Back to The Hateful Eight, which I also almost equally offensive. Tarantino seems absolutely preoccupied with the term nigger, which it seems must be used ad nauseam – and it is quite sickening – in most of his movies. The Hateful Eight completely lives up to its name, it is absolutely hateful, hateful characters fuelled by hate: race hate and plain old misanthropy which almost wholly subsumes any misogyny. Loyalty is, I’ll grant, at least partly the motivation of the hateful gang trying to free a woman member being taken to town to hang by a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell). And perhaps, between her and her brother, we can find the only trace of anything resembling love or affection in the film, albeit between two vile bodies. True, some of the characters produced for an unnecessary flashback slaughter that made the film overlong may have had healthy human emotions, but they were canon-fodder more than character, indulgencies in this homage. Or should that be parody? The hateful eight plus for a while, before he adds to the body count, a decent seeming stagecoach driver, are ensconced together in a capacious log cabin. So begins the most gory pantomime you’ll ever see: black Samuel L Jackson and the seven white racist psychopaths. Sorry, six white plus one Mexican psycho. At times, the plot resembles Cluedo: Who poisoned the coffee? Not the giant Mexican with the bushy beard in the enormous fur coat because he was playing Silent Night on the piano! Ace detective Samuel L notices a jelly bean dropped on the floor, but ignores the fact that the cabin door has been shot to pieces and has to be nailed closed every time someone kicks it in to enter. Perhaps the actors got as sick of this joke (?) as I did because they couldn’t even be bothered to nail wood to both the frame and the door, leaving one end ridiculously unconnected.
All this said, and I could go on and on about the movie’s shortcomings, The Hateful Eight did leave me with nagging questions, and not only about its discomforting mix of ultra-violence and comedy. Perhaps because it lacked the cathartic get-out ending of Django unchained, The Hateful Eight sticks in my mind mainly because of its portrayal of race hate in US culture. There is no hope on offer here, though in Samuel L Jackson’s character there may be historical tragedy and perhaps a measure of justification.
Though it is even more terribly visceral, The Revenant is fuelled by love rather than hate: the love of one man for his murdered wife and son, of another for his kidnapped and raped daughter. There are men acting on principle, decency and justice, and exhibiting fierce loyalty and respect for human life, though animals fare less well. Apart from the technical superiority of The Revenant in all departments, most notably writing, directing, acting and camerawork, the crux of the difference between this movie and The Hateful Eight is that this is a moral film. Good and evil and not just good and banal are in play, or rather in terrible bloody conflict. Call me old fashioned, but this is the sort of experience I want from a movie, grim and gritty but life-affirming. And off course, I don’t want all movies to have the same moral perspective, but the unrelenting nihilism, the extreme pessimism of The Hateful Eight is poor fare as entertainment never mind morality. No matter how many heads are blown off or nigger jokes are made to make us titter, uncomfortably complicit, The Hateful Eight weighs heavily on the negative side of my Tarantinio-meter. Following up on the excellent Birdman, on the other hand, Alejandro González Iñárritu is becoming a firm favourite. The Revenant is a film about real life, it seems to me, whereas The Hateful Eight is a film about films, a simulacrum.
Both movies have great soundtracks, by the way. But here again Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s music for The Revenant surpasses Enio Morricone’s thundering score for The Hateful Eight.
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