Top Ten Most Interesting Directors of the Now: Quentin Tarantino
A series by G-FUNK
Tarantino is one of the longest working directors featured in this series with his first major release appearing in cinemas in 1992. Although his style has changed little over the intervening two years it’s his basic approach to film-making that makes each of his upcoming titles feel like a big event for cinema snobs. If there are two things that define Tarantino’s films it’s that they celebrate the full history of cinema and they are unmistakably cool.
Spending most of his childhood in California, his mother often took the young child to the cinema and watched countless hours of television with him, sparking a life-long interest in cinema. Leaving school at fifteen to attend full time acting classes, he soon got himself a job in a video library alongside future director and collaborator Roger Avary. The two would discuss movies at length and spend a long time finding recommendations for customers. During this time Tarantino reinforced his already impressive knowledge of film and watched a massive number of movies.
Having been encouraged by producer Lawrence Bender to write a script, Tarantino made My Best Friends Birthday, a movie that would never get a general release, before putting together a strong cast and script for Reservoir Dogs, a gritty and hard-boiled heist movie told out of chronological order. It proved a smash hit at Sundance and marked Tarantino as a new talent. His scripts for True Romance and Natural Born Killers were optioned by studios but were directed by Tony Scott and Oliver Stone respectively. Although he was out of the gate, he still didn’t have the experience to work his own scripts.
On the other hand, the success of his debut did begin to open some doors. He is reported to have turned down an offer to direct Men In Black, instead opting to work on the script for him second feature: Pulp Fiction. This continued the style established in Reservoir Dogs in that it took well worn Hollywood formulas and retold them in a non-chronological manner (a technique influence by Kubrick’s The Killing) and filling the script with sharp, fast paced irrelevant dialogue. Once again the movie attracted a range of A-List Hollywood stars like Bruce Willis and cult favourites such as Christopher Walken.
This style of writing and directing carried across to his next two projects, which also marked his first collaborations with Robert Rodriguez. These were a segment in the anthology film Four Rooms, which referenced Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and script and acting duties on the Rodriquez directed From Dusk till Dawn.
Tarantino’s third major feature was also the first script he adapted (from the Elmore Leonard novel ‘Rum Punch’). Whilst his first two films took their influences from classic Film Noir, Jackie Brown was a riff on the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s, even casting Pam Grier, a star of the genre, in the lead role. Again, the movie played to the madcap directors strengths of dialogue, an ensemble cast and buckets of cool.
It would be seven years before Tarantino would surface again, this time with his most ambitious (certainly his most ego driven) project. The massive script for Kill Bill, which drew on Spaghetti Westerns, Japanese, Italian and Chinese cinema was eventually split into two films, each one divided into five chapters. Each chapter of the revenge epic was filmed in a different style making for a quick paced, sometimes uneven viewing experience that provided a constant feed of excitement. This chapter-based form would later reappear in Inglourious Basterds, his long developed war film.
His next project, a collaboration with Robert Rodriquez, was intended to recreate the style of 1970’s drive-in Grindhouse movies. Although a success with critics and promising two movies for the price of one it drastically underperformed at the box office. One might suggest that it recreated the Grindhouse style a little to successfully and audiences found it looking dated and slow paced.
Next came the long planned war epic Inglourious Basterds. Originally rumoured to be a retelling of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly it was instead a highly stylized WWII action film that became, in Tarantino’s signature style, an ode to cinema itself. The many plot threads all came together in a cinema, with film itself becoming the ultimate weapon against the Nazi’s (that and a couple of sub-machine guns).
Each of Tarantino’s films is hinged on the witty dialogue that is often disconnected from the plot. The violence, whilst far removed from what you’d find in a horror movie, is sudden, loud and shocking, often raising a laugh due to its brash implementation (the car scene in Pulp Fiction). His works are often accused of glorifying violence, but these accusations come from people who are unable to understand the difference between artistic stylization and celebration.
Tarantino is also known for his frequent collaborations with actors and directors. Steve Buscemi, Uma Thurman, Michael Madsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and others make frequent appearances in his films. He’s also been known to help launch (or revive) careers giving Rodriquez and Eli Roth a boost in respective careers, regaining John Travolta’s credibility as a performer after a lacklustre decade and bringing Christolph Waltz to international attention.
Coming up next is Django Unchained, reportedly in the style of a Western it’s set in the deep south and deals with America’s history of slavery. As usual it features a stellar cast with Jamie Foxx in the title role, Christoph Waltz as a bounty hunter, Leonardo Dicaprio as the villain and Kurt Russell as his henchman.