Everyone’s going to chime in about Grindhouse, the new “double feature” from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, so I’ll make my comments short and sweet. Grindhouse is a masterpiece, as near to perfect filmmaking as I am likely to see. I’ve heard some comments that Tarantino’s entry, Death Proof, isn’t as good as Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, that it’s overly long, and boring before it suddenly gets down to the action and gets good. It’s trite to say that this is comparing apples to oranges, that the films are intentionally and appropriately different, and therefore subject to separate critiques, but Tarantino would have been making a big mistake trying to follow an action packed zombie thriller with more of the same slam-bang action. Death Proof follows a different but equally important pattern of grindhouse movies, and if you (like me) have seen enough of them, then you’ll see that in most ways Death Proof is the superior homage to the grindhouse “genre.” Tarantino’s characters speak openly about the films that inspired their piece, White Line Fever, Vanishing Point and my fave, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, but his film also hearkens back to those odd little T&A films in which the point seems to be following around attractive women for as long as possible, getting ample close-ups of their bodies along with inane yet strangely compelling chatter, then suddenly remembering that we need a plot to string it all together. In my long years searching out odd films in forgotten drive-ins, burned out movie palaces and out-of-business video stores, I’ve seen more films like this than films like Planet Terror. The fact that Tarantino can fill his film with examinations of character that raise his piece above the level of his inspirations makes his film a different kind of animal, just as Rodriguez used state of the art CGI to raise Planet Terror above the level of cheesy SFX so prevalent in the inspirations for his piece. Many people I’ve talked with have expressed an interest in seeing some of the films previewed turned into full-length features. With the possible exception of Machete, I’d cast my vote for avoiding this. Just as many of the previews for old grindhouse films are far superior to the films themselves, because they can have all the best parts showcased without any of the dreck, I’d expect these previews, filled to feature length status, would collapse under their own weight. Don’t would be a boring British thriller, Werewolf Women of the SS a nudie-bore, and Thanksgiving a shlock shocker (though, with the right script, who knows?)

2007 has been a banner year for genre films, with 300, The Host and Grindhouse leading the way. In any other year, if they were the only three films being released, we'd call this one of the best years in cinema history.


Stefan Blitz said...

I hadn't commented on the film yet, but what I found to be interesting is that both films seemed to be from different decades. "Planet Terror" definitely has the feel of a higher budget Cannon film from the Eighties (complete with genre favorites Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey) and Tarantino's piece was a definite Seventies homage. I also thought that Tarantino's film was similar to their "From Dusk Til Dawn", insofar as the film changes genres midway, from a serial killer to a woman's revenge theme.

All in all, what I didn't like in execution, I loved in concept and with the entire film having it''s heart in the right place, that was more than enough for me!