) that he can deliver some of his best work with a few guys stuck in one room talking about which one of them may not be whom he says. And while I've often faulted a movie for not distancing itself from a stage play, that's not the case with The Hateful Eight. While Tarantino's greatest strength is dialogue, the events that occur outside of the cabin give a greater sense of setting and enhance the tone of this Western.

But the dialogue is front and center the star of The Hateful Eight. Jackson and Russell among others perform in familiar styles from their other collaborations with Tarantino. But Jennifer Jason Leigh as DAISY DOMERGUE finds a nasty, conniving, Southern-accented authenticity in her performance. Domergue the prisoner is what draws these men together and gives fresh life to the narrative. Domergue's first scene in the stage when we see her CU, with her taught weathered skin around her dark evil eyes, shiner, she projects a range of nuances. In particular the contrast of her cagey duplicitous danger against her winking, smiling, lip licking seductress. All of the characters' dialogue continuously establishes them as mean, calculated, colorful, braggarts who often fall flat on their faces while still maintaining their dignity. Tarantino has fun with his dialogue and he obviously works hard at his craft. But  their western costumes and rotting teeth make-up help too.

Bruce Dern had me rolling uncontrollably with belly laughter as Confederate GEN. SANDY SMITHERS and I just loved every second he had a scene. From the moment when JOHN RUTH (Russell) introduces himself, Dern's character pointing at his embroidered sleeve insignia, "You will address me as General. You sir are a hyena and I have no wish to speak with you." He's just great casting.

The Hateful Eight is also full of comedy. The door gag, established early on, gets a lot of mileage. The cabin most of the film takes place in's front door is broken, and each time a character enters from outside, they must kick the door open, board it shut from the inside upon entering, with more than one board and using nails--and from the first time on, the characters inside yell the instructions. Among the first three yelling, JOE GAGE (Michael Madsen) off-screen, in an instance of what Michel Ciment would call a disembodied voice, gets laughs because of Madsen's distinct deep gravel voice.

Demián Bichir plays a character very close to Tuco called BOB THE MEXICAN, and the way he plays with the Mexican accent and slang is clever. OSWALDO MOBRAY is Tim Roth as a hangman who speaks not very far off from Group Captain Lionel Mandrake.

Also fresh in this movie is the linear narrative--something Tarantino has never featured, aside from Death Proof (2007, Tarantino). But, in a very satisfying way, Tarantino delivers his own self-aware brand throughout the crafted style of The Hateful Eight. In addition to the aforementioned dialogue, the graphic violence shocks are delivered in exceedingly gory fashion. And not to give anything away, but holy shit this thing is a bloodbath and doesn't spend anytime leaving its violence off screen.

And the great Robert Richardson ASC does justice to the scope and magnitude of the natural exterior locations, along with adding his customary shafts of hard overhead sources bouncing of of table tops inside of Minnie's Haberdashery. With the snow covered stagecoach, hats and jackets, establishing giant landscape canvasses amid snow storms to visible condensation vapors from the characters' mouths both exterior and interior, The Hateful Eight contains many textured frames and sequences that only serve to enhance the setting and Western genre aim of the film. Oh yeah and split-field diopters a lot too.

I was able to attend the roadshow version, which according to the press materials in the lobby, is longer with scenes shown in 70mm that will not be the same ones in subsequent versions, an overture, intermission and other additional music, and a souvenir program. The aspect ratio (2.76:1) is noticeably thin and longer horizontally than anything I've ever been able to see in a theater, and earlier this year I saw Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean) in 70mm. I suppose it's because Lawrence of Arabia was shot on Super Panavision 70, which has a spherical 2.20:1 ratio; but The Hateful Eight was shot on Ultra Panavision 70, which had an anamorphic 2.76:1.

The Hateful Eight finds so many instances of tapping into the characteristics necessary to be called a western and for the most part it's the stories and Tarantino's strength in believably, humorously and entertainingly creating them. So many of the characters are full of horseshit and I imagine back then at this particular time in history you had to be. But also the little things like when Domergue alludes to the ability of a character to drive a two horse stage but not a four horse stage, becomes part of getting the reality of the genre down.


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1 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Tamsin Parker said...

Actually I felt Daisy was closer to Tuco than Bob was. They're both criminals who are cruelly tortured to the extent that you kind of end up feeling bad for them.

6:07 AM  

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