Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

*Note, I saw the 70mm roadshow edition.

Quentin Tarantino’s most absolutely nasty, furious, brutal, bitingly political film to date. It’s a tough one. It’s slow, it’s long, and when the shootouts finally come, they are uncomfortable and grotesque.

Everyone here is a bastard, and Tarantino plays a continuous and impressive game of alignment adjustment – subtly shifting not who we like, but who we dislike the least – as we are pushed deeper into Tarantino’s hell.

And Tarantino’s hell is contemporary America. The criminals and lawmen are worse than each other. Racism, homophobia, and misogyny are rampant, and any good that is drawn out of people is either incidental or based on lies.

But here’s the thing. Despite all the nihilism and cynicism present, this is actually an optimistic film. The last scene, which I won’t spoil here, presents an aspiration to be better. Tarantino shows us the desire in each of these people’s hearts to be grand and to be kind and to be good. It’s impossible, this aspiration. The film presents it as so, read by two men who are aware that they do not live up to their ideal’s promise. But they find hope in it, nonetheless. They find hope in this lie, because they desperately want to believe it.

Tarantino believes in humankind’s capacity for evil, yes, and wholeheartedly. Yet, he also believes that, perhaps, they have the capacity to change. In their hearts, their is a desire, maybe a futile one, but a desire nevertheless, for honor and nobility.

Look, this is a slow film. It is a mean, nasty one. It takes almost an hour and a half for a real piece of action to happen. It stars grotesque people hurting each other. It verges on utter nihilism. The gore is not fun, it is horrific and legitimately off putting.

But goddamn it if it isn’t a focused, raging, and somehow poignant statement on humanity. It takes guts for a filmmaker this late in his (very commercial) career to make something this difficult and political. Applause for quality, encore for ambition. His best film.

(P.S. It’s also basically a remake of The Thing, which is amazing.)

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Review: Lessons of Darkness (1992)

“Has life without fire become unbearable for them? Others, seized by madness, follow suit. Now they are content. Now there is something to extinguish again.”

Maybe the closest I’ve ever seen to someone attempting to promote a true post-human agenda. That’s not a bad thing – it’s impressive and compelling.

Herzog presents so much of his terrifying footage – fires and smoke stacks and landscapes of unfathomable magnitude – with little narration, Bible-like chapter titles, beautiful music, and a hazy sense of time. By the point at which humans become the focus of the film, they truly seem alien and incomprehensible beyond broad outlines of behavior.

Herzog’s thesis (besides his general condemnation of the conflict) seems to be that humanity’s actions are simply resultant of their unconscious desire for destruction, destruction which actually renders humanity irrelevant in its enormity. We gape in awe at our ability to create the unknown, and we let ourselves burn if our unknown is beautiful.