Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Hateful 8: American Politics 2016

The Hateful Eight will eventually be classified as one of director Tarantino's most outspoken political movies (even more than the one where his characters kill Hitler, which is more Grindhouse than political).

Like the sprawling views of the American political landscape in 2016, Tarantino goes as big as the camera allows, in 70 mm, and within the frame the characters are all deeply paranoid about one another, they all feel stuck, alone, confined, they have hidden agendas which have devastating consequences, and there's the visceral hatreds about race and then there's this letter from President Lincoln which is a herald for legitimacy and high-minded democracy. And much of what is rolled out - from characters to plot points - are all rather sketchy on the truth. It's like a pack of arguing Facebook commenters trapped in a room.

Women are bashed even more just for being in the conversation, worse if they speak. The way she is treated, the effort made by each of the characters to describe themselves via their roles in the social order, aren't really made to create comfort in viewers - the opposite in fact - we question everyone too. The status quo is up for grabs, a newer America is emerging.

Walter Goggins' character Mannix is, as he describes it, the one person in the group who is moving with the changing times and seeking his own answers:

" ... if you look at the course of that dialogue and the way he constructed that scene and how Mannix leans in and pulls back, he gets extremely aggressive and extremely passive. Mannix ends it with this vitriolic, defensive posture for his father and the institutions for the South and what the South stands for, and then Marquis pulls out his gun and Mannix says, “[Puts on the character’s voice] Oh, no, no, no, you got me talking politics.”
"Mannix is constantly shifting. He’s a real interesting guy in an arrested state of development, and you feel that in the stage coach. Everything that comes out of his mouth, at least for me, is regurgitating a worldview he got from his father and the people around him. None of those thoughts are his own, because he’s not a man; he doesn’t have the ability to think for himself until later in the movie. It all starts in that carriage scene, man.

(One non-political realization from the movie - almost each time two people speak together, someone is gonna get killed.And even if not, that possibility haunts one-on-one conversation.)

Oh and no one really emerges well from the political swamp they are in - not much to be solved locked into this particular space and time, everyone is asking the wrong questions or not enough of the right ones.

It's a pretty damning social commentary. told like a Western yarn spun round the campfire.And yet, ever the cultural compiler in cinema, Tarantino also builds this tale through the tropes of a Mystery, a sort of Locked Room whodunnit. And that too underpins the political commentary - so many unknowns when living in such a paranoid world.

Here's a fascinating roundtable talk with Tarantino, Ridley Scott, David O. Russell, and other top directors talking about filmmaking - great stuff.

Here's a terrific interview with Jennifer Jason Leigh on DP/30's YouTube page, and he's got more with the whole cast.