By Daniel Cohen
As a self-diagnosed film addict, when I heard that HST-333: “Hollywood Film History” was being offered in the spring, I knew that I had to take it. It may not have been the best fit for my schedule, or even my workload, but any class consisting of watching many classic movies is perfect for me.
In the class, we learn about the rise of American cinema, starting in the early 1900s with short 30-second pictures all the way to the popularization of independent films in the 1970s. Every week, we review a new film era and watch a movie or two from it. We are required keep a film log, as well, where we analyze movies that we watch in-class and additional films we watch out of class that we get to choose, keeping in mind any film techniques we learned and explaining why the filmmaker might have used them.
For one week’s journal, I decided that I would analyze Kill Bill: Volume 1, directed by Quentin Tarantino. Kill Bill: Volume 1 is one of my favorite movies, so once I learned about a few techniques, I could not wait to re-watch it and analyze it in a new context. I knew Tarantino was a master of cinematic techniques and I was excited to see if I could put any skills I learned in class to use.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 is the first movie in a two volume set where The Bride, an ex-hit man played by Uma Thurman, attempts to get revenge on the members of her former assassination team who tried to kill her at her wedding.
The film is filled with many film techniques, tributes and references. For example, as The Bride prepares to take on the Crazy 88 gang, Tarantino gives us a bird’s-eye view of the situation, showing her massively outnumbered. The camera then rotates to The Bride as she locks eyes with several of her many opponents. Soon after, she leaps into battle. Right when Tarantino’s infamous gore-filled fighting begins, the film changes to black-and-white.
Both the bird’s-eye view and the long shot of The Bride locking eyes with the Crazy 88 gang is meant to build suspense for the coming battle. Watching this, we are meant to worry that the sheer number of enemies might be too much for The Bride and that this might be where her journey ends. The shift to black-and-white is a reference to United States kung-fu movies in the 1980s. They were shown in black-and-white in an attempt to cover up how gory the scenes could be. By mimicking this, Tarantino is trying to send us back to this era, where the fighting was fantastical and it was easy to get lost in the action.
As a film buff, learning to analyze movies in a new way has been a great experience for me. “Hollywood Film History” is not technically a course offered by the Department of Film Studies; instead, it is offered by the Department of History. However, Union offers several film studies courses each term. For more information on film studies courses or the Department of Film Studies, visit the program website at: http://muse.union.edu/filmstudies/. For more information on history courses or the Department of History, visit the program website at: http://muse.union.edu/history/.