Kill Bill, Vol. 1: Appropriating Shakespeare and Kurosawa (Part One)

Kill Bill, Vol. 1: Appropriating Shakespeare and Kurosawa (Part One)

After what seemed like an eternity, Quentin Tarantino returned with Kill Bill, Vol. 1 in 2004. The long break between the director issuing work, though, is obviously as a result of concocting four hours or so of action and dialogue. That being said, it appears that the majority of the Kill Bill films were cribbed from other sources.

As this first installment opens, there’s an immediate reference to Japanese film history while the emblematic Shaw Brothers’ logo flashes on screen. It’s tantamount to the cheeseball opening that Jackie Brown started with, echoing Tarantino’s childhood spent watching B-movie fair.

Because of the overt homage beginning Kill Bill, it’s not surprising that the non-linear approach to plot is again employed here even if Tarantino’s only other foray into this device came with Pulp Fiction. The use of such a technique, calls up anything from Citizen Kane and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp to pretty much any revenge story that’s been told throughout history.

Breaking the story into two disparate sections, though, almost begs for such a construction. This first installment finds the Bride (Uma Thurman) awaking from a coma she was sent into during a savage beating at her wedding. The opening few shots are of Thurman’s character beaten and bloodied, laying on the floor sputtering something that only can make complete and total sense after making it through this film and into the sequel.

With such a broad beginning, even as the remainder of the film is spent watching the Bride dispatch her various enemies, there’s only a single focus to this effort. Revenge.

The revenge story is perhaps one of the oldest concepts in storytelling. It’s most easily recalled progenitor, Hamlet, even found itself being reworked by Akira Kurosawa for his The Bad Sleep Well, a film that was set in then current day Japan. But in including Kurosawa in this discussion, it’s interesting to note that both the Japanese director and Tarantino don’t frequently rely on densely constructed plots to push their narratives forward.

Kill Bill, much like Reservoir Dogs and even Pulp Fiction don’t sport too much in the way of plot development, per se. But there is an early stated purpose for all of the subsequent action whether it’s the pursuit of money, business or just revenge. But being able to pull from arts ranging from Shakespeare to Kurosawa and the Shaw Brothers bodes well of this franchised film.