The Hateful Eight, 2016
dir. Quentin Tarantino
70mm experience: ★★★★★
Regardless of what one thinks of him as a person or of his choices of subject matter, it can’t be denied that Quentin Tarantino is a skilful filmmaker, and he proves this yet again in his eighth film, The Hateful Eight. In this, he is still in the past, now in post-Civil War Wyoming as his untrustworthy characters eye each other in a cabin in the middle of a blizzard trying to figure out who will kill whom. It’s your average Tarantino script — funny quips, gripping dialogue, everyone is shady in one way or another, and you should not align your sympathies with anyone whatsoever because they will most likely either kill or be killed.
What makes The Hateful Eight extraordinary alongside Tarantino’s earlier work is the sheer audacity of it. Set in primarily one location — the cabin — and all the exterior shots taking place in the snow, this had every chance to be a boring-looking film, and perhaps it would have been in the hands of someone less skilled at making every shot count. Tarantino somehow makes every shot looks effortless, regardless of how intricate and choreographed it is — I’m thinking here of the scene of Daisy picking up the guitar and playing it while two other men return from the blizzard.
And adding to that one-maybe-two-locations pile, he decided to shoot the film in 70mm film. Tarantino is well-known for his preference of film over digital, talking endlessly in interviews about the magic of film, which is a series of still images moving in front of our eyes making us see the whole film. I understand that, and though I have nothing against digital — people can do great things with it, after all — watching this film in 70mm really made me appreciate the texture and realness of film prints.
From the very beginning of the experience — the overture, the old school Weinstein Company logo — you are completely immersed in the film, and it hasn’t even started yet. Then it begins and it opens from a close up to a wide shot of the snowy mountains, and the grain of the film can be seen, almost like a texture over the image. Before your eyes get used to it, you can sort of see the trembling of the picture as the reel unrolls, and it really feels magical because the film seems to real all of a sudden. You are actually in the room with the film.
Other than that — utterly subject lovesick perceptions — the film itself looks fantastic. I have not seen The Hateful Eight in digital, so I can’t compare, but this version is incredibly sharp. The colours are vibrant, and the sound is glorious. The beautiful score by Ennio Morricone resonates deep in your bones. (Fun fact: Ennio Morricone wrote the music for The Thing, another film featuring Kurt Russell stuck in the middle of nowhere during a blizzard while a bunch of other guys are trying to kill him.)
Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It was so so worth it to see it in 70mm because it looks beautiful and it sounds beautiful. I don’t know where the roadshow is going or if it’s going to go anywhere after here — I saw it at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, fantastic projectionists! — but hopefully it will, and if you’ve read this, and haven’t seen it in 700 but still has the chance to, please go. It will definitely be worth it.