Being Quentin Tarantino

Posted by · 11:03 am · August 14th, 2009

Quentin TarantinoYou’ll be reading more and more about Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” (review) over the next week or so as the film prepares for an Auguest 21 release, but two specific pieces caught my eye today that I had to share.

Writing at Salon’s Beyond the Multiplex blog, Andrew O’Hehir, who seems to have disliked the film but tries to steer clear of reviewing, conveys the sentiments of those who take what could be perceived as the easy road and have painted Tarantino, perhaps rightly, as an inconsiderate child whose work here is aimless, thoughtless, and in a nutshell, irresponsible:

Film critics and responsible authority figures in both Germany and Israel have almost unanimously announced that they dread “Inglourious Basterds,” and can’t see how it will contribute anything positive to the dreary world of post-Holocaust discourse.

In a separate piece across the pond in The Times, Tarantino seems to respond directly to this.

Says the director:

I’m reacting against that attitude…This complete victimisation of the war with the violin music and the anti-war aspect to everything. These self-serious movies have been the deal for the past 20 years, whereas back in the 1940s, when the f***ing war was going on, it wasn’t sacrilegious to make a war movie that dared to be entertaining. So I’m not going to apologise for being funny, or for making an exciting adventure movie.

Back to O’Hehir:

My own view is that Quentin Tarantino has no serious opinions or convictions whatever regarding Nazis or Jews or the Holocaust. Beneath all his B-movie genre-worship, Tarantino remains a pomo disciple of Jean-Luc Godard, playing an elaborate game of bait-and-switch with his audience and seeking to disarrange the conventional stories — or stories about stories — we’ve got in our heads. More simply, he’s just fucking with us.

But it’s the Times article, written by Kevin Maher, that really connected with me.  It is perhaps the most thorough examination of the 21st century Tarantino I’ve come across, surgically twisting its way into his presumed mindset and

He admits that critical attacks can hurt him. “A mean or nasty turn of phrase, you ain’t going to forget,” he says. “But I don’t take it too seriously, because obviously a lot of people are just not that into my s***.” But the Cannes reactions were of another “quality” altogether, he says, and were directed personally at him and his presumption of genius — the movie, after all, ends with the line: “I think this just might be my masterpiece.” “There was a level where I was being reviewed as much as the movie,” he protests…

And yet, as the newer movies continued to roll in there was a sneaking sense that Tarantino was becoming a one-trick pony, a movie magpie who could speak only about other movies. There is thus a telling scene at the climax of Inglourious Basterds when the camera slowly reveals the entire film archive of a Parisian cinema, in a giant unspooled pyre, suddenly set alight. It seems to be a cathartic moment, or at least a metaphorical suggestion that Tarantino has reached a full stop of sorts.

Tarantino goes on to tell Maher about his intentions to retire from filmmaking by the age of 60, become a “man of letters,” perhaps a film critic, and finally get around to the family he’s always wanted.  It is, ultimately, a profoundly touching piece that is fair with its subject but certainly not cruel.  It’s a dimensionalized portrait of a human being, and at this point, that’s probably the best press Tarantino could ask for.

Oh, and just for fun — an oldie but a goodie:

→ 8 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

8 responses so far

  • 1 8-14-2009 at 11:17 am

    Bill said...

    Damn he looks old in that picture.

  • 2 8-14-2009 at 11:44 am

    voland said...

    Well, he should have beaten up the camera man.

  • 3 8-14-2009 at 1:59 pm

    Craig Kennedy said...

    I know you’re not a fan of the film (nor I’m guessing later-career Tarantino), but I’m taking that second O’Hehir quote as a compliment.

    Did you really get a negative vibe on the movie from the piece? I read it quite differently. He seemed more interested in the controversy already swirling around it than the movie itself…which may be it’s own kind of dismissal.

  • 4 8-14-2009 at 2:20 pm

    Bill said...

    Yeah, that’s clearly a compliment. O’Hehir suggests that IB transcends politics and breaks conventions. He compares Tarantino to Goddard.

  • 5 8-14-2009 at 2:28 pm

    lac said...

    The more you film blogging experts keep piling on Tarantino the more I want to buy a ticket to IB.

  • 6 8-14-2009 at 6:13 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Craig and Bill: I don’t know, the opening graph kind of paints the rest of the piece, no?

    “There are going to be plenty of discussion topics revolving around Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” in the next couple of weeks. Some of these just concern the question of whether QT’s typographically impaired World War II actioner is a subversive, genre-defying masterpiece — as some people appear to believe — or, say, an incoherent and brainless mishmash made by a director who has forgotten that even movies about movies should have some dim and distant connection to human life, and furthermore should not be boring. (Am I tipping my hand here a little? Just a tad? Not me. Stephanie Zacharek will review next week.)”

  • 7 8-15-2009 at 10:29 am

    El Rocho said...

    I used to have so much respect and admiration folr Tarantino growing up, having loved ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Jack Brown’. And I was yet again blown away with ‘Kill Bill’. But recently, I’ve lost all respect for the man. He has acquired a horrible God Complex and every interview (particularly the MTV interview) and article I read on him, he just seems to want to be considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and often seems to site himself as one. It’s a piss-off for me, as a fan. Needless to say, I am looking forward to ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and I think it will be a great film, but I hope my new-found dislike for ‘The Great Tarantino’ doesn’t spoil the film for me. Too bad, he used to be such a humble person.

  • 8 8-15-2009 at 10:36 pm

    Goodvibe61 said...

    You gotta love the pile on.

    C’mon everybody!

    I still can’t wait for this film. Gotta see it.

    Let’s see, which sentence should go first. OK, I”ll start with this one:

    Quentin Tarantino made the single most influential film of the past 20 years.

    It’s obviously a great thing to live up to.

    Tarantino’s career is extremely similar to that of Orson Welles. With Orson, even though it was his first film, it was his second personal artistic zeitgeist with Kane (The Mercury Theater production of The War of the Worlds being the first). Everybody, EVERYBODY, wanted to take Welles down after Kane. And many people did work to take him down. And Welles certainly was not blameless, via his own many personal foibles, at the caricature of himself that he ultimately became.

    For Tarantino it really was that second film that made him the star child. And justifiably so. For looking at the landscape afterward, it’s clear to see just how much was shaped by what he created. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that Quentin has had Harvey Weinstein helping him to carry out his vision. So unlike Welles, whose later work went missing for decades, people are seeing much of what Tarantino has worked on after his initial burst of success.

    And the vitriol has been merciless. The funny part of it is that nobody except the fans of Tarantino’s writing want to talk about the work. As Quentino guest judges on American Idol and decide he’s a joke, people would see Welles doing another wine commercial and would only wanna talk about his BODY, and not his body of work.

    Oh Well.

    You listen to all the interviews of Welles; you can see why so many people loathed him if you listen for certain things. Other things? Not so much.

    Tarantino has more talent in his little pinky than most dream of having. His work will be remembered for influencing a tremendous chasm in storytelling as a visual art form; from 1993 onward the very nature of narrative in popular film (and in plenty of indie and foreign film as well) must be reexamined as a result of what appears to be a pretty simple screenplay.

    And like Welles, he didn’t do anything specifically original. The deep focus photography by Gregg Toland? Not new in Kane. The at first odd, once assimilated brilliance of the time sequence in Kane? Once again, eerily familiar to fans of Tarantino, but most definitely NOT the first time it had been done in a Hollywod movie. Answering the question of how Susan Alexander Kane can be near a suicidal death at one moment, and then many, many years YOUNGER just a few minutes later can be as tricky as the double take millions felt when they were cock sure that Vincent Vega was as dead as shit just a short while ago and now what’s he doin talkin pork in that coffee shop? Garcon, coffee will forever be one of the greatest jump cuts in cinema history, just as Robert Wise’s masterful melding of time will be remembered as part of a set of ground breaking, history making cinema by Welles.

    At the end of the day, both will be remembered as more literary figures than “movie stars”, at least to those who study their work. And like Orson, Quentin will be remembered by the haters as the “American Idol judge”, or the guy who stole from foreign films (another argument remarkably similar to Orson if you stop and think about for more than a second, which I’m sure nobody will).

    The work of so many writer/directors come to mind who have ripped of Tarantino. Paul Thomas Anderson? Check. Steven Soderbergh? Check. Wes Anderson? You could start a list and it surely would be a long one.

    Like Orson, too bad he’s a mere child, an infant who lacks an understanding that his movies aren’t “about” anything (just like Mr. Arkadin or the mere potboilers, the Touch Of Evils and Lady From Shanghais; too bad Orson couldn’t just sit down and do something “significant”). Instead, it’s all flash and no substance.

    What a shame.