Monday, January 11, 2016

The Hateful Eight

*** out of ****

In Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, the maestro gets everything he wants even if the audience doesn’t. Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Demián Bichir, James Parks, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern all make a beautiful ensemble with their engaging dialogue.

The Hateful Eight is a work of classic cinematic art and I apologize to Tarantino that I was unable to afford the road trip necessary to see his roadshow version of the film in a city that hasn't yet purged celluloid.

It is indeed an aesthetic accomplishment. Even in standard digital projection, I can see that this rare Ultra-Panavision 65mm production is Tarantino’s best looking movie ever. Ironically, its big look mostly takes place in a setting more confined than any movie he’s made. It’s as if Tarantino has returned to the stage-play limitations of his first major film with the cinematic splendor he’s accumulated since, to deliver “Reservoir Dogs -On Ice!”

I loved most of this hangout-style western set in a cabin during a heavy blizzard, but I was repulsed by its inevitable bloody results. Maybe my skin’s getting too thin for Tarantino, but I remember his violence being easier to stomach when it was more removed from reality. Lately, his films have been taking on heavier sociohistoric themes and mixing these themes with his sadism is tough to take. I am hesitant to praise his fearless choices even though they present a contrast to the unspoken climate of inoffensiveness imposed on filmmakers by major studios today.

I love Tarantino for his sophisticated art of dialogue and his ability to channel film history through fresh imagery, but along every interviewer and critic who have set him off, I have to call into question what he gets out of his nasty addiction to cruelty in his stories. For me, it's the cheapest of the elements that characterize his work. Sadly it's probably what has kept this multitalented artist famous. People will flock to this film shown on digital projectors with the promise of vengeance gratification - and they'll get it - after two and a half hours of patient cinematic beauty that I believe its artist loves more than its audience will. 

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