Tag Archives: Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino: Death Proof

I don’t know, man. Death Proof isn’t really a movie. It’s an idea, and as an idea, it can’t be separated from the way it was released. Its release was very much the whole point of its existence, even separate from the actual film that was produced to facilitate that release. On its own, there isn’t a whole lot going on in Death Proof, although small pleasures, including an awe-inspiring final reel, abound. So…

Grindhouse.

Let us begin with the obvious: Grindhouse is a confused beast, asking to indulge in two feature length works of varying quality (both between the two and within individual features) that do not tackle the grindhouse aesthetic from the same vantage point as one another. On top of this, we have four trailers that do not adopt the spirit of the movies around them, nor are those four trailers in unison with one another. Let us approach this murderers’ row: Robert Rodrigeuz’s Planet Terror, a high-flying zombie movie starring Rose McGowan and a postmodern descent into the aesthetic that tackles it to the ground so hard it that words like “luridest” must be invented to explain it away. Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, a confusing beast of a somber, stoic serial killer film starring Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a killer with a car as a weapon. Stopping and starting in fits and spurts, Death Proof subverts expectations by rejecting and even flaunting the audience’s desire to be wowed by its lunacy. For it is, in contrast to Planet Terror, not a lunatic of a joke, but an actual film, played straight. On their own, then, we have two films that are very much of a different order and a different form, but we will get back to this.
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Quentin Tarantino: Kill Bill

Rare is a film of such purity as Kill Bill, and rarer still is a film of such purity that is never less than fully confused and unsure of itself. From beginning to end, Kill Bill is entirely the artwork of an unabashed enthusiast and filmmaker, but it is a deeply perplexed film, perhaps intentionally so, and perhaps to its unmitigated benefit. Purring like a kitten on the surface but deceptively self-critical underneath, Tarantino’s most violent film also has more to say about violence than any of his films. It is a work that is simultaneously enraptured in love with itself and tearing itself apart in disharmonious hate, and thus certainly his most fascinating, conflicted piece yet. This doesn’t make it necessarily better or worse, but it may make it his most worthwhile film, especially because it never once allows us the confidence of our views in it. We can’t even really be sure if Tarantino “gets” it, and auteur theory isn’t going to help us one lick, unless of course it’s there in the background reminding us that Tarantino just can’t make an uninteresting film– even when doesn’t have a clue himself. Kill Bill can’t make an argument that Tarantino understands his own particular brand of proudly filmic anti-film commentary on the nature of cinema and violence. It may be him missing the forest of his own genius for the crimson-red trees of flailing arms and heads. But what a forest. And what trees.
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Quentin Tarantino: Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino “does” blaxploitation conjures a certain post-modernist genre-kitsch image in the mind. Clearly, it conjures the same image for Tarantino too, as his latest film, Django Unchained, exists wholly in a postmodern blaxploitation-by-way-of-Western stew. Yet Jackie Brown, despite its would-be blaxploitation credentials, couldn’t be further from the playful violence and comic grit we might expect from both the genre and Tarantino. Maybe it’s just the not inconsiderable fact that this is the director’s only film to date that bears another source, in this case Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch. The fact is, Tarantino very much proves primarily invested in honoring his source material without transforming it in any notable way. It is Tarantino’s most humble film, and anyone who knows him would never dream of that descriptor anywhere near him. Either way, it just doesn’t feel like any other Quentin Tarantino movie, and for a guy who is easily stereotyped and put in a corner, it’s a pleasure to see him exploring, especially in 1997, perhaps the height of his critical darling days when he could seemingly do no wrong. Continue reading

Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction

It must be said: excepting The Matrix, no single film has done more harm to the modern cinema industry than Pulp Fiction. The old “every filmmaker who saw it made their own movie” card is the great equalizer, uniting genuine talents and hacks alike. But in the case of Tarantino, the results were far from equal. A few genuine craftspeople followed in his wake, but they were diamonds in the rough compared to the far more significant cohort of filmmakers who whipped Tarantino into a frat boy’s wet dream and perverted his vision of cinema from the ground up. Largely, this has to do with Tarantino’s supposed “cool factor”, the superficial blanket hanging over all his films that has beckoned first-timers the world over to ape his penchant for slick, sick violence, whirlwind camera jerks, and self-consciously fantastical style. This style has always been a noose around Tarantino’s neck, and it has strangled the world of cinema for years to come. Continue reading

Quentin Tarantino: Reservoir Dogs

medium_reservoirdogs_sundance_1650x1050_047-web1If one is to “talk shop” about film in the past quarter decade, you really cannot avoid writer-director Quentin Tarantino. No filmmaker has staked out his own public identity in quite the same way, and for better or worse, no filmmaker has been copied and misinterpreted nearly as much. The things that constitute a “Quentin Tarantino” film are vocal and known to many people, even those who don’t much care for cinema at large. He is one of the few directors who is both overrated, in that he really ought not be the first or even the twentieth director anyone mentions when talking about cinematic masters, and underrated, in that both those who like him and those who don’t generally misinterpret his films and seldom realize their true, fundamental genius. Considering how ubiquitous Tarantino has been for the past quarter decade, it’s somewhat shocking how misread he often is (then again films of great subtext and depth open themselves up to being misread, and Tarantino in all fairness courts more than he challenges misreadings). Few people really understand his essential identity as a director, and even though Reservoir Dogs is very much a testing ground for better things to come, it is essential cinema, and furthermore, it is essentially Tarantino in a nutshell.

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Review: Inglourious Basterds

Edited

Quentin Tarantino came back with a vengeance in 2009 after a mostly quiet mid-2000s to redefine his popularity by … really just reminding us of the stuff we’ve all enjoyed seeing him do for a couple decades now. But he has a greater thirst for blood now, and sometimes that’s all it takes. If anything, this is his giddiest production, with its cheerful go-for-broke aspirations masked under the nominally serious façade of a war movie. It’s also, curiously, his most nihilistic, with a sort of “what the hell!” attitude likely driving many of the script’s twists and turns and characters who are suitably marked for, and ready for, death at any point in the film. It is also his most fully-rounded film since Pulp Fiction, as well as, intentionally, his sloppiest. Within, the film’s seeming flaws (it’s having fun with the dour subject of men at war and general savagery, its lack of any semblance of sensible narrative form) actually become strengths under his subversive, indomitable vision of the world where all films are functionally nonsense and he’s simply reading this reality to its logical extreme by having fun with them. This is a man who will be swayed by no one, and he’s ready to shove our faces in that fact before he goes off laughing to the bank. Continue reading