Some movies make big waves before they even get filmed. Quentin Tarantino’s films usually fall into that category. The production of The Hateful Eight was a bumpy road. First the script got leaked, bringing Tarantino to the brink of pulling the plug on the project all together. Then the movie was leaked to the internet, with the FBI involved, but luckily for art, it made it to a small early release in 41 cinemas. This soft release was targeted at the Tarantino tifosi, with the benefit of a rather nice collectors program for the early arrivals.
Tarantino loves the lore of genre cinema, with The Hateful Eight being his second homage to the western following on from Django Unchained. This movie brings his typical off beat, shock comedy to the Italo-western style of the 60’s and 70’s. The movie is shot in 70mm, which must have chewed through a pile of studio dollars to get the equipment out of the museums, but it makes for a grainy, impressionist visual spectacle providing a favorable contrast to today’s CG photo-realism. Of course you get the expected panoramic snowy mountain landscapes provided by the wider view, but what was a surprise for me was the way the interior shots take on a theatrical feel in each scene, which worked especially well for the whodunnit feel of the cabin scenes.
The players come from his usual theater group, adding standout Tarantino newcomer Jennifer Jason Leigh providing a mix of grit and comic relief, to the regulars Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen et al. Eighty-seven year old Ennio Morricone provides an unbreakable musical link to the old genre. His compositions are of course synonymous with the Sergio Leone films, Tarantino seeks to ape. The story goes that Morricone would laugh uncontrollably finding unintentional humor as he watched early cuts of Leone’s work. I wonder how the viewings went with Tarantino’s more obvious comedic cuts.
The Hateful Eight leans, just like The Good the Bad and The Ugly, on the civil war background, pitching north against south, and heavily playing the race card. Tarantino is nothing if not provocative. His use of gory violence is no surprise, neither is the use of the most well known verbal slur. I personally thought that the latter was overused, particularly in the first half of the movie and as a viewer, I felt numbed to it as the movie wore on. I’m sure it was intentional, but I’m not sure what the goal was, perhaps just to immunize us against our day to day PC afflictions.
Watching The Hateful Eight felt like a special event, one of those our grandparents or parents dressed up for. The musical overture, the glossy program, and the intermission with the organ player combined with the rich production style brought back something that was not really lost, but misplaced. Oh – and believe me entertainment is not sacrificed for art – not in the least.