Monday, 11 January 2016
The Hateful Eight (aka The H8ful Eight)
This Film Has Not
Yet Been Hated
The Hateful Eight (aka The H8ful Eight)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
70mm Ultra Panavision Roadshow Version.
This was my birthday trip this year.
On the occasion of my 48th Birthday I, and a merry band of six of my friends, met at a pub and then went to see the only 70mm Ultra Panavision Roadshow print in the UK of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, playing at the ODEON in Leicester Square. Apparently, apart from the obvious difference that this version is actually proper film stock rolling through projectors, this Roadshow version has some differences in some sequences which were extended to show off the print in 70mm (I’m guessing this stuff all takes place within the first 30 minutes of the movie), an eight minute intermission and a beautiful overture by Ennio Morricone, part of his original score for the film.
That last being something I thought I’d never hear of when it comes to the scoring of a Tarantino movie, who regularly uses a lot of Morricone’s (and others) old scores to needle drop his films with. Although, having said that, the director does also insert assorted cues from other Morricone scored films here too, such as Reagan’s Theme from Exorcist II - The Heretic and various pieces from his mostly unused but commercially released score to John Carpenter’s The Thing... the former also being a movie which stars Kurt Russel holed up with some people in the middle of a snowy wasteland. I can’t quite place where the Exorcist II track was used in the movie but there is a set of sequences in the second half of the film where Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character looks the dead spit of Linda Blair in certain horrific scenes in the original movie, The Exorcist, which I thought were very blatantly referenced, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was dropped in there at some point. Will have to go back and dig the soundtrack out and re-listen to it... there’s not much good to be said about Exorcist II - The Heretic other than Morricone’s score, though, I reckon.
So anyway, okay, we have a partially new Morricone score which certainly harkens back to his early successes in the Spaghetti Western genre and which sounds incredible but... it doesn’t make this movie a Spaghetti Western and, although the spectacle of the “blood and snow” element of the film combined with Morricone’s score certainly recalls to mind the look and ambience of Sergio Corbucci’s classic movie The Great Silence, I think The Hateful Eight owes a little more to the feel of Altman’s McCabe And Mrs. Miller and perhaps more of a tonal similarity to the Revisionist Western cinema of Sam Pekinpah than anything else. Tarantino himself cites Carpenter’s science fiction/horror remake of The Thing as being why he wanted to write this one and there are certainly big elements of that movie in this in terms of the “locked in to keep the elements out while the paranoia inside runs rife” aspect... indeed, I felt sure towards the end of the movie that he was going to go the whole hog with one of the Jennifer Jason Leigh character’s possible premises of what will happen next and use pretty much the same ending as Carpenter’s ‘let’s wait and see’ style ‘down note’ on this one. He doesn’t but, by that point in the movie, he might as well have done, to be honest.
That being said, the postmodern eclecticism that almost defines the cinema of Tarantino isn’t so overbearing in this one that it becomes anything to detract from the director’s visual and written verbal style and, although in some ways the film almost seems like a remake of his first movie Reservoir Dogs for a lot of the running time, it’s an extremely entertaining run through and his casting is dead on, as usual. Samuel Jackson is perfect channeling, I can only assume quite deliberately, the look and visual mannerisms of Lee Van Cleef’s character Colonel Mortimer from the 1965 western For A Few Dollars More and Tarantino completes the reference by also giving Jackson’s character a military rank. Kurt Russel, in contrast, in terms of his voice and delivery of his lines, seems almost intent on revisiting the vocal talents of John Wayne but it seems to work pretty well and is a standout contrast from some of the other actor’s choices in the movie... as is Tim Roth in an almost dual voice role which, frankly, I’m not going to go into too much for fear of spoilers. But I will say that The Hateful Eight is one of the few films where I’ve really started to appreciate the acting talent of Tim Roth, for sure. I would like to have seen a lot more screen time given over to Bruce Dern in this movie but you can’t have everything, I guess, and he’s always a great actor to have around, anyway.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is absolutely amazing, as I’ve always said about her, but one of the main criticisms levelled at this film, it seems to me, is the amount of brutal, probably misogynistic violence levelled at her character. Well this is true and the film does get quite mean spirited and extremely grisly in the second half. It’s pretty violent and, misogynistic or not, I think it’s mostly justified in that this is the right kind of tone that you would get from the characters as they are portrayed here. I was more concerned with the use of the ‘N’ word during the film, which is excessive to the point when it seems to me that people just wouldn’t use it as much as they do here if any of the characters have a grain of common sense between them, which they mostly do... although, at the end of the day, none of these characters are really, in any way, likeable. This use of the racial term, which is highly sensitive these days, bothered me a little more than the anachronism of the term ‘pen pals’ which the script flaunts at one or two points.
My other main problem with the film stems from the opening of the second half, directly after the interval on this Roadshow version. The film is split into chapters like Kill Bill and Tarantino does use his common modus operandi of releasing one of those chapters in a different order to the way it actually occurs in the chronology of the piece... and that’s fine. It serves a purpose in the order it’s in to build up suspense and allow a surprise moment in the chapter leading up to it. He also does a little time-slip to put in some extra details by way of a semi repeat of the ending of the previous chapter before the interval... which is again fine and although it reminded me of the ‘cheating’ openings of various cliff hanger serials of the 1930s through to the 1950s, again I think it was the right thing to do because it fulfils something cinematically by showing the audience the credibility of not noticing something through distraction (especially when you load the dice and keep the camera completely away from it Quentin). However, Tarantino puts himself in the picture as a voice over narrative giving a recap of sorts at this point and, frankly, it’s totally unnecessary and smacks of spoonfeeding the audience perhaps because he wanted to get himself in there somehow. I really think it would have been better to just replay it without comment and let the visuals do the work on the mind of the spectator at this point but... hey ho... different artist, different ideas. It’s a minor quibble and doesn’t really intrude too much on the action.
Another big niggle with this movie is that it claims to be in Cinerama, running the old Cinerama logo at the start of the picture but it really isn’t... it’s that fake, cheapened down format rebranded as Cinerama a couple of years later in that it isn’t three cameras shooting simultaneously and then giving vertical line joins as the projectors sew them up together again on the presentation. It’s the very nice but ultimately single lens 70mm Ultra Panavision version of the brand. Even the Roadshow programme for The Hateful Eight, which is similarly designed to mimic the style, somewhat, of an old Cinerama programme... doesn’t get as blatant as the movie does in proclaiming it to be Cinerama. It’s as much of a Cinerama movie as something like 2001: A Space Odyssey was... which as far as I’m concerned is not true Cinerama, no matter how much the Marketing people try to label it as such.
And that’s about all I’ve got to say about The Hateful Eight. Long but spectacular looking, perfectly performed, outstandingly scored and mostly entertaining. Certainly a lot better than the director’s previous film, Django Unchained (reviewed here), in my opinion. Definitely a must-see if you’re a fan of this guy's work, although anyone who thinks The Hateful Eight is really “The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino” as it says on the credits is possibly high on crack or just too lazy to count. If you’re going to see this one, though, I would especially try and seek out this 70mm Ultra Panavision print of the movie if possible. It’s quite spectacular looking and worth paying out for in terms of both fiscal resources and time allocation.
And thanks to Kerry, Teresa, Dave, Chris, Ross and Peter for coming to see this one with me on my birthday. Much appreciated.