FILM  REVIEW


Monolith Cocktail - Hateful Eight image


Our Franco-Turkish critic Ayfer Simms puts up a staunch defence of Quentin Tarantino‘s bloody, embittered western, The Hateful Eight

Who would have thought that one review from Le Monde, the famous French daily paper would have almost stopped me from seeing the Hateful Eight?! To summarise the French reviewers’ position in a few lines: “Superficial characters, lack of subtlety, a mixture of genres that do not work together, no sense of humour, promotion of misogyny and racism for the sake of shocking the audience, because, venture the critiques, we all know very well that Tarentino is NOT racist; the movie lacks inspiration despite the big names, the result is a pastiche of himself”. After hearing this, my shoulders dropped and I genuinely felt disappointed with Tarentino who had let us down… However, on a bizarrely blizzard-y Istanbul evening, I was dragged to see it (though I tried to suggest a different movie, any movie, in a last attempt to avoid the disastrous film). After watching it, I was covered in shame, which quickly transformed into anger. Le Monde was utterly wrong and had almost prevented me from seeing a good movie: Tarentino, the god of screenplays had struck again, even exceeding some of his older movies.

 

The Hateful Eight, with an atmosphere worthy of The Shining, or The Exorcist, opens up with a long shot of a sculpture of a very lonely Jesus, wrinkled in pain, buried under a white, trenchant snow, alive and dead at the same time; a Jack Torrance frozen in his track, wrapped up in a blanket, stuck in a forever coo coo world and the insistence on this tragic figure is a prelude to what follows.

Ennio Morricone’s name appears with all the weight of his glorious past, Tarentino by collaborating with such a persona embraces a whole genre to give it life again. While the French critiques judge the mixture of genres distasteful, western, mystery, the achieved result is on the contrary explosive and original: Pounding, resonating into the big wide snowy mountains, like the steps of the devil himself.

 

The characters enter the scene as if trespassing in the hall of Hell, for the last judgment, only it is done by no other gods than their own enemies, disguised perhaps as a Miss Marple, a Poirot; a black American who happens to have an Abraham Lincoln letter in his pocket…

The little lodge in the mountains becomes a stage filled with humorous ghosts like characters, with nebulous past, a kind of Sartrean Huit-clos. We are here entrapped with heavy weight violent souls who have wit and human traits: soldiers and bandits who have not yet realised they had holes in their stomachs, lying lifeless somewhere, on the back of a horse, victims perhaps of some bounty hunters? Carrying on their back all the nasty deeds they have done as if now that bag had become a thing they carry clumsily, like chains at their feet.

They are heroes; they all have fame, and guts with their fearless criminal’s stance, yet they enjoy a good cup of coffee with the precision of a Dale Cooper…and the warmth of good blankets!

 

We travel to battlefields, prisons, and to a big wide land, to the years following the American Civil war without leaving the room, to the town we are promised to reach but never do… Red rock Hell itself? The promised land of justice for the crooks? Each character is likeable, original to the extent that we fear for their safety in this intrigue that reminds us of “Ten Little Niggers” from Agatha Christie – the original title is still used in France but was changed to “And then there were none” in the US in 1939.

And misogyny? Because of the scenes of hitting a woman? Tarentino’s female characters have nothing to envy from any of the men…Jacky Brown, Kill Bill, Daisy Domergue… if anything he promotes equality of genders, these women do a hell of a good job defending themselves. Jennifer Jason Leigh, and her character have such a presence, when she gets a bash it is not for her safety that we worry, the twinkle in her eye only calls for respect…Racism as a mean of provoking the audience? Frankly, I am not sure where the French critiques have pulled that one from, but I’ll give it a pass. This movie is a masterpiece as far as I am concerned.

Words:  Ayfer Simms


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