Hateful Leicester Sq

Hateful Leicester Sq.

I made my  pilgrimage to the Hateful Eight Roadshow matinee at the Leicester Sq. Odeon, paying a King’s ransom (£20) for a stall seat. Disappointingly the Leicester Sq. Odeon proved to be only a slightly chilly  upscale beige version of the Acton Odeon, which I had religiously attended in the sixties,  for the  Saturday morning matinees at the grand cost of about 2’6 (12.5p).  As usual for central London , there was the ubiquitous queue to enter, but luckily there was an assistant on hand to help operate the pre-paid ticket machine.

Usher love

We had pre-booked at opposite ends of the stalls but happily noting our predicament, the usher sympathetically contrived to give us two adjacent seats on the left of the centre aisle. The crowd demographics seemed fairly young  and male;  from their demeanour there seemed a fair smattering of Tarantino fanboys, who applauded one of the most embarrassing intros ever, from an abashed  staff member: his microphone didn’t work throughout. However thankfully this proved to be the last technological disappointment of the afternoon.

Over ‘n oot

After an interminable Sergio Leone opening graphic frame (helpfully titled Overture) & some typographically challenged (Kung Fu) titles, Hateful 8 opens to a hazy 70mm blizzard;  a small stagecoach navigates the treacherous rolling mountain passes of 1870 Wyoming. A figure in a black/blue Union uniform (bisected with an ostentatious red tie) Major Warren ( Samuel L Jackson) is sat on a stack of anonymous stack of bodies in the middle of the highway as the stagecoach approaches with two passengers. Conjuring up the same the air of suppressed violence as Django’s opening, the Major seeks a lift for him and his bounty cadavers into Red Rock from the bewhiskered John Ruth (Kurt Russel) aka the Hangman. However instead of the usual opening Tarantino bloodbath we are given a twitchy introduction to the three main protagonists; Major Warren represents the  State of Union black emancipation, John Ruth a happy go lucky hangman bounty hunter & Daisy (Domergue) his feisty murderous female bounty. This is arguably the most mature Tarantino as he carefully unfolds this post Civil War American parable, where the old certainties of Slavery are very much the die on the roulette wheel of the new United States of America. The dichotomy that underpins the piece is that,  not only are we uncertain about these characters, but they themselves are uncertain of their positions in the neo United States (unknown unknowns); the underlying tensions of this ambiguity has obvious contemporary cogency to the country that has become the financial and military engine of the world,

Ours of fun

With three hours to play with, a sluggish start is necessitated as Tarantino weaves his (set up) context via some long heavily accented expositional dialogue, between the main characters, punctuated by comic book violence against the foul mouthed Daisy. Another comic character turns up on the highway in the form of Chris Mannix the Dukes of Hazard Sheriff elect of the mythical Red Rock, who turns out to be son of a major confederate rebel.

play mystic Minnie

Tarantino frequently inserts a mystical object (a la Kubrick’s 2001 obelisk) into his movies and sure enough this turns up in the shape of the mystical letter Major Warren keeps in his uniform, from Abraham Lincoln.

The film picks up tempo as they just outrun the blizzard when they arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery and encounter even more dubious characters but inauspiciously, no Minnie. Synonymous with Tarantino  marque (like the Scorsese tracking shot) is the plot gear change that he has single-handedly reinvented. An convenient truce between Ruth and Warren is the prologue to a Reservoir Dogs type play where characters sabre rattle each other to breaking point.

Agatha Mystery

This in turn morphs into a comic strip type whodunit. These type of comic strip gear changes, are simultaneously what defines the excitement around Tarantino’s film making and makes him in the eyes of the hoi poloi (Hollywood/Bafta) vulnerable to the to the immaturity tag that has dogged all of his work. Warren’s Dingus story with the General ( a fantastic armchair  performance by Bruce Dern) seemed a knicker elastic twanging suspension of belief, but maybe not from the man who bounty hunts with an Abe Lincoln letter tucked into his tunic.

POV

My viewpoint is that Tarantino’s flaws are what makes his work interesting, fresh and completely different from the Hollywood mainstream. To me he is rarity … a white writer with a profound black sensitivity,  he nearly always features blacks in lead story defining roles, writing the jive talk if not walking the walk;  this alone distinguishes his work. His graphical novel (comic) background is unashamedly portrayed  but unlike his contemporaries he always retains that Wizard of Oz sense of wonder  using physical effects, eschewing the Alice in wonderland ILM nightmare that bankrolls contemporary  corporate movies.

Popcorn

Notwithstanding the corny character name punning, dialogue wise Hateful 8 this is not up there with say Pulp fiction’s Royale, or Reservoir Dog’s should you tip  as Tarantino’s historical context precludes any of this. On the other side his use of Music, and writing of character dynamics has never been bettered.

On the negative side I’m not sure the images (mainly dismal exteriors or soundstage) justify the 70mm hype but hey I’m sure these lenses won’t remain cotton-wooled for another fifty years.

Let’s hope it’s not another three years for the next one and if the world was fair, Jennifer Jason Leigh would be a shoe in  for the supporting Oscar,  purely based on the extreme physicality of her role. Evidently on the surface Tarantino doesn’t make films for M.Kurmudgeon’s film review and long may that hold true.

Leave a Reply