F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote scripts in Hollywood for two years. A complete flop, he was fired as a screenwriter. He was a born novelist. On the other hand, Quentin Tarantino, who wrote and directed Kill Bill, is a born screenwriter and he’s not shy talking about it.
Tarantino claims to have written his first script in the 6th grade, saying that when he saw movies as a kid he would go to the 7-11, find the novelization and proceed to write his own screenplay from it because, "I wanted to keep the novelization pure, so it wouldn’t become Hollywood garbage. All I could do in school was just write new scripts. Now I feel that I’m writing a form of literature—not quite a novel, but better than a script."
Tarantino says that he broke his epic Kill Bill movies into ten chapters, "Like a Charles Dickens serial." The last five make up Vol. 2, which has much more dialogue than Vol.1. "I gotta good ear," he says. It’s the classic conversationally ironic dialogue that is his signature. In Kill Bill, Volume 2, Budd, Bill’s younger brother, warns him that Uma Thurman’s character is on the way to kill him: "That woman deserves her revenge and we deserve to die. But then again, so does she. So I guess we’ll just see, won’t we?"
In the final scene with Uma (a.k.a. The Bride a.k.a. Beatrix Kiddo a.k.a. Black Mamba), David Carradine (Bill) is given the longest single riff in the movie (three minutes). "I never will cut out a dialogue scene for the running time," Tarantino says. "I’ll only cut if the actor stumbles over a line. I listen to the actor, not the studio." He edits all the dialogue scenes himself.
Tarantino’s dialogue lies on the edge of a razor, simultaneously dangerous and disarming, exploding in witty send-ups. While much of the inspiration for Kill Bill are the Japanese Kung Fu films of the 1960s and ’70s, the movie is really a love story between two "natural born killers" who are the parents of a now four-year-old girl, BB (from Beatrix and Bill).
Near the end of Kill Bill, Volume 2, BB tells the story about murdering her own goldfish, Emilio, while her father makes her a bedtime sandwich. "Now our little girl has learned about life and death," Bill tells Beatrix. "First Emilio flapped on the carpet. Then Emilio stopped flapping on the carpet."
At the end of the movie, Bill asks The Bride if she was surprised when, in the first Kill Bill, he came to kill her, the woman he loved. She responds in a measured metrical rhythm: "Could you do what you did? Of course you could. But I never thought you would or could do that to me." "I’m really sorry, kiddo, but you thought wrong, didn’t you?"
The love story ends in betrayal, the heroine gets her revenge, and in spite of the violence, the emotional charge erupts from these fine actors speaking Tarantino’s spare words. Along with action, the filmmaker’s obsession with dialogue is his strength. But, just as Fitzgerald failed in Hollywood, if Tarantino endeavored to write with the psychological subtlety, description and metaphor of a great novel, he might be booted out of the literary establishment. But that’s something he probably wouldn’t mind.
Kill Bill — 4 out of 5 stars
Galen Williams is a long-time film buff who sees three (or if possible four) movies a day.
GALEN WILLIAMS ran the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street YM-YWHA in the 1960s.