Planet Terror (**/****): starring Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey
written and directed by Robert Rodriguez
Death Proof (****/****): starring Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Zoe Bell
written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
by Walter Chaw Robert Rodriguez is better at making an old exploitation movie and Quentin Tarantino is better at capturing the joy of watching old exploitation movies, meaning that the Rodriguez half of Grindhouse is exuberant, post-modern camp and the Tarantino half is, as Tarantino's films usually are, pure delight. Rodriguez winks and tries maybe too hard; Tarantino, being the sui generis of a very specific kind of film, proceeds to create something that resembles Vanishing Point and Two-Lane Blacktop while steering clear of irony, self-indulgence, and post-modernism in its reverence. The mistake is in seeing some of Tarantino's casting choices as ironic: what's wrong with the careers of the world's Travoltas and Pam Griers and even De Niros is that they started cashing in on the ironic value of their brand. No, what Tarantino does is remember why they became a brand in the first place. A moment where Kurt Russell, as Tarantino's bogey Stuntman Mike, flashes a giant, shit-eating grin right through the fourth wall doesn't come off as self-congratulatory so much as it shows an old genre vet excited to be back in the saddle. While Rodriguez's Planet Terror is fun in a back-clapping way, Tarantino's Death Proof is a profound insight into the sort of dick-raising entertainments that made Tarantino who he is as fanboy artist. Rodriguez likes to show off--Tarantino can only make the movies he makes: it's not the pulpiness of the subject matter that feels like the true faith in Tarantino's films, it's the sense that for all the artificiality of his aesthetic, there's not an ounce of pretense in his decisions. In short, Rodriguez is the Salieri to Tarantino's Mozart.