Saturday, January 31, 2009

Film #108: Grindhouse

The following is an interview conducted by the magnificent Dark City Dame of Noirish City about one of my favorite films of the 2000s:

DarkCityDame: Let me start off by asking you this question: why did you select the film Grindhouse to be added to your list of 30 films from 2000 to the present?

Dean: Grindhouse stands as one of the most unusual moviegoing experiences I've had in recent years. As a fan of Tarantino's, and to a lesser extent Rodriguez's, I had immensely high hopes for the picture, but I got so much more than I was anticipating. Here I go into a personal story. I saw the film in Atlanta on a blah-sort-of Monday afternoon with one of my best friends, Patrick Flynn. We're both big fans of the grindhouse genre, so we were looking forward to this movie greatly. We snuck in some beers and sat down for a good time. There were, I think, only about 15 other people in the theater--surely all of them were as excited as we were to see this movie. Once it began, with that funky-cool old 1970s "Coming Attractions" teaser trailer and a few fake trailers for movies we'd never see in full, we all knew we were in for a treat. By the time the movie surely had its hooks in us, we were all whoopin’ and hollerin’, crackin’ jokes out loud just like you do at the drive-in or maybe at a midnite movie. After Patrick and I caught our wind after gasping and laughing so hard at the film’s final minutes, I decided I had just seen a masterpiece. But I hadn’t just SEEN it—I had very much LIVED it. See, Grindhouse is a movie about watching movies—about the LOVE of watching movies and having fun at the movie theater. It reproduces, down to every little edit and scratched bit of film, the ecstatic adventure of watching a beat-up old film print at an 80s-era Times Square venue or at an old, battered drive-in. This is a quality that was lost on many of the film's younger viewers, who were not of the generation that experienced weathered double features on a regular basis, if at all.DarkCityDame: So tell us about the first film in this double-feature

Dean: The first film on the bill, Planet Terror is a perfect reproduction of an early 80s zombie action movie, replete with a sexy opening credits sequence (obviously inspired by Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!), a role for Josh Brolin that makes him look exactly like his father James (who was in at least a few of these sort of movies—most memorably 1977’s fun/awful The Car) and some soppy scenes of gore unlike anything either Rodriguez or Tarantino had ever delivered to movie audiences.

DarkCityDame: Who are some of the other people in the cast?

Dean: Well, we've got Freddy Rodriguez as a lovelorn trucker, Rose McGowan as his stripper girlfriend, Jeff Fahey as a mad truck stop owner, Josh Brolin as an ultra-serious doctor, Marley Shelton as an excitable physician on Brolin's ward, Michael Biehn as a harried sheriff, Bruce Willis as a zombie-killing military man, and Tarantino himself as a character billed as "The Rapist." Quite a cast.DarkCityDame: And the second feature Death Proof? What’d you think of that?

Dean: That was quite a change of pace from Planet Terror—a little more talky and maybe political than the first feature. I’d also say it’s a spoof of a movie, maybe, from the late 70s, so it’s a bit slower, but perfectly so. A lot of viewers complained that Death Proof was a film with a different, more subdued sort of energy to it, but we have to remember that Grindhouse was trying to replicate the double feature, and as such, the two movies couldn’t be cut from exactly the same cloth. Planet Terror was such a whirlwind of blood and guts that we needed a breather. Death Proof provides us with that. It stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a cucumber-cool customer in a 1971 Dodge Charger who has a beef with women. And there are a group of attractive ladies that prove to be his toughest challenges: Tracie Thoms as Kim, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lee, real-life stuntwoman Zoe Bell as Zoe, Marcy Harriell as Marcy. I love the Tarantino dialogue here; still as entertaining as always. (It mystified me that people were impatient with the dialogue in the film; who writes better talk than Tarantino?) And the stuntwork towards the latter half of Death Proof is among the best examples of the craft in recent years (particularly since CGI has taken over in the moviemaking world). Finally, I adore the performances of Zoe Bell (who was Uma Thurman's stunt double in the Kill Bill series) and Kurt Russell, who's never been more repulsively unctious. His girlish crying at the end of the movie is pure joy to me.

DarkCityDame: How did Grindhouse fare at the box office? Do you think that Tarantino and Rodriguez will team up again?

Dean: I would love to see more Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse movies, but, alas, this one was not a hit at the ticket counter. People just were all out confused at the notion of double features and I suppose they weren't willing, for some damn reason, to sit in a theater for three hours and FOR ONCE truly get their money's worth in entertainment. As a result, the film Grindhouse has still not gotten a proper release on DVD, and has instead been released as two separate films. Which, I think, is a travesty and an insult. For laughs, thrills, and moviemaking detail (loooove those fake trailers, especially Edgar Wright’s “DON’T”), nothing comes close to bringing the goods like Grindhouse does. It's a shame people couldn't just go with the flow and enjoy it. That said, I'm sure Rodriguez and Tarantino will work together again. They're joined at the hip, so to speak (though I think the film's success has a lot more to do with Tarantino than Rodriguez).

DarkCityDame: My final question: since you selected this film as number 24 on your list of 30 films from the year 2000 to present, why do you think that the readers and I should add this film to our DVD collections?

Dean: Put simply: if you're a student of all types of film, nothing--and I mean nothing--replicates the pure joy of seeing trashy movies in a broken-down urban movie palace like Grindhouse. I mean, a whole book could be written on the directors' attention to detail in this film. They got every little splice mark, cigarette-burned frame, credits typeface, and music cue just exactly right. What’s not to like? What more could you want as an entertainment and an education? All movielovers owe it to themselves to see it. So when Miramax actually DOES release the full, reunited Grindhouse on DVD (as I hear is soon to happen), rush out and buy it post-haste.

1 comment:

NoirishCity.... said...

Hi! Dean,
Oh! this interview bring back very "fond" memory, but since this interview I have purchased and yet to watch "DeathProof," but it is in the queue and Planet Terror is next..
Omg!...Did I receive a lesson in "contemporary" film watching education from you?...You betcha!
Thanks, Dean,
(and Hi! to the "boys')
The "Dame"

Btw,This is what happen to the Filmsmoir.net animated widget...Because I noticed that you also installed one of Tony D'Ambra's widgets.(and to think I installed 3 of Tony's widgets!)
According to Tony D'Ambra,"I had to remove the animated widget as it was too successful (nearly 90 installs). My hosting provider was ready to suspend my account due to the load on memory and processor resources…"
Comment by Tony D'Ambra