Tarantino Retrospective

  Quentin Tarantino.

Quentin Tarantino.

You know that question people ask:  ”Who would you invite for dinner, dead or alive?’”

Well, it’s as simple as this – on the top of my list would be none other than Mr. Quentin Tarantino. Hands down. Let me start from the beginning.

Quentin Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised in Los Angeles. He was a high school dropout at the age of sixteen to take acting classes at the James Best Theatre Company. As a teenager, Tarantino first earned his bread and butter at the video store he lived in on Manhattan Beach, California called Video Archives. Here he spent the majority of his youth watching, studying and becoming smitten with obtuse films. Luckily for us, this is how the romance between Tarantino and films began.

Tarantino’s first few big bucks came from selling scripts such as Natural Born Killers and True Romance during his early twenties (as you do); the first commercially successful film he wrote and directed was Reservoir Dogs(1992), which he was originally going to shoot with some friends on the budget of thirty-thousand dollars.

However, thanks to Harvey Keitel- who plays Mr. White in the movie- Tarantino was handed one-and-a-half million dollars to play with instead. This became the turning point in this now-prominent director’s career. It was as if he flicked his blinker and merged into the fast lane, leaving everybody else behind. Reservoir Dogs later grossed at six-and-a-half million. Not bad at all. It later provided him with the two tools he needed most to make his next – and best- film; cash meant a higher budget and confidence meant balls.

If Tarantino treated his films as his children, Pulp Fiction (1994) should be the favourite. It holds the plot of four tales of violence and redemption colliding within the Los Angeles underworld. You’re able to get your money’s worth purely from watching the Bible-quoting character that is Jules, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and it scored Tarantino his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Need I say more?

Now for Jackie Brown (1997)– a movie about a flight attendant who gets caught smuggling her boss’s gun money. The film provided both lead actress Pam Grier, in the title role, and Robert Forster a much needed comeback movie. Much like John Travolta, who was suffering from acting obscurity throughout his career prior to Tarantino waving his directing wand his way with Pulp Fiction. It’s safe to say the man can certainly create memorable characters and cast them to perfection providing them with memorable quotations such as: “They call it a Royale with Cheese…“

When someone asks me the difficult question of which Tarantino movie is my favourite, I become restless, simply because it’s a hard task. Ultimately, the Kill Bill movies win me over every time. Perhaps this is because both movies are based around Beatrix Kiddo (code name: Black Mamba, played by Uma Thurman), a formidable female assassin who is a ruthless warrior out to seek revenge on the Deadly Viper Association Squad, a team of deadly killers under the ruling of her ex boss/lover Bill (kung-fu legend David Carradine.) Both volumes consist of a hand-written hit list, Japanese samurai swords and a truck called “The Pussy Wagon.” Lock it in, Eddie.

Naturally when you are Mr. Tarantino, you hold acquaintances like other prominent directors- Robert Rodriguez, for example. The two joined forces in 2007 to give tribute to Grindhouse movies, a ’70s trend where inner-city movie theaters would screen extreme, low-budget independent films containing an abundant amount of violence and nudity as a means to compromise and contest with under-the-thumb big-budget studio films.

Here, Tarantino provided us with Deathproof, a film about two separate sets of voluptuous women who are stalked by a stuntman called Mike (Kurt Russel), who uses his ‘death-proof’ car to lure and slay women. It is a dialogue-driven film giving a deliberate nod to the cult and horror films of yesteryear.

Nowadays, it is too often that you walk out of a movie theater wondering if you should have saved your pennies and stayed at home instead. It is very rare that you are able to sit through a whole film with adrenaline pumping from your chest and an entertained grin or your face. However, the last time I was able to experience this was with Tarantino’s latest production Inglorious Basterds which he spent over a decade writing.

The plot is based around a group of hardened Nazi-killers who stalk their prey in occupied France as a Jewish cinema owner plots to take down top-ranking SS officers during the official premiere of a high-profile German propaganda film. How Tarantino managed to create a World War II film containing unpredictable humour with the music of David Bowie and make it a sensation is beyond me.  All I know is that if a sixteen-year-old boy that worked at a video store turned around and said to me, “You know, I’m going to write some of the best scripts and direct some notoriously renowned kick-ass movies one day!”,  I would most likely tell that kid to beat it and keep dreamin’.

Originally published on T-SQUAT

Pauline MorrisseyComment