Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Extended Soundtrack Review: Kill Bill.

Quentin Tarantino’s two-part martial Arts epic divided critics. Some saw it as a fanboy’s picture lacking in direction, plot, or proper characters. Others thought it was a stylish, well-crafted masterpiece. I learn closer to the latter. I found it highly entertaining. I loved the character of The Bride and was impressed with the flashes of heart in the final Act of Volume 2. But what I loved most of all was the eargasm of the soundtrack, quite possible my favourite soundtrack to a film of all time.

The epic opens with Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang, one of her finest songs. 2003 was the year this song became cool, as it featured on ringtones, and was remixed into rap songs, electronica, the whole deal. But the original form is the definitive. Sinatra’s usually upbeat vocals (listen: These Boots are Made for Walking, Lightning’s Girl, Jackson) and happy voice is hauntingly chilling here, and, along with the cold, calculated broken thirds on the bass only accentuates the icy brilliance of this song.

Various instrumentals are scattered around, and each is as much of a enjoyable listen as the next, and many are also a goldmine for audophiles such as myself: from Isaac Hayes, 70s throwback, maracas, drum & trumpets Run Fay Run, and Green Hornet (Al Hirt) does a brilliant version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Bumblebee, which, essentially, sounds like a super-hyper bumblebee on crack. Classical influence, soul-into-rap, all the rules of the game are broken here, although QT’s not afraid to occasionally play it straight: Woo Hoo, The Flower of Carnage.

Now. Anyone heard Nina Simone’s soulful, sexy song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood? It’s a song that I totally connect with, and couldn’t imagine being remade. But recovered it was, by Santa Esmerelda, into a 10-minute track. Changes in voice, tempo and backing instrument including a 20-second castanet solo create a fun, bright song, very different from the original, but catchier, and somehow, retaining the sultriness, even with all the sun-kissed instruments.

Random other eccentricities grace the soundtracks. Bernard Herman’s claustrophobic, whistle-while-you-work tune, Twisted Nerve, invokes feelings of utmost fear and tension in me, despite having the appearance of an innocent hum tune, and The RZA, who did the only original music for the first film, uses part of his own score (played in the part where Uma is in the hospital car park, you know which scene I mean), and dubs it with voice to provide the Ode to O-Ren Ishi. And yes, he did just rhyme “Ishi” and “Japan-esie.” No one else could pull it off but The RZA.

Revenge is best known in Westerns, and the Western influence on these two films are evident from the music. Charlie Feathers, Luis Bacalov, and most of all, Ennio Morricone embody this. But Tarantino doesn’t just plagarize. He plagarizes, but also adds his personal touches (those touches are generally also borrowed from somewhere or another). Here, he mixes 70s Western with Japanese fight-flick, and in doing so, shoots the moon, providing us with quite possibly one of the most unforgettable instrumental tracks of all time: Battle without Honour or Humanity. Tomoyasu Hotei’s masterpiece is an orgasm-inducing amalgamation of adrenaline-fuelled synths, a repetitive catchy bass tune, and THAT cheesy-cool DUM DUM DUM denouement. Like Bang Bang, it was one of the it tunes of 2003, played on an absolute loop on mobile phones, Award shows, and kitsch fight montages. It was most recently used for the add of the Channel 4’s Supernanny, and it never fails to raise a smile from me. He.

Things take a more subdued note on Volume II, as, straight after we’ve been given a few words from the Bride, we’re introduced to Shivaree, in the ghoulish, yet oddly unpleasant Goodnight Moon. The lyrics are understandably nasty, but the song is utterly hypnotic, and just screams for repeat listens, not least for Shivaree’s airless, floaty vocals. Then the call for Morricone plays up, with the first of three from the master composer, Il Tromonto, an atmospheric, but foreboding tune.

Two tone-setting instrumentals feature heavily: Luis Bacalov’s Summertime Killer, where just the bare pattering of fingers on the drum sounds cool, and The Chase, Vol. 2’s counterpart to Battle Without Honour or Humanity. Less impactful, but every ounce of thrill is still there in the strumming, and that fantastic piccolo, which plays like its their birthday. Morricone features twice more, with L’Arena, and, my personal favourite, A Silhouette of Doom which just exudes the Western, cool-guy, couldn’t give a damn aura, yet at the same time, you’re looking over your shoulder. Too be frightening and cool at the same time is one thing, to be all that, and personify the Westerns in just a simple booming of timpani is another. Morricone is the master.

Chingnon’s Spanish vocal song, Malaguena Salerosa captures the aftermath of killing Bill perfectly, and could very well be the tune that describes the Bride better than the rest. And Urami Bushi is the perfect send-off tune. But the track on the Volume II that truly stands out for me is Malcolm McLaren’s She’s Not There, the song which played in the poignant scene where Bea lies with her daughter. It’s certainly a curious effort, as the bleating of “My man, got a heart…” has been described by my friends as “rather sheepish.” And there isn’t much in terms of lyrics either, as a lot of the song goes, “So no one told me about her.” Yet… I was and am completely in awe and captivated by it. The backing vocals, score in the background, and not least that ridiculous beautiful instrumental part that ends the song… everything just comes together wonderfully, to provide one of the most haunting and memorable songs of all time.

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And now, the top 10 songs over the two soundtracks:
01. Battle Without Honour or Humanity (Tomoyasu Hotei)
02. About Her (Malcolm McLaren)
03. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Santa Esmerelda)
04. The Chase (Alan Reeves, Phil Steele, and Philip Bringham)
05. Summertime Killer (Luis Bacalov)
06. Bang Bang (Nancy Sinatra)
07. Goodnight Moon (Shivaree)
08. Twisted Nerve (Bernard Herman)
09. A Silhouette of Doom (Ennio Morricone)
10. Urami Bushi (Meiko Kaji)

7 comments:

JL said...

Really, really well written. Well done!

My favourites incluce Battle without..., the three Morricones, and Bang Bang.

Anonymous said...

Well done

Optimistic said...

I think the extended soundtrack misses some tracks:

Death Rides a Horse - Ennio Morricone
L'Arena - Ennio Morricone (I love this one)
Per Un Pugno Di Dollari - Ennio Morricone (when Budd shot Beatrix)
Lond Day of Vengeance - Armando Trovajoli
La Resa Dei Conti - Ennio Morricone

Emma said...

I didn't the titles of all of those, thanks!

Chrissy said...

"Don't let me be misunderstoond" is originally by the Animals"

czar said...

Nina Simone was the first to record it in 1964. The Animals covered it in 1965.

Anonymous said...

Lesson 1: Greetings/Salutations
Ohayoo gozaimasu = Good morning
Konnichi wa = Hello; good afternoon
Konban wa = Good evening
Sayoonara = Good bye
Lesson 2: Common, Every-day Phrases
Ee, soo desu = That is right
Iie, chigaimasu = That is wrong; you are mistaken
Kyoo wa ii tenki desu ne = Nice weather today, isn't it?
Sumimasen = Excuse me
Arigatoo (gozaimasu) = Thank you (polite form)
Doo itashimashite = You're welcome
Hajimemashite = Nice to meet you
Chooto maate = wait for a moment
Ii desu = it's ok
Hai (ee) = yes
Iie = no
NAME-san = Mr./Ms./Mrs.
NAME-senee = Teacher; Professor
COUNTRY-jin = [Nationality]
COUNTY-go = [Language]
NOUN + desu = to be; am; is; are
NOUN + wa = [Topic]
SENTENCE + ka = [Question]
Lesson 3: Numbers
ichi = 1ni = 2san = 3shi (yon) = 4go = 5roku = 6shichi (nana) = 7hachi = 8ku (kyuu) = 9juu = 10 juu-ichi = 11juu-ni = 12juu-san = 13juu-yon = 14juu-go = 15juu-roku = 16juu-nana (juu-shichi) = 17juu-hachi = 18juu-kyu = 19ni-juu = 20 san-juu = 30yon-juu = 40go-juu = 50roku-juu = 60nana-juu = 70hachi-juu = 80kyuu-juu = 90hyaku = 100sen = 1000

Lesson 4: Time
NUMBER + ji = __ o' clock
NUMEBER + ji-han = half past....
Gozen = A.M.
Gogo = P.M.; afternoon
Ima = Now
Asa = Morning
Hiru = Daytime; noon
Yoru = Night; evening
Lesson 5: Vocabulary - Part 1
Hon = Book
Jisho = Dictionary
Enpitsu = Pencil
Tsukue = Desk
Isu = Chair
Kasa = Umbrella
Tokee = Watch; clock
Kaban = Bag
Kutsu = Shoes
Kustu-shita = Socks
Mado = Window
Tatemono = Building
Gakkoo = School
Toshokan = Library
Byooin = Hospital
Lesson 6: Colors
Akai = Red
Shiroi = White
Aoi = Blue
Kuroi = Black
Lesson 7: Common Questions
Ikura desu ka? = How much is it?
Nan-ji desu ka? = What time is it?
Wakarimasu ka? = Do you understand?
Ii desu ka? = Is it ok?
O-namae wa nan desu ka? = What is your name?
Lesson 8: Places
Daigaku = University; college
Kyooshitsu = Classroom
Yuubinkyoku = Post office
Ginkoo = Bank
Kissaten = Coffee shop
Shokudo = Dining room
Hoteru = Hotel
Chikatetsu = Subway
Lesson 9: People
Watashi = I; me
Hito = Person; people
Kodomo = Child
Otoko = male
Otoko no hito = man
Otoko no ko = boy
Onna = female
Onna no hito = woman
Onna no ko = girl
Go-shujin = Husband
Okusan = Wife
Gakusei = Student
Sensei = Teacher
Lesson 10 : Locations
Ue = Top; on; above
Shita = Bottom; underneath; below
Naka = Middle; inside; in
Mae = Front; before
Ushiro = Back; behind; rear
Tonari = Next to; adjacent
Soba = Near; close by
Yoko = Side; beside
Koko = this place; here
Soko = this place; there
Asoko = that place; over there
Doko = which place?
Lesson 11: Vocabulary - Part 2
Tenki = Weather
GOHAN! (hehe, I couldn't resist) = meal; cooked rice
Mizu = Water
Ocha = Tea
Terebi = Television
Eega = Movie
Shinbun = Newspaper
Zaashi = Magazine
Uchi = home; house
Kaisha = Office; company
Eki = (train) station
Neko = Cat
Inu = Dog
imasu = there is; (for things that are alive)
arimasu = there is; (for things that are not alive)
Lesson 12: Days of the Week
Nichiyoobi = Sunday
Getsuyoobi = Monday
Kayoobi = Tuesday
Suiyoobi = Wednesday
Mokuyoobi = Thursday
Kinyoobi = Friday
Doyoobi = Saturday
Nan-yoobi = what day of the week
Lesson 13: When Things Occur
Kyoo = Today
Ashita = Tomorrow
Kinoo = Yesterday
NOUN + no + ato = after...
Taitei = Usually
Tokidoki = Sometimes
Sugu = Immediately
Mada = Not yet
Mou = Already; any more
Hayai = Early; fast
Osoi = Late
TIME + goo = around...; about...
Lesson 14: Verbs
Wakaru = to understand
Hajimaru = to begin; to start
Owaru = to end
Kaeru = to return
Iku = to go
Yomu = to read
Nomu = to drink
Taberu = to eat
Miru = to see
Okiru = to wake up
Neru = to go to sleep
Kuru = to come
Benkyoo shimasu = to study
Shigoto shimasu = to work
Au = to see (a person); to meet
Tariru = to be enough
Hanasu = to talk; to chat; speak
Korosu = to kill
Kiku = to listen to; to hear
Tsukau = to use
Mitsu = to wait
Yobu = to call; to invite
Shinu = to die
Isogo = to be in a hurry
Tatsu = to stand up
Yakutatatsu = to be helpful
Ganbaru = to try one's best
Tasukaru = to be saved; to help out
Agaru = to enter a Japanese style house
Lesson 15: Vocabulary- Part 3
Yakyuu = Baseball
Suiei = Swimming
Supootsu = Sports
Ame = Rain
Yuki = Snow
Kami = Paper
Shosetsu = Novel
Koukou = High school
Bangumi = Progam (t.v, radio)
Koto = Thing
Tesuto = Test
Suteeki = Steak
Sarada = Salad
Beeru = Beer
Nooto = Notebook
Rekuudo = Record
Iroro = Various
Takai = Expensive
Demo = But; however
Hanashi = Story
Paatii = Party
Kaijyoo = Place of meeting
Tomodachi = Friend
Niku = Meat
Toriniku = Chicken
Yasai = Vegetable
Sakana = Fish
Tamago = Egg
Mise = Store
Tokoro = Place
Mono = Thing; object
Doo = How
Dooshite = How come?
Lesson 16: Sentence Particles
wa = [topic of sentence] example: watashi was genki = I am healthy (wa comes after the noun)
mo = [showing similarity; also] example: sensee wa nihon-jin. gakusee mo nihon-jin = The teacher is Japanese. The student is also Japanese.
e = [to go to a place] example: toshokan e ikimasu = go to the library
de = [to show that something is taking place somewhere] example: kissaten de benkyoo shimasu = study in the coffee shop
ga = [shows the noun as an object] example: neko ga imasu = there is a cat
ni = [shows location] example: Tsukue no ue ni hon ga arimasu = there is a book on top of the desk
no = [noun modification] example: watashi no hon = my book
o = [to show that something is being done to something] example: Mary ga John o korosu = Mary killed John
Lesson 17: Vocabulary - Part 4
Ookii = Large; big
Chiisai = Small
Yasui = Cheap
Atarashii = New
Furui = Old (not someone's age)
Oishii = Delicious
Hiroi = Spacious; wide
Isogashii = Busy
Hima = To have free time
Shizuka = Quiet
Nigiyaka = Lively; bustling
Kireina = Pretty; clean
Riipa = Impressive
Genki = Healthy; well; full of energy
Taihen = Tough
Zannen = Regrettable; too bad
Kouen = Park
Taihen = very; extremely
Omoshiroi = Interesting
Tsumaranai = Uninteresting; boring
Kiipo = Ticket