Monday, June 03, 2019

Eight in Four

A couple months ago, NetFlix quietly released an "Extended" version of The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino's terrific 2015 Western. Except it wasn't just a longer version of the film, it was the film recut as a four episode miniseries by Tarantino and his editor:

So about a year after it’s released, maybe a little less, me and my editor, Fred Raskin, we got together and then we worked real hard. We edited the film down into 50 minute bits, and we very easily got four episodes out of it. We didn’t re-edit the whole thing from scratch, but we did a whole lot of re-editing, and it plays differently. Some sequences are more similar than others compared to the film, but it has a different feeling. It has a different feeling that I actually really like a lot. And there was [already] a literary aspect to the film anyway, so it definitely has this “chapters unfolding” quality.

So I watched it like a television series, over the course of a week. Ultimately I think I prefer the film version but the miniseries has several fascinating aspects unique to it, the best probably being in the final episode where a scene from the first is shown again from the perspective of different characters. This might have been too much for a film that was already long but sits perfectly fine in a miniseries format. There's a great moment where you realise one character's line has more significance than it seemed to at first. The running gag about the cabin's door needing to be kicked down also takes on a subtly different, sinister quality as the camera switches to focusing on the faces of Michael Madsen and Tim Roth.

A lot of the approximately 25 minutes of new footage is less conspicuously dispersed throughout the film, mostly appearing in dialogue scenes. Samuel L. Jackson's showdown with the Confederate general played by Bruce Dern seems to twist the knife a little more and the dialogue on the stagecoach at the beginning occurs, I think, in a different order. Almost the entirety of the first episode consists of the stagecoach scene, almost fifty minutes, and you get more of a sense of being on a long journey through hard weather with these people.

Once again, I thought about how Walton Goggins' character, Chris Mannix, is at the heart of the story's most interesting statement on human nature. We watch him going from being a staunch and earnest supporter of Dern's bitter Confederate general to unhesitatingly allying himself with the former Union Major, and a black man, Jackson's Major Warren. And its completely credible, even with Mannix's vehement use of racial epithets. Naturally for a soldier, there would be no real philosophical beliefs behind his racism anymore than the jeers of football fans against fans of an opposing team. He's a strange mixture of naivete and cunning--he's loyal to the established authority but he's also better at figuring things out than the other characters; he realises the truth about Warren's Lincoln Letter through a very simple process of reasoning and he similarly sees through Daisy's ruse at the end.

It's a story all about naturally occurring contradictions so, in a way, it makes sense that such a long film takes place in such a short space of time, that a television series should be shot in ultra widescreen. I do recommend watching it on the largest screen possible. I was kind of hoping for more footage in Minnie's Haberdashery before Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh arrive, in particular I wanted more time with Zoe Bell's character but sadly I don't think there's any additional footage in that segment. I'd love to see Tarantino shoot a Western starring Bell.

No comments:

Post a Comment