feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
Throughout Quentin Tarantino’s filmography, often than not, there has been a strong or intriguing female core to his stories, rarely do they blandly blend in the background and refuse to let their presence known. They possess a vibrancy that equals or trumps the auras of his male characters, and from Reservoir Dogs up towards Death Proof, there seems to be an uprising trend of femininity taking centre stage of his projects.
In Kill Bill, we see a woman taking a stand against those who have cruelly and unjustifiably abused her, taking back once again what was rightfully hers and left her opposers with a similarly cruel fate. A similar motivation is led with Jackie Brown, with it’s titular character unshackling from the mere role of a scapegoat and victim, utilising her personal arsenal, her intelligence, resilience, and sexuality to come out of it all as the true winner.
Finally arriving at Death Proof, Tarantino expanded this passion for female characters and assembled his most experimental, but narratively stripped, work from his filmography, one that still stands to be so to date; divided in two halves, two different outcomes, one driving concept. Both sections follow a group of women being stalked by a film/television stuntman, who earns his jollies in seeing these women physically tortured via his death proof automobile.
The first half finds his victims under his intention, mutilated and killed by the aggression of his vehicle. It becomes a representation of the common fate of women in synonymous films; constantly under the prey of the obsessive and threatening male gaze and often find themselves a tragic victim of the whole affair. He emphasises the sense of familiarity and traditionalism through the nostalgic choice of recreating the aesthetic of older films, that most often took on such narrative choices.
In it’s turn towards the second half, we see this visual style change, one that embraces a more contemporary look; filled with saturated colours and intense clarity, it is immediately identified that circumstances may change. The torment still continues onto these new ladies, but it’s outcome is driven with a change; no longer will they leave themselves as victims of his perversion, and much like the female characters in his previous two films, aiming to strike back and inflict the same terror. The ultimate result led to his demise, fallen not under the hands of the incompetent authorities that Tarantino conveyed in the middle section of the film, but by the knuckles and boots of these victimised women, wanting to impart what is just. This is the showcase of women that is a rarity in cinema and truthfully represents of the strength of women that is often undermined.
Is Death Proof a feministic film? I personally believe there is enough to suggest it, and Tarantino doesn’t model himself morally idealistic individuals to push such a concept. However, given the thick banter, amusing circumstances, and inspired cinematic tokens that he litters throughout the film, there is enough that is provided for one to still enjoy the film from simply it’s surface.