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Archive for July 21st, 2009

Quentin Tarantino Reservoir DogsWhen I was a student Quentin Tarantino was the hottest, hippest, coolest director around.  Reservoir Dogs had finally come out in the UK in 1993 more than a year after all the Sundance hype.  True Romance directed by Tony Scott based on a Tarantino script also came out in ‘93 and Pulp fiction in ’94.  (To this day I still can’t see how Forrest Gump won best picture ahead of Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption but that’s another story!) So in 95 we were all looking forward to Natural Born Killers.  Directed by Oliver Stone, a director with real pedigree having previously made the classics Salvador and Platoon as well as some other great films.

natural born killers cThe film uses many different styles with a range of different formats, lenses, lighting and unusual camera angles all edited together in a frenzied way (incidentally the editing took 11 months, nearly six times longer than it took to shoot; not surprising considering there are around three thousand cuts). This is combined with animation and, and other obscure things such as when the film briefly turns into a television sitcom about a dysfunctional family featuring the brilliant Rodney Dangerfield.  All this adds up to a truly visceral experience that is more an assault on the senses than a motion picture.  The script has changed a lot from the original Tarantino script.  Influenced by the media’s impact on high profile cases such as the O J Simpson trial Stone delivered a psychedelic satire. 

1970 Dodge Challenger RT Natural Born KillersThe film is basically a sort of road movie about a spree killing with similarities to the Starkweather-Fugate killings portrayed in the Terrance Malick film Badlands (or the Bruce Springsteen song Nebraska) although Stone’s protagonists Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) are more violent and with a higher body count.  Having first seen the film I was really disappointed, I think I called it as an “incoherent self indulgent mess”.  All the subtleties and humour of Tarantino’s dialogue was lost to a brash angry film.

natural born killersSo that was it I did not see the film again until earlier this year.  As I really disliked it first time around I don’t know why I watched it again but I am glad I did.  I really enjoyed it.  The editing and use of animation that had incensed me all those years ago now looks years ahead of its time.  In a multimedia, big brother age the satire proved all the more prophetic.  Most notably I found the film far less angry and more hopeful than after the first viewing.  A bad film hasn’t suddenly become a good film over night but I now realise that it was never as bad as I first thought, it may have been quite a good film all along.  I will have to see it again to make my mind up!

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