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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

I had an ill-conceived crush on my friend, Andy's, dorm roommate, Skip. Skip was a good guy and incredibly sweet to me. He established good boundaries for our friendship but didn't avoid me even after he let me down gently. He suggested we go see a movie that he thought I'd like. I wondered if it was worth it taking a crosstown bus with him if it wasn't a date (good lord, Shannon) but I went with him anyway. We saw Kill Bill Vol. 1 and I was enthralled. What Andy and I often talk about as being a movie that awakens something deep within. I honestly don't remember anything after the movie except walking with Skip back to his dorm, not saying goodbye to him, but greeting Andy with, "YOU AND I ARE GOING TO GO SEE THAT TOGETHER." And we did. About seven times. We listened to the soundtrack. We obsessively tracked down the movies that inspired it. So many trips to Four Star Video Heaven. So many coupons. (The way I gasped tonight and whispered, "THE SAMURAI FICTION SHOT.") We listened to the soundtrack some more and strutted to our classes with it in our discmen (it was 2003). I hadn't watched this movie in about a decade and I felt like I was seeing an old friend tonight. Me.


I wrote about this a little for The Two Towers but I was assaulted in my dorm near the end of my first semester at college. I did not, naturally, fully understand how that affected the pop culture I latched onto in the months that followed. Or that I was latching on to pop culture as a coping mechanism. When I started to realize that, I pitied myself and looked down on broken 18-19 year old Shannon. How stupid, right? But watching Kill Bill tonight, I'm just full of love for that girl. I see now that I felt most attached to stories of feminine resilience. Of strength in the face of wrongdoing. [Redacted] isn't consumed with revenge but balancing the universal scales. "You and I have unfinished business." Yes, it's exacted through bloody revenge but The Bride makes it clear that that violence is the shared parlance of these women. It was their trade. It was their bond. I stopped watching Kill Bill because I started to be repulsed by Tarantino's work. Where I adored Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, Inglorious Basterds and, even more, Hateful Eight really turned me off. Violence for violence's sake. Inglorious Basterds felt like Tarantino heard someone say " the only time that kind of violence is acceptable is when it's against n*zis" and he was like, "sweet, now I can do whatever I want." The story serves the violence and not the other way around. I'm sure it feels like splitting hairs, but that's how I experience his work. I was terrified that I wouldn't enjoy Kill Bill anymore. That it wouldn't make me feel vital and alive like it did and I am so glad that wasn't the case.


As Daryl Hannah whistled down the corridor and confirmed that I did need to buy that trompe l'oeil cardigan today, Ben made a terrific observation. He said, "I used to just think the artifice of this movie was just 'cool' but now I realize it's necessary to make the serious moments land." And holy crap, yeah. The heightened reality of this world feels like theater, just this side of camp, but for all the moments of guy-in-Charlie-Brown-obi and The Bride's stilted monologues, her agony lands. The respect that these women ultimately have for each other lands. The nightmare abuse casually handed to them by every man they meet lands. The absurdism of the Crazy 88 fight has to happen, in order for the audience to be gutted by the fight with O-Ren. That fight. My heart. The fear and the sadness each woman experiences in the quiet moments between clashed swords. I wish my project this week could be somehow bottling the sound of that bamboo fountain with snow crunching gently in the background.


The sound is incredible in this film. As much as I swoon for the visuals, it's wild how much of the tone is set in the foley. The RIDICULOUS sword clangs and axe swooshes in the House of the Blue Leaves. Gogo's metal ball thing. (GOGO.) The heart rate monitor in the hospital as The Bride quitens herself so as to catch her would-be rapist by surprise. And of course there is the soundtrack. Tarantino won me over initially for his ability to put together a soundtrack. The perfect blend of songs you know and songs you've never heard of coming together to tell the story you're watching on a whole 'nother level. The Lonely Shepherd. The Green Hornet. Bang Bang. I also haven't listened to the soundtrack in ages but it is so indelibly etched in my brain, I reflexively knew every hit and downbeat like I listened to it this morning. I am SO STOKED to listen to it all week. And beyond. I'm not letting that much time get between us again.


"Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves"

Block print in various inks on blue leaf paper.




Takeaways:

-I'm already crying as I write this. An auspicious start. I'm so proud of this piece. In so many ways, it encapsulates the last two years with this project. My first block print, Nightmare Before Christmas was so incredibly crude and now I'm doing a whole block of just faces. Faces! So scary to draw let alone carve! However frustrating any given project can be, getting to do it is a gift and I'm so grateful that whatever wild hare got into me in 2020 has stayed and grown and made itself at home.

-It was particularly terrifying to render the faces of three of the loveliest and most interesting looking actresses in the world. I redrew Gogo three or four times trying to do her justice. I'm over the moon with how The Bride turned out.

-I tried so much on this one! And a lot of it went Not Well! But the angel of Cate Blanchett was happily on my shoulder, telling me no one was going to look, so I might as well try it. This was juxtaposed by me, at every step, posting to Instagram or running upstairs to ostensibly yell at Ben, "LOOK." Doing the wood glue transfer method does not work on inkjet printing so the 100 or so sites I've seen saying just that were correct and the one youtube video that said it could be done was wrong. Ah well.

-I wanted so badly to make this piece particularly special or pretty for the 100th movie milestone. I had plans to do the blades over in gold and aluminum leaf. I tried it on my test print and it kind of detracted. I toyed with springing for fancy paper and had just about talked myself out of it when I noticed this deckled edge paper with tiny blue leaves pressed into it. I hadn't solidified my idea at that point, but I knew it would be O-Ren/Beatrix centric and that find just cemented it. I'm so glad I found it.

-A lot of moments from this movie played over and over in my head this week, each more poignant than the last, but today, as I put the finishing touches on, all I could think of was the Yellow Haired Warrior receiving her sword. "Domo," she whispers, overcome by the moment. "Domo."


Really and truly, I cannot believe I'm at 100 movies and two years. Whether you're my partner in life, my partner in movies and creativity, a friend, a stranger, or someone else(?), thank you for coming along for the ride. There's about 130 movies left on the list but I keep adding to it (welcome to The List, Turning Red!), so I hope you'll keep following.


Next week, yet another thing to be grateful for: Taika Waititi movies! We'll be watching Jojo Rabbit and I will be crying. A lot.


I hope this next week is a gift. I hope you do that thing you keep thinking about doing. I can just about guarantee it'll pay off. Just remember Cate Blanchett who would probably tell you, "fuck the algorithm."

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