Jan 17, 2016

Review of "The Hateful Eight"

A substantial portion of my yesterday was spent with The Hateful Eight. I saw it at the Grand Lake Theatre, quite possibly the ideal setting for this movie. For this is a movie that Tarantino wants you to view. It wouldn't be appropriate to watch it on your laptop, or your TV. Seeing it at the local cineplex would barely suffice. It was the most immersive movie experience I've ever had.

And Tarantino wants you to be immersed. Tarantino ransacked almost all the movie warehouses in North America to dredge up 96 70-millimeter projectors for The Hateful Eight's initial run.

Tarantino shot the film in Ultra-Panavision (the last film shot in Ultra-Panavision was released in 1966), yielding a 2.76:1 (read: very wide) aspect ratio.

Tarantino commissioned Ennio Morricone to score the film, and makes you listen to his angsty neoromantic music for five minutes of overture (the overture! I think the last feature film to open with an overture premiered in 1937), while all there is to watch is a still frame of stagecoach silhouetted against crimson mountains.

Tarantino divides the film into six chapters, each beginning with a title card. The first three chapters are separated from the last three by an intermission (an intermission!), for which the red curtain of the Grand Lake's theatre glided down.

And this is all just the foreplay. There are plenty of tidbits to love in the movie itself: the product placement of products that don't exist, the long shots of Western snowscapes, the careful, quiet observation shot from Samuel L. Jackson's perspective (I know that Jackson nominally plays different characters in different Tarantino films, but all their details slip away: there's just Samuel L. Jackson, inexplicably, perfectly placed in various times, places, and styles of dress).

Everything else you'd expect from a Tarantino movie was there too: the overblown violence, the fast-paced banter, the emphasis on race relations. And the plot, well, the plot was okay. A whodunnit (a wholldoit?), a sort of cross between Stagecoach and The Thing. But the plot is really beside the point.

This is a movie's movie. A movie for film lovers, by the biggest cinephile still standing.

And it works! The Hateful Eight took up the better half of my afternoon (counting overture and intermission it clocked in at around three hours and twenty minutes), but the time was well spent. Time in another world, a world where even if you find yourself stranded by a Wyoming blizzard in a lonesome cabin with several characters of dubious background, all your troubles can be solved by clear thinking, fast talking, and long pistols.

[rereads: 2, edits: punctuation and grammar fixes]