Watched: 23rd November 2008
Where: On TV
Sometimes I wish I was 15 again, not often but sometimes. Watching Death Proof was one of those times. Actually pretty much every Tarantino film makes me wish I was 15 again, right from the first time I saw Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994) and just as much so with Death Proof. Death Proof has all the ingredients needed for my 15 year old self: Sexy girls, fast cars and faster crashes, great conversation and the ability to bring out the trainspotter in me to be the first to have seen all the films Tarantino quotes. The other joy of being 15 again would be just to re-write the film for my blog. Yes, the joys of being 15 again, writing a review would have been fun, but life is not quite that simple if you want to try and understand what is happening, not just repeat what you see.
I find it so easy to become lost in the world created by a film, sometimes this makes bad films interesting and for me makes Bond films the greatest movies ever made. Thank goodness I've never started watching Star Trek... Death Proof and in particular all of Tarnatino's movies get me completely lost when I try and understand what world they live in. Tarantino's world is spun together with quotations from the history of trash cinema, the people that live in his world are usually amalgamations of the characters from these movies. However, sometimes we forget that the real world is all around them. Tarantino blurs this distinction when we have the things that make us think they are quotes from the distant past, or products from the real world but are in fact Tarantino's own concerns, like the Big Kahuna Burger and Red Apple Cigarettes, to name just two. When someone in Tarantino's world tries to enter the real world it is not a pretty sight, The Bride (Uma Thurman) trying to look after her daughter in the opening scenes of Kill Bill (Tarantino, 2003/2004) whilst ending up in a big fight.
Death Proof is a film spoofing/paying homage to the 1970s Grindhouse movies, which I can't say I have ever really watched. Though with a little help they can be explained:
"What is a grindhouse movie? Here's my best definition: it's a movie that makes
you want to run, not walk, to the nearest shower, but leaves you unable to
decide whether the shower should be hot or cold" - Tim Lucas - Sight and Sound - June 2007
Probably the best thing about Death Proof is how simple it all seemed after watching it. Just like that film for a 15 years old. However, the problem with Death Proof is that it cannot exist in isolation. It forms part of the Tarantinoverse which you could spends years researching, ticking off your trainspotter list of quotes, (self) references etc. As usual with Tarantino in doing this alone you are missing the point. The films work in their contrasts, conflicts and copies, not only their references and stories.
"Grindhouse audiences are seldom sated by blood and nudity alone; they also
want to see ageing actors crawling on their stomachs across the
broken-glass-strewn floors of scripts they would have snubbed in their
Tim Lucas - Sight and Sound - June 2007
Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) is a relic, just like those before him, think pretty much the whole cast in Pulp Fiction Vince Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are killed on contemplating a way out of their Tarrantinoverse, Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), the boxer is trying to settle down with his partner. Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is trying to give up a life of drug smuggling. In Death Proof it is no different. In Warrens bar, the outsiders Dov and Omar mock Mike, "Dude fucking cut himself falling out of his time machine."
Stuntman Mike is trying to interfere in the world of women, the world as it is, outside the Tarantinoverse. Mike's only way to get a thrill and stay alive is to run them down in his death proof car, it keeps him in the world. Outside of the car Mike is the weak, vulnerable nobody than those outside the Tarantinoverse see him to be. The two parts of Death proof show this. The first part is within Mike's world, Warren's bar (where Tarantino pours the drinks and makes the rules) the girls, despite their initial attitude seem based in Mike's time, they need help, Pam (Rose McGowan) asks for a ride home and Warren sets her up with Stuntman Mike who eventually kills all the girls with his death proof car. Mike is left with minor injuries and gets away with the crime. Part one is the grindhouse. In part two, the girls are out there again: the lips, the legs, the feet. They seem so close to Mike, as if they are offering themselves to him.
Part two of Death Proof is in the real world, unfortunately for Mike the women hold the power. This is not Mike's world anymore. Where's Warren when you need him. When Mike enters his car he is death proof. In the second segment of the film, Zoe Bell, the stunt woman attacks Mike in his death proof car, she can ride the car strapped to its outside. The women can drive like men, the women can fight like me, they can do Mike's job better than him. Once Mike's out of the car he's a dead man, no longer death proof, no longer in control, stuck and startled in the real world. A creature of his time leaves death by the women his only option. Mike enters the real world in 2007 as a dead man. The reality of the situation is compounded by the fact that the stuntwoman Zoe Bell, who is playing herself in Death Proof, was Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill, reality has truly caught up with Mike, this time it's real. One day time catches up with you, you're not 15 anymore, not a movie star, this is the real world, get out of the movies!