Sunday, April 15, 2007

Grindhouse: More needle, more red

Okay, so in this last post, I discussed two musical acts, Samiam and The Go! Team, simulating lo-fi recording quality to various effects in recent albums. Well, I went and saw Grindhouse not too long ago, and guess what? It's related!

Grindhouse is a ton of mindless fun if you need something fast-paced and laughable to get you through a boring evening. If you want a review whose tone parallels the movie, check this one out. If you don't like the review, there's a good chance you won't like the double-feature. As for me, I liked them both. And for those who took an interest, Rodriguez is apparently making the Machete film whose mock-trailer appeared before Planet Terror. The awesomeness is propagating.

On to the (I guess) point of the post, though. To make this kitschy reference-fest really work, both Tarantino and Rodriguez had to emulate some old stylistic quirks that filmmakers haven't had to deal with in a long time. Pretty much all of Planet Terror was treated with film grain and strange color shifts, and Death Proof started out with a lot of strange cuts, bad editing, and sloppy production. Again, we're talking about the same stuff as we saw in The Go! Team and Samiam... the intentional emulation of production issues for the sake of a tone, stylization, or conceptual treatment.

A friend mentioned to me that Tarantino's editing flubs were less consistent than Rodriguez's. At first, Death Proof seemed to be a real editing mess, with certain scenes cut awkwardly or repeated. However, as it went on, it became fairly clean and well-produced, right up until the end when there was a five-minute beat down taken directly from one of my own 8-year old video game fantasies. Rodqiguez's color shifts and film grain were more consistent, applied throughout the whole movie. This could be construed as a couple points in favor of Rodriguez's style, and against Tarantino's.

But when I think back on it, the consistency and intensity of Rodriguez's treatment made it seem profoundly intentional, even to the point of being artificial. In this sense, because it was so evenly lo-fi, Planet Terror was thoroughly kitsch. Tarantino's bad editing, because it only intervened at a few key moments in the film, felt more cohesive and more believable. It's almost inconceivable that Rodriguez shot on really crappy film and that all his color shifts were natural and authentic. On the other hand, I could really believe Tarantino's editing screw-ups occurred because he didn't bother cleaning up the rough cut of his footage.

So according to my reading, Rodriguez's lo-fi was kitsch (a.k.a. reference, homage, in-joke). Tarantino's was a genuine aesthetic (i.e. a creative element, a theme).

We can look at the previous discussion in this light, too... Samiam's lo-fi could have been, and probably WAS, the result of a careful discussion and an authentically lo-fi recording session. The muddy sound was an aesthetic. The Go! Team's cracks and pops were more of a device, conspicuously left in the carefully remixed and reproduced music, to give homage, and as such, they were unnaturally conspicuous. For Samiam, lo-fi was a concept. For The Go! Team, it was a stylization.

Concept versus style, aesthetic versus homage... I'm such a goddamn graphic design nerd.