vol 2. of my comments on the house of blue leaves in kill bill: vol. 1

When I wrote about Kill Bill a couple of weeks ago, there was another whole aspect of the House of Blue Leaves sequence I didn’t get around to. It was the way the movie creates an action sequence that feels like more than just a bunch of noise and fury — an action sequence that causes the viewer to sense the violence and the physical aspect of the fight on something more like a gut level.

What I’m trying to describe could be called an aesthetic of brutality. With “brutality,” I’m trying to put a label on the general idea of destruction and mayhem as depicted in movies. Across movies, some punches seem to land harder than others, and some explosions seem more propulsive than others. Some movies, for lack of a better word, are more artful in their brutality than others.

The House of Blue Leaves section of Kill Bill: Vol. 1, for instance, has a higher brutality quotient than a lot of battle scenes I’ve watched, and I’ve been thinking about why. Part of the effect, I think, is achieved just by the length of the battle, which takes place over 30 odd minutes. Another reason the action feels so visceral, though, is what Quentin Tarantino does not just in the night club but to the night club. That is, he lets the Bride and the Crazy 88 gradually destroy it and leave a heaping mess of blood and body parts every which place, until the place is nothing but a war zone, totally transformed from the hip dance joint it was only minutes before.

The battle begins when the Bridge announcers herself and the room clears in a stampede.

14-07-21 05 confrontation across room

As she dispatches the first of many goons, she tosses one in the pool using her sword:
14-07-21 06 into pool

This will be the first time — but definitely not the last — that the room itself is used and, moreover, ruined, by the melee.

A few minutes later, when she’s fighting Gogo, we see some pristine tables, which will be destroyed in a minute:
14-07-21 08 perfect perpendicular -- SFII

14-07-21 10 SFII again -- with destroyed props
(Another point I love here: The composition is straight out of the video game Street Fighter II and/or its ilk. Not only that — in the second shot, you see some of the background destroyed, which actually happened in the original SFII, where occasionally small bits of the arena would break apart when Dhalsim or whoever was thrown into them. You can get a sense of how old I am that SF2 is my first point of reference for side-scrolling fight games.)

The mano-a-mano fight ends with the Bride jumping from table to table as they’re smashed to bits.
14-07-21 11 jumping between tables

After Gogo is killed, the real carnage begins and the Crazy 88s come out in force. At point, the Bride bursts through a wall mid-attack and the fight is taken to a side-room for a minute – literally destroying the room itself.

14-07-21 13 side room

Around this point the bodies are beginning to pile up and you can begin to feel how bloody this war is:

14-07-21 15 seeing the carnage
At the end, the Bride surveys what she has wrought:

14-07-21 20 full aspect of carnage

Look at that last shot and the compositional parallel with the one far above, which opened the battle – a parallel I only noticed because I took so many screen shots:

14-07-21 05 confrontation across room

The framing of the two shots explicitly mirrors the change we’ve seen as the House of Blue Leaves goes from dance club to slaughterhouse. These details are a large reason that the fight with the Crazy 88s is not just an image on the screen, but a more refined form of brutality.

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