The Hateful Eight: Tarantino names his oeuvre.
Hateful Eight *
<a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=quentin+tarantino">Quentin Tarantino's</a> restaging of the Civil War in a Wyoming bar owes more to Agatha Christie than it does John Ford’s <em>Stagecoach</em>. What was it about this cramped, underdeveloped parlor drama – the majority of which takes place on one set – that caused Tarantino to think 70mm? The frigid snowscapes that open the film put the lens to the test, but the moment the action shifts from stagecoach to soundstage, all of the verbal anachronisms in Tarantino’s loopy lexicography can’t buoy it. At a whopping 168 minutes (plus a 12 minute pee-break) the directors 70mm pipe dream could easily have lost an hour and no one would have been any the wiser. The third-act flashback reversal that served him well in <em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/pulp-fiction/">Pulp Fiction</a></em>, forcing even the most casual filmgoer to ponder narrative structure, reads like feeble inner-dialogue in these parts. See it in 70mm or not all, the second option being your best bet
Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is being billed as the director’s eighth film. It appears as though QT, like most devoted cinephiles, has forgotten about his segment in Four Rooms. The addition brings the tally up to 8.25, a number more in line with the Fellini homage he was clearly aiming for.
The advance screenings were all presented on DCP, and this old celluloid dreamer would have none of it. Tarantino resurrected the cinematic equivalent of antique farm equipment to make this movie, and damned if I wasn’t going to see it as he intended, in Ultra Panavision 70. Patience, a word normally missing from my vocabulary, paid off. Had I succumbed to a digital screening, there’s no way a return viewing would have been in the immediate future, not even if QT shot it in horizontal VistaVision and Smell-O-Rama.
(On a technical note, John Sittig and his crew at Reading Grossmont honored Tarantino’s wishes down to the letter. That meant frame-hugging masking and uniform focus of the giant 60-foot image. [Alas, no cue marks.] With the image shorn of pixels, one could count the dusted-over snowflakes that covered the tops of hats. And the coffee steam that curled from under the brim couldn’t have felt more immersive had it been shot in 3D.)
Samuel L. Jackson leads the odious octet, calling on his Superman-ish skills to press every line of his African bounty hunter’s dialog into glistening diamonds. The icy locale and sole location recall Kurt Russell’s work in The Thing, but it’s another John Carpenter creation, Snake Plissken, and his Duke Wayne drawl that the actor winkingly calls attention to. QT stalwart Tim Roth returns to play the hangman Oswaldo Mobray, a reference to character actor Alan Mowbray, whose Shakespearean recital in My Darling Clementine never fails to elicit applause. It’s Jennifer Jason Leigh, the sole hateful female of the group, whose scattered moments of underplaying effectively steal the show, but more on the treatment of her character later.
Clocking in at a whopping 168 minutes (plus a 12-minute pee-break), it could easily have lost an hour, starting with an unyieldingly juvenile scene involving Craig Stark, and no one would have been any the wiser. What was it about this cramped, underdeveloped parlor drama — the majority of which takes place on one set — that caused Tarantino to think 70mm? The frigid snowscapes that open the film put the lens to the test, but the moment one stage replaces the other, all of the verbal anachronisms in Tarantino’s loopy lexicography can’t buoy it.
The wide-gauge format isn’t the only ghost of cinema past that QT resuscitates, and still the iceman never comeths. The third-act flashback reversal that served him well in Pulp Fiction, forcing even the most casual filmgoer to ponder narrative structure, reads like feeble inner-dialogue in these parts. Without the benefit of surprise — bottomless splatter and the director’s post-intermission narration don’t count — QT’s restaging of the Civil War in a Wyoming bar owes more to Agatha Christie than it does John Ford’s Stagecoach.
By way of compensation, his dialog is spiked with more easygoing epithets than you’d find at a Santee smoker, the majority of which are etymologically unsound and included simply to shock and elicit laughter from his minions. (You just know that in his heart he wanted to go full-Christie by calling it 8 Little N-Words.) The packed crowd that joined me for a Sunday morning matinee reserved their biggest laughs for the two moments that showcase the director’s fetishistic preoccupation with Leigh’s abasement. The first comes in response to one of many cartoonish (her black eye appears to have been applied by the same makeup artist who touched up Groucho’s mustache) but nonetheless gratuitous blows to the face she endures, the other when the raisin-toothed wreck finds herself on the receiving end of a shower of bloody vomit.
Why Ultra Panavision 70? My guess is that a young Tarantino had a poster from a feature shot in that arcane process tacked to his bedroom wall and, logo-whore that he is, vowed to one day shoot a film in the pristine band-aid format. See it at Grossmont or not at all, the second option being your best bet.