A Snowy Western
[ WARNING: This review uses a font style that’s heavy on steroids. It is not recommended for purists and non-experimental design school fanatics. I realise that it is disorienting and still chose to go ahead with it. Deal with it. And yes, as always, I’m aware of my insufferable arrogance. ]
(The actual review starts about halfway down the page – so for people who are just here to breeze through the thing, (Google Analytics literally has a section titled “Idiots who visited the page, saw the length of the review, and went back to their mundane desk jobs.”) please skip to the section titled – “FOR THE UNINITIATED INTELLECTUALS.”)
“The man who pulls the lever that breaks your neck will be a dispassionate man. And that dispassion is the very essence of justice. For justice delivered without dispassion, is always in danger of not being justice.”
If you’ve watched ‘Kill Bill’ or ‘Inglourious Basterds’, you know Quentin Tarantino has amassed a collection of cult status films in his portfolio. And whether you understand the intricacies of his movies or not – the one thing you will most certainly relate to is the style. You just love how they feel and the perplexing nature of humans, brought out when you put them in highly unlikely, yet strikingly true scenarios.
But to appreciate the ‘H8ful Eight’, you’re going to have to hate it first.
Think of it then as the medicine that got rid of the dreaded fever that let you skip school. You are happy the fever’s gone, but you’re sad you gotta go back to school.
And that is EXACTLY what you are left with, when you watch Hateful Eight – a confused sense of awesomeness, that begs the question – why would Tarantino move away from his more successful style of movie making? So – I set out on a journey (*in EPIC trailer voice, complete with a bass thumping trumpet soundtrack*) to uncover the rationale behind the making of this movie, and discovered something INCREDIBLY AWESOME!
It’s shot with 65mm lenses, (making this the only movie to use it in decades) and was meant to be played in the widest format in existence today-
70mm ULTRA PANAVISION!
Now to me, that sounded like a fancy term used by college-going-cinematographers-who-don’t know-what-‘DSLR’-stands-for. Then I found out that it’s only the 11th feature film EVER MADE to play in this format. And check this – Mr Quentin, felt it errr… prudent to LITERALLY put a camera the size of an elephant; AND a cameraman, on a GIGANTIC bloody crane – even inside the Haberdashery for all the pan and zoom shots! Now, I’m thinking (*curse Thoth for the damn phrase*), why the hell would he go through all that trouble?
And the answer to the WHY is pretty simple.
He wanted us to experience SOMETHING DRASTIC. Not just a movie – but an ode to an age of cinema long gone – when live theatre transformed into motion picture, replete with glitzy roadshow events. These were to be held exclusively in cinemas that would agree to use film projectors and play the film from a bunch of reels, often weighing over a 100 Kgs! Now that’s when you sit up, rather uncomfortably in a coffin, take notice, and say – “Maybe there’s more to this guy than meets the eye…”
FOR THE UNINITIATED INTELLECTUALS
(This is the section where you get to read about the actual movie.)
So – movie starts with a soundtrack by the legendary Ennio Morricone, ( of ‘Good, Bad and Ugly’ fame) that’s creepy in a ‘my-Grandma’s-playing-candy-crush-at-3 a.m.’ sort of way, and we’re thrown right into it with glorious shots of… the heck!!! SNOW?
I thought this was a Western? And I thought global warming was only as true as Santa Claus.
Now while I did mention (in the “Tarantino-fan-boy-ish” section above) that this movie was not like Kill Bill, what I did not say was that it still maintained more than a few Tarantino quirks. And true to my expectation, he kicks off a movie with a horse-carriage with 2 people in conversation with the master of dialogue-delivery – Mr Samuel El – “say-what-again-I-dare-you” Jackson (errr… Pulp Fiction reference – anyone?). And if there’s one thing Tarantino is good at – it is CONVERSATIONS. And that – for me is perhaps ‘THE’ (pronounced ‘thee’) most crucial part of a film.
Now the basic idea behind the movie is simple – there are 8 guys (9 actually, but only 8 are ‘hateful’) who are trying to figure out who among them, is the real criminal. Did I mention that they were stuck in a room, courtesy of a totally expected SNOWSTORM, …errr…in a Western (even saying it sounds discomforting)? And when the cast consists of the best of the best and they got weapons to go with snide commentary, you know you got yourself a proper old school “whodunit”.
So the stage is set – AAAaaand – Action!– Boom –(*read this paragraph as fast as you dare*) the door opens. It’s got no hinges – people literally ‘fall’ into the scenes, scramble to turn around, and hammer nails back into the door. Accusations fly, fingers are pointed, people are killed (‘gruesomely’ would be fitting adjective here), more people are killed, some people sit down, others walk around, one guy chills on the bed…*takes breath* get the point right?
To be more precise – this movie is a – PERFORMANCE of sorts. And I use the word ‘performance’ – because it always felt more like a stage play than a motion picture.
The camera lingers at length on each actor – giving them time to establish their characters – then calculatedly moves to the next – then skips the third – then moves to the 5th, then back to the 1st, like your mom handing out chores on a Sunday. Next thing you know; you don’t know shit. Everyone is lying – and yet everyone has proof of their story. This ‘conversational portrayal’ goes on – taking twists and turns in unpredictable ways – until you pull out your disturbingly bright backlit phone in the theatre and realise – holy moly – it’s been 2 hours already – and I still don’t know why they’re fighting!
Now I’ve seen movies that keep you guessing till the very end (heard of ‘Se7en’?) – and I went in expecting something drastic to happen all along, and it doesn’t. (I’ve learnt, as recently as yesterday, that my definition of the word ‘drastic’ drastically differs from that of others. Some people are even saying that many such words are ‘subjective’. Yeah – imagine that!) Thing is, it took me a whole week to arrive at an important realisation. A contradiction of sorts.
“When you expect the unexpected, and instead the expected happens, does it still mean you expected it?” – Quote from the book – The Epitaphs of Sarcofagus (It really exists, Buy it NOW.)
It is then only logical that you not expect complexity or improbable explosions. You go rather to enjoy what was once pure cinema – devoid of digital mimicry and teenage soundtracks. You go there to witness undeniably brilliant actors and cinematography that is both scenic and haunting in equal measure. And when the storm hits hard – and a Haberdashery ‘seems’ like the most comforting place to take refuge in – Tarantino, the puppeteer, puts on a gripping show of extreme dispassion.
“And that dispassion is the very essence of justice.”
You could say “H8ful” should have been spelled without the number. You could also point fingers at the predictability of the plot, or the seemingly unnecessary gore.
But what you can’t deny is the idea behind it, the effort taken to stay true to a legacy and most importantly, the execution of a simple story with greater ambitions.
Now you might wonder why the goddamn fonts are still so weird, or why I’ve spoken more about ‘the making’ rather than the movie itself. Let me put it this way. The Hateful Eight is set in a racist post civil-war America. It is gory while being honest, sinfully comedic in the most serious scenes, and dismissively callous in its approach towards the end.
But this is a film Tarantino made not to win awards or top box offices. This is the instinctual movie fan in Tarantino talking, not trying to make a point or be overly sensible. It is just what it is – a bloody good movie. And that is why you must watch it.