Faster, Pussy Wagon! Kill! Kill!

Back from the dead with the new Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino exposes the dick drive, movie ultraviolence, and his foot fetish

Tarantino calls Fukasaku's last film, Battle Royale—a disturbingly bloody teensploitation film set in a slightly futuristic Japan—a movie impossible to overpraise, and says he is stunned that it was made by a 70-year-old man. Old directors rarely have this much juice, he says. "It's a sad cliché that most every director ends their career with a whimper," says Tarantino, who was friends with Fukasaku over the last 10 years of his life. "You know, it's like, 'The sex drive goes, great! Now I can devote myself to my art.' They didn't realize the dick drive is connected to the art drive." He's either about to break into "Dem Bones" or embarrass himself, so he stops. For the moment.

A child raised by a single mom grows up to direct a movie in which women open cans of whup-ass from Mexico to Mount Fuji. And then he has to go and start spouting about the dick drive. Kill Bill deserves more than talk about Girl Power, deserves more than talk about the big boys. Maybe he should hand over the keys and let Uma get the Pussy Wagon home.


What Kill Bill comes down to in the end, perhaps, is a very small thing and a very large thing.

The small thing—things—are Thurman's feet. When Tarantino was meeting with her about Pulp Fiction, he reportedly proffered a friendly foot rub. In that movie, mobster Tony Rocky Horror got tossed out of the window by Ving Rhames for giving Thurman's character a foot massage. When Thurman's The Bride wakes from a coma and escapes from the hospital in Kill Bill, she struggles to get her paralyzed feet to regain sensation. For what seems like minutes these totemic toes fill the screen.

"He shot the whole movie on feet," laughs Thurman. "He could have put the entire story together on feet."

The guy digs her dogs, and he turns them into something huge and pure pop on the screen—you want to shout at them toes to start a-wiggling. It's not just that he's a foot fetishist, but that he takes what he cares about—personal, quirky stuff—and transforms it into art. He hooks you in, too.

The other thing—the large-scale thing—is the last scene in the picture, about 20 minutes long. It's set in a Tokyo nightclub called the House of Blue Leaves (no word whether playwright John Guare will follow through on his threat to go medieval on Tarantino's ass for copyright infringement). The scene is destined to be taught in film schools and ripped off in hip-hop videos for the next 20 years.

This movie isn't about story: It visually establishes a series of hyper-vivid places, then unleashes frenzy in them. The most hyper-vivid place of all is the House of Blue Leaves. And it's the greatest scene in the movie because it isn't just a series of fights—it tells a story through battle, it has rhythm and punctuation while being practically wordless. Writing mannered, dazzling ribbons of words—fully engaged with the real-world dialogue—is arguably what Tarantino does best. So it's worrisome that he pulls back from the world and coops up in the video store of his cerebellum. Or, it would be worrisome, if he didn't make that nonexistent place seem so cavernous. There's more structure and narrative in the House of Blue Leaves scene than in the rest of the movie.

Uma Thurman enters a nightclub where a garage band wails. There's a glassed-over Zen garden below the dancefloor. Upstairs, Lucy Liu is hanging with her yakuza gang, the Crazy 88s. Before it's all over, black-masked 88s storm the screen in tribute to Fukasaku and the Green Hornet, raging like hormones, all eventually mowed down by The Bride. They lie limbless, gushing hoses of blood, so much General Tso's chicken across the deserted dancefloor.

It took months to film this scene in Beijing, and Thurman says she almost didn't survive the experience. "I had a big meltdown one day. And you don't want to see me have a meltdown. I'm swinging a sword that close to someone's face, and it's all well and good to say [she does Tarantino's booming mook voice], 'Hey let's do another one! Ha ha! It's great.' But after hour 14 or 15 of that, it's scary. You don't want to have your eye taken out."

The cast members largely do their own stunts, and much of the action is shot in long takes. "They would just make up stuff on the spot, and I would have to learn 10 or 12 combinations of moves and then shoot it at full speed, full strength. Five guys! Ten guys! Four guys! Up, down, five ways! And at some moment my nervous system just said . . . " Her hand drifts up in the air like a balloon escaping.

"I was only safe from stuff I thought an insurance company wouldn't let him do it. That was the only time I would be safe—when it was definitely, positively illegal."

How did Liu feel seeing herself walk around the set made up for her final scene, in which she gets a severe samurai flattop? "It was a relief," she says. Nothing else bad could happen.

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