Today I watched Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 70mm (2015)
Leave it to a huge nerd like Quentin Tarantino to spearhead an attempted return to the physical film medium, not just in terms of how the film is shot but also screening it on film projectors. He gathers together an ensemble cast to showcase true old school movie magic in a darkly hilarous, racially charged, wild west mystery flick. It all revolves around a haberdashery in the mountains of Wyoming as a blizzard roles in, bringing with it a whole host of unsavory types. Two of them are bounty hunters played by Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russel respectively, and with them is a cuffed fugitive played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Immediately everyone is thrown into moods of paranoia as no one knows who might be there to help free the fugitive or steal the bounty and this is where the mystery of the film lies, who is on the side of the law and who is not, who is a liar and who is honest? And this whole mystery transpires in a single room, invoking the classic closed door mysteries, like a game of wild west flavoured Clue.
As I said before this is a very racially charged film, Tarantino seems to be making a series of race westerns with his last film being Django Unchained. Despite being an obviously anti-racist film, the amount of race humour on display here is very high. It could certainly be seen as offensive but I think the director’s intention is to create a dialogue, and the use of such ribald humour keeps the film from ever coming across as preachy. This film is a well constructed inspiration for a lot of talk about racial violence in America, while Tarantino’s own thoughts on the matter do come across, they are tempered by a maturity that allows the issue to be present without being forced.
Let’s talk about the big gimmick with this film, the film. Tatantino set out to show the world what only the physical medium of film is capable and he pulls out all the stops to do so. Oh boy is his a rousing success of a showcase, from the vast and inhospitable location photography to the magical way light is diffused by he lenses, it is all just gorgeous and luminous. Now I don’t like to think of myself as a film elitist, I try to give pulp as proper a pedestal as so called high art, so forgive me this little bit of highbrow snobbery… It is nice to see what a real film looks like.
I never thought film was a dying art until after seeing just how great it can look here, it has been so long in these digital times that I must have forgotten, and so has most of Hollywood. This is a rather towering work of intense artistry and most of Tarantino’s staple elements are here. While he is known as a rather violent director, his film’s really aren’t that violent, oh sure when it comes on screen it is intense and bloody, but most of his films are taken over by a metric tonne of dialogue. Tarantino loves over the top characters and loves flashing them out with whip-smart dialogue and this film is no different. It is actually a really funny flick and uses humour in some really clever ways to both enhance the tension and also to relieve it.
My final emotion in thinking about this film is actually a deep sorrow, why does this film have to be so special? There is so much further film makers could go beyond this, this film is so small in scope, is it just a swan song? Of course Star Wars was also shot on film, why didn’t I put out for it in the same way? Well this film shows off imagery only possible on film, in Star Wars I saw very little outside of the modern ordinary. But I hope both of them lead o a revitalization, let’s not make this a curiosity, let us please bring back film, or at least make it more accessible for artists to continue to make as bold statements as this. 5/5