I recently saw Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. Let me first say that I haven’t, until now, really considered myself a Tarantino fan. Checking out his Wikipedia article I realized that he did far fewer features than I originally thought. And of the five features he directed, I am a huge fan of at least three: Death Proof, Reservoir Dogs, and Jackie Brown. Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown did some amazing things with film narrative and characterization, while Death Proof is a brilliant resurrection of the exploitation films of the 70s. And while I recognize the significance of Pulp Fiction as the reification of the independent film movement during the mid-90s, I could certainly live without it, and the same goes for Kill Bill (both volumes).
That said, I have always appreciated, albeit grudgingly at times, Tarantino’s encyclopedic knowledge of b-movies and unconventional education in the hallowed halls of an old school movie rental store. I mean, come on, Tarantino was instrumental in having Detroit 9000 re-released, enough said.
So, when I told a friend how much I liked Death Proof recently, he said he hadn’t seen it and after reading this review by Lance Mannion he was not necessarily inclined to. Here’s a bit from Mannion’s review that kind of sparked my new appreciation for Tarantino that I really didn’t know I had until I had something to react against (sorry Lance):
Tarantino doesn’t love movies. Not the way someone like Woody Allen loves movies. Or even Mel Brooks. Certainly not the way Truffaut loved movies. People who love movies love stories and characters. They love actors. Tarantino likes some of his actor pals, and he enjoys hanging with pretty actresses and working with them.
Tarantino doesn’t love movies as much as Woody Allen or Mel Brooks, not to mention the great Truffaut? What a ridiculous accusation this is. Why would anyone premise a review on the idea that one director loves film more than another. Who cares? Would it make any sense for me to argue that Jack Hill loved film more than Roger Corman? The elitism of traditional film criticism oozes from such a statement. What if I said that Fritz Lange loved film more than Leni Riefenstahl? Could this statement ever be separated from the politics each of these filmmakers (both technical masters) represent?
Perhaps the different political and cultural context of this statement might expose the absurd logic of such an accusation. Does the phantom fact that revered Fritz Lange might have arguably loved movies more than the infamous Riefenstahl begin to suggest anything about the political context in which both created what most critics consider masterpieces? Does an artist’s (or a film’s) greatness depend upon something other than its context? And does what an artist really thinks or loves ever play a role in their perceived greatness? I would argue no for both.
Death Proof is the film Tarantino’s “education” had been preparing him for all along. More than that, it came off beautifully. Kurt Russell was an awesome maniac, and his character in this film made me want to re-watch Escape from New York and The Thing yet again. It was a genuine exploitation film with some of the best moments of shock and schlock I have yet to see in this genre, not to mention some unbelievable stunts, an impressive resistance to over doing CGI, and a complete disregard for being “good.” Maybe Tarantino doesn’t love film, maybe he hates film to its very core. But I really could care less how he feels about film, for Death Proof was a gem.
I dislike Tarantino’s films: they are ugly and fascist.
I don’t care if he pays homage to past directots and genres, or is technically brilliant, the bottom-line is that he adds nothing to our humanity or to a real understanding of American society.
The last thing gun-crazy America needs if a film from Tarantino.
Gotta say, I’m not a huge Tarantino fan either.
Ugly and fascist? How so? I find some of his dialog quite beautiful, and I think he achieves some stunning visuals in Kill Bill.
I’m also not certain that the goal of film is to “add to our humanity” or even to deepen our understanding of American society. This scene from True Romance, though, which he wrote but did not direct, certainly does the latter.
Check out Stanley Crouch’s essay on Tarantino in The Artificial White Man, which argues that Tarantino’s work has a helluva lot to say about America.
Finally I have the opportunity to respond to your comment on the Bunuel post and this post all in one. In response to the Bunuel post you said the following:
Now I think that Bunuel’s Mexican films are actually melodramas of wide appeal, but that is another post. Do Tarantino’s films appeal to the “man in the audience”? Who is this person in the audience and how do we find an everyman that a film can aspire to speak to? Tarantino’s Death Proof (and
Jackie Brown for that matter) provide me an “emotive and shared experience.” Namely the love of “bad movies” and the attempt to reclaim them in some way, albeit Jackie Brown may not fit this bill for it’s certainly Tarantino’s masterpiece and can hold its own agianst the best films of the 90s. Now his films mightbe understood by some as intellectual musing and technique over meaning, but what is a deeper universal meaning? Can we name a filmmaker who provides such an experience for everyone? Is there such a film?
Part of the beauty of film is the hermeneutic process we engage in when examining it. I, for a very long time, resisted Tarantino and I think so much of my refusal of his work depended upon my own ego, how he doesn’t “love” film that way I do. In fact, most arguments I would make against him were premised on such a specific sense of my own film knowledge–however meager. Can I provide a universal argument for celebrating or trashing Tarantino?
This is not to say that all cats are gray, but in a moment when very few, if any, films of any value whatsoever are coming out of Hollywood (most of which are vapid in any intellectual, technical, or even campy sense) it is refreshing to see a film like Death Proof,/em> that has some textured sense of the medium and an anachronistic sense of humor.
Now as to Tarantino being fascist? I haven’t thought about this really, and I think it is an interesting take. But are his films any more fascists than the hardcore Noirs, immediately Kiss Me, Deadly comes to mind. And there are many more. He is a student of these films, and he is certainly aware of the deeply fascist nature of all violence, even that that streams through the history of American cinema.
I guess a part of my re-examination of Tarantino has everything to do with my retreat to films like the classic Noir, the 50s melodrama, or the 70s exploitation films because these moments had character and appeal. They introduced a compelling style and vision that transcended any one director or film, we are so far from anything like that currently, that even nostalgic schlock (this by no means is meant to be deprecating, mind you) like Tarantino’s Death Proof is a wonderful breath of fresh air in the current plague we are suffering through.
In fact, I don’t think institutions like Hollywood have that much more life left. I currently look to video games for my narratives, I just finished Portal and I am working though Bioshock, and I have to say that although in its infancy, this is where th future of filmic narrative lies.
Whew, I told you I would respond eventually, Tony, sorry it took me so long. But it’s not my fault, you always make me work so hard!
Using the force, hey?
You even have a reference, you beautiful scholar, you!
I don’t know, Jim. I think I love movies more than you but maybe not as much as Luke.
> Ugly and fascist? How so? I find some of his dialog quite beautiful,
and I think he achieves some stunning visuals in Kill Bill.
Ugly stories with gratuitous sex, vulgarity, extreme and explicit physical
and sexual violence, rape, misogyny, and beautiful dialog like "wanna
fuck?", maniacal revenge and fascist lynch mob retribution, amorality and
nihilism packaged as entertainment for profit.
Riefenstahl was a brilliant director but her films were fascist and racist
eulogies, and are rightly condemned. But even she wasn’t doing it for money.
> I’m also not certain that the goal of film is to "add to our humanity" or
even to deepen our understanding of American society. This scene from True
Romance, though, which he wrote but did not direct, certainly does the latter.
If a film or film-maker is to be praised or have a place in history, what
criteria do we use then? That it made a lot of money? Was popular with
immature white men who revel in "technically brilliant" trash. Was Informed by
selfishness, greed and a moral relativism that seeks to portray the antics
of fictional sickos somehow relevant?
> Check out Stanley Crouch’s essay on Tarantino in The Artificial White
Man, which argues that Tarantino’s work has a helluva lot to say about America.
> Now I think that Bunuel’s Mexican films are actually melodramas of wide
appeal, but that is another post.
They are melodramas yes, and are deeper, but still not films with popular
> Do tarantino’s films appeal to the "man in the audience"? Who is this
person in the audience and how do we find an everyman that a film can aspire to
speak to? Tarantino’s Death Proof (and Jackie Brown for that matter) provide me
an "emotive and shared experience" (namely the love of bad movies and the
attempt to reclaim them in some). Now this can be understood by some as
intellectual musing and technique over meaning, but what is a deeper universal
The "the love of bad movies and the attempt to reclaim them" is deep
> Can we name a filmmaker who provides such an experience for anyone? Is
there such a film?
Off the top of my head: Grapes of Wrath, and John Ford’s oeuvre, for
> This is not to say that all cats are grey, but in a moment were very
few, if any, films of worth are coming out of Hollywood, most of which are vapid
in any intellectual and technical sense, it is refreshing to see a film like
Death Proof that has some textured sense of the medium.
Not so. For example: The Good Shepherd, Syriana, Good Night
and Good Luck.
> Now as to Tarantino being fascist? I haven’t thought about this really,
and I think it is an interesting take. But are his films any more fascists than
the hardcore Noirs, immediately Kiss Me, Deadly comes to mind. And there are
What I like about your comments is the willingness to argue vehemently about film.
Something most folks I talk with in the US, save a special few, are entirely unwilling to do. They’re too damn polite.
Quite the opposite happens when I go to Italy, however. Antonella’s friends are always primed to argue about film with me to the cows come home, and it’s a blast–if a bit draining. One of her friends in particular, Andrea, is a guy I have a lot of film tastes in common with but we diverge on some very specific topics, not unlike the one we’re struggling over now. So, all this to say thanks for transporting me to the boot. (Update: Man, on re-reading this I hate the fact that I sound like a Europhile here -sorry to all my fellow Americans and non-Europeans who have given me my film education!)
Now, right back at you 🙂
Ok, let me take one of your examples above. You suggest John Ford’s Grapes of Wrath as a film with universal appeal about the human condition. Here is an interesting anecdote (I’ll call it an anecdote because I know the film was banned by Stalin, but I heard the following from a film professor at UCLA with no real references) about the reception of this film in what is now the former Soviet Union.
When Grapes of Wrath was screened to suggest how hard things were in the US and to push the Communist logic that the international struggle of labor was a universal for emancipation from capital, etc. And while you probably guessed I agree with certain tenets of this in my heart, one of the things that over-simplifies and sinks all ideologies is the inability to recognize and think through important cultural and historical differences, even within identical moments but in different cultures.
Long story short, the Soviet Union audiences immediately reacted to the film in the exact opposite way than the authorities had expected. They basically said, “Hey, what’s all this talk about US abjection, labor struggles, and the so-called depression? These people aren’t that bad off, even the poorest have cars!” A reality the poorest Russians at the time couldn’t even fathom. The film was subsequently banned by Stalin and it became a testament to the fact for the Russians that as bad as folks may have had it in the USSR, the US was still the land of milk and honey. Or at least this is how the story went.
So where is the universal meaning between cultures in this example? In fact, how did the universal struggle of labor become so quickly subverted? Even in the hands of a master like John Ford, and he certainly is a master. The differences are often what get focused on and magnified when moving between cultures for meaning and relevance.
Does this have anything to do with what you are arguing? I’m not so sure after you so quickly discounted my points earlier as irrelevant (which I don’t think they are mind you, I just think they hit too close to” Noir home” for you to consider more closely), but I will say that a sense of the universal audiences reading of any film can not frame it as a timeless classic. Everything has a time and place, and even the Grapes of Wrath couldn’t speak specifically to a universal audience in the year of our lord, 1940.
So, whether a film is good or bad has, in my mind, less to do with how greatness is defined over time and reified in any given culture at any given time. Isn’t it about time that bad movies got their fifteen minutes of fame?
– I haven’t seen Death Proof, but I’ve never seen gratuitous sex in a Tarantino film.
– Violence? Yes. The most realistically violent–and thus most shocking–scene was the ear-lopping in Reservoir Dogs, which happened off-camera. I’m not offended by violence on film, no more than I am in literature. Tarantino uses it to add depth to characters and stories, either to signify amorality, or to gesture that his presentation is fantasy. Perhaps it’s a matter of sensibility as to whether or not you find this “ugly.”
– Why would you conclude that Tarantino is doing it “for the money”? 5 films in 20 years? THOSE 5 films? What is there in his career to lead you to conclude that anything influenced his films other than his vision?
– Misogyny. Sometimes. It’s a misogynistic world. But Tarantino has also foregrounded strong, complex female characters, such as Jackie Brown and The Bride.
– “If a film or film-maker is to be praised or have a place in history, what
criteria do we use then?” Good question. I’m no film historian, and I’m not placing Tarantino against Ford, or even arguing for his greatness. I could care less about that issue. I do however think that creativity and originality are praise-worthy, and that technical mastery is something to behold. I also think that entertainment for the sake of entertainment is great, and that compelling stories are worth hearing. Tarantino offers all of the above, which is why he connects. Dismissing that connection as rooted in “immaturity” says more to me about the dismisser than the dismissed. I also don’t know what it has to do with whiteness or masculinity. My wife is a brown woman, and she enjoys the movies too.
I’m all for standards, and all for identifying greatness… I’d just put Tarantino’s movies somewhere on the spectrum between ugly fascism and the tops.
– Re: Crouch and what Tarantino says about America… I’ll leave it to Stanley to say it more completely, but the basic gist of the argument is that Tarantino’s (early) movies celebrate American miscegenation and penetrate the layered, complicated racial universe in which we live… this is made visible by relationships, references, and, especially, language. There’s nowhere near enough of that type of stuff in our culture.
I’ll also add Children of Men to the list of excellent recent pictures….
Beautiful comment, and Children of Men is definitely a recent movie worth note and serious consideration. Check out this YouTube video of Zizeck talking about the film, if you haven’t already seen in on the DVD. It is a very compelling reading:
Luke, you have succeeded in making me angry. I
don’t know whether your skin is black, white, brown, or yellow, and as
if “I care less”…
> gratuitous sex
“Wanna fuck”: Bridget Fonda sex with DeNiro –
DeNiro shoots guy in cold blood point-blank in
car – blood and brain matter everywhere – cut to car in street with
car windows obscured by blood. “The cleaner” of the blood-soaked car
is portrayed as a wise-cracking regular joe. – Pulp Fiction
> I’m not offended by violence on film, no
more than I am in literature. Tarantino uses it to add depth to characters
and stories, either to signify amorality, or to gesture that his
presentation is fantasy. Perhaps it’s a matter of sensibility as to
whether or not you find this “ugly.”
You need explicit over-the-top violence to add
depth? To what: the depravity of the characters or the flimsiness of the
pretext and the story. It offends me that people stand-up and defend the
spending of millions of dollars on the production of such trash,
while thousands of kids go hungry or die everyday. Talk about
> his vision?
Give me a break.
> It’s a misogynistic
Crap! Even it was, how is it’s portrayal by
Tarantino somehow acceptable?
> Dismissing that connection as rooted in
“immaturity” says more to me about the dismisser than the
I am talking about the audience for these
films. What relevance this has I don’t know, other than the implication
that I am somehow racist: I am of Southern European extraction – may father is
Italian and my mother was Greek – and my wife is Chinese. I grew up
in a racist society and have been called as many dirty names as you would care
> – Re: Crouch and what Tarantino says
about America… I’ll leave it to Stanley to say it more completely, but the
basic gist of the argument is that Tarantino’s (early) movies celebrate American
miscegenation and penetrate the layered, complicated racial universe in which we
live… this is made visible by relationships, references, and, especially,
language. There’s nowhere near enough of that type of stuff in our
I suppose his next movie is going to be about the
people of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina?
> I do however think that creativity and
originality are praise-worthy
El Qaeda is both: should we praise Bin
I love that Zizek commentary. I’m also very glad he’s not delivering it shirtless from his bed.
Jim: well my father is Italian – and still cantankerous at 94 🙂
I think the anecdote about Russia and The Grapes of Wrath
is not quite fair. Firstly, I wanted to use a Hollywood example, which has
intrinsic limitations. Secondly, for cross-cultural empathy there
needs to be at least some shared imagery. Somehow, I don’t think the
experience of the Russian peasantry at the time allowed a truly shared
understanding of The Grapes of Wrath.
Let me share a more relevant example mentioned in the book I am currently
The Story Of Film (2004) by Mark Cousins. The Gone With the Wind
of Indian cinema is
Bharat/Mother India (1957) by legendary Indian director,
Mehboob Khan. And
there is an interesting parallel with film noir. Paraphrasing from the book
(pp 232-234 my emphasis):
Once there is a shared imagery, the deeper meaning of a film crosses
cultural barriers and talks deeply to everyman and everywoman.
I did labour over whether just responding with "Irrelevant " was too blunt,
but concluded that film noir in that context was a distraction.
That said, I agree that that there are fascist films noir, from directors
like Aldrich and Fuller, but they do not inform the body of films noir,
which are concerned with the [normal] human condition of
existential chaos and an indifferent universe. There are even great noirs,
mainly from the expatriate European directors, who fled fascism, and whose
films include a wider social critique.
Bad movies like good ones cost a LOT of money to make, and in a
world- half starving what is wrong with a moral critique of content?
Speaking to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in Geneva on July
9, 1965, Adllai Stevenson declared:
Well, it’s good to see you’re finally emotionally invested.
Bridget Fonda sex with DeNiro – Jackie Brown… gratuitous? Give ME a break.
Why comment on blogs, when you can be out volunteering? Why obsess about noir movies, when there are so many more productive things to do? If art is to be produced and disseminated to feed the world, we must throw away 99% of the masters. Why produce Syriana, which I enjoyed, when you can read George Packer or Lawrence Wright, which do the job better? Art, and history, have value beyond their moral content.
Who, in your mind, has the “right” to portray misogyny?
I KNOW you’re not racist. You’re too sensitive to be. But you insinuated that his appeal was tied to whiteness, suggesting that once we all possessively disinvest in it and grow up he wouldn’t be able to sell tickets anymore. My argument was that this was dismissive and misses why he connects.
One needn’t deal only with Katrina to explore racism in American society; it’s much more deeply ingrained in our fabric. Though, David Simon’s next project is about post-Katrina NOLA (and, given what we’ve seen on The Wire, the most penetrating social drama of this era, there’ll be a lot of sex and violence…)
Bin Laden isn’t also much of a story teller, and his cultural references are anachronistic and unliterary. And he certainly doesn’t know how to use a soundtrack. He does, however, love him some Chomsky… hmmmm.
Let me end my involvement here, by saying two things Luke:
1. All I did was to say I disliked Tarantino’s films, and gave a reason. You turned the whole debate ugly and personal.
2. You epitomose what’s wrong with America: aggressive, arrogant, always right, and unwilling to confront a culture of violence that destroys real lives in shameful numbers every day.
Good night and good luck…
PS: Chomsky is worth a thousand of your Tarantinos, and costs a whole lot less.
I have to say that Luke was playing quite nice. And he was engaging you in some pretty compelling discussion. I don;t think he personalized it like you did in the above comment, and he is one of America’s finest I’ll have you know 🙂 So, you need to play a little nicer on the bava, for I think the discussion you two were having was awesome and that there is no need to end it on such a resoundingly divisive note. The bava can encompass difference and still sing the self electrically.
Love and kisses,
Jim these are unfair gratuitous personal attacks, which are clearly aggressive, arrogant, and divisive:
1. “Well, itâ€™s good to see youâ€™re finally emotionally invested.”
2. “Why comment on blogs, when you can be out volunteering?”
3. “Why obsess about noir movies, when there are so many more productive things to do?”
4. “He does, however, love him some Chomskyâ€¦ hmmmm.”
I can refute each of course, but why should I have too?
Luke also chose to ignore issues he raised and I had responded to, either because he couldn’t or wouldn’t – an indication that he doesn’t want to concede that an opposing view may have some merit, on gratutious violence for example.
So I don’t resile one iota from my previous post.
For the record I mentioned Chomsky in a totally unrelated post, so why make the reference? Bin Laden IS a fascist, so why insult Chomsky, a man who has spent his whole life fighting against tyranny?
What is the relevance of “and he is one of Americaâ€™s finest Iâ€™ll have you know” and should I care less?
You have a great blog and raise some issues worthy of serious discussion, but I don’t like being chastised by someone half my age, so goodbye and good luck to you too…
Don’t go, Tony! I love the conversation and I didn’t mean to “chastise” you, just to reign your enthusiasm in so that the conversation doesn’t become an attack. Which is quite easy for all of us in a distributed space like this.
Regardless, it would be a major loss, but all this means is that I am going to have to move the discussion to your Noir blog. See you there 🙂
Tony, dude, relax. You called Tarantino’s movies ugly and fascistic; I challenged you. You responded in a pissy and dismissive way. I would even venture to say that your response was pissmissive, to both me and Rev Jim.
I responded with sarcasm, a touch of humor, and what Yiddish-speakers would call a “zetz.” I also made, I think, some substantive points that you, again, pissed upon. You then married liking Tarantino to not caring about world hunger or American geo-political aggression. And even worse, being immature! How is one supposed to respond to that canard?
Totalizing moral relativism is shameful, but that’s not Tarantino’s universe. And though I think there are some absolutes, complete moral absolutism can be very scary, and I think is much more responsible for America’s current relationship to the world.
I think Tarantino is differentiated from a studio system that puts out what I think we’d both agree is (mostly) trash. You clearly don’t. Does trashy American culture contribute to the brain-deadness of much of the American voting public? Yes, I think it probably does. Not a novel point, and not the only explanation. Do some people watch Tarantino for the violence? Sure they do. Doesn’t mean that’s all that’s there. Some people watched “Mother India” just for the songs, and kids in India watched Hong Kong kung-fu flicks for the fights, and found empowerment through them. (See Vijay Prashad on this).
Of course there’s loads of shit in American popular culture. There’s loads of shit in every nation’s popular culture. Ours is the biggest and most widely disseminated, the most influential. There’s not a one-to-one relationship between culture and politics.
(“Mother India” hit throughout the Third World, you claim because of some universal meaning. I think that it probably also has something to do with access. Baywatch and Walker, Texas Ranger were HUGE in India a few years ago. Was that because of their universalism?)
Now, we could have had a conversation about all this, a friendly one, and tried to learn from each other, but you wanted to proclaim and deflect, not engage. Who’s the arrogant one? You were pissed that I even challenged you– “You have succeeded in making me angry.” Your entire tone from the start was elitist, superior, and, frankly, poorly informed about the content of Tarantino’s work (your “wanna fuck? reference was to the wrong movie). You now hit us with some ageism. How old are you anyway? Jim is 56, and I’m 73!
I granted that the violence in Tarantino’s work was often-time gratuitous. I just argued that whether or not one finds this “ugly and fascist” is a matter of sensibility. You dodged what I argued Tarantino had to say about race, suggesting that the only way to address the issue was via social realism. No. No no no no no.
You never responded to my calling you on that whiteness bullshit, other than describing your lineage. It’s an interesting point, which I’d love to hear developed. Not by you at this point, though.
I’m petered out in this debate, and though I think you probably know a shit load about movies and can offer some good insight, I don’t think our sensibilities will allow us common ground. You can have the last word if you want. But, you’ve already had two last words.
P.S. Yeah, Chomsky is great. But I don’t think you can refute that Bin Laden loves him; I bet he’d take a thousand Chomsky’s over Tarantino too. I just think that’s interesting. And since you were already angry, I didn’t think it would hurt to point it out. Shrug.
P.S.S. I would never abandon Bavaland. Too much to learn here, too much Groomian enthusiasm to spin me off into my day….
Saw death proof last night — loved it. I’ve never been a huge Tarantino fan either, but this one really won me over.
Finally a little back-up from someone who has seen the film!
Was the head-on collision scene one of the sickest shlock/sock scenes ever or what! That scene blew my mind, it just took the pacing of the film and demolished it like an unsuspecting compact car 🙂
Hmmm. Simple comment here, which is I loved Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Jackie Brown — and nothing since, although you’ve convinced me to see Death Proof.
My feeling is that Tarantino did do something incredibly special in the way he took 70s and late 60s film sensibility and mesh it with an art film structure. I mean, heist film meets Rashomon, pulp film meets New Wave. Etc.
In that way there’s this sort of Bob Dylan genius to what he did, taking these “low culture” styles and really showing how much the frame can handle. (low I am using here very much in quotes). And as with Dylan he did this not out of contempt for the form, but out of love….
Which brings me back to the point of this post — what does is matter if Tarantino loves film?
Literary theory deals with this fairly well I think… I’m thinking of the concept of implied author…much of the fun of a Tarantino film is seeing the references, having a feeling of a person pulling those strings and quoting from other work. And those quotations can come off flat and lifeless, sarcastic, or warm and full of respect for the original. Both Dylan and Tarantino (as implied authors) quote from their sources with a real fondness, respect, and an encyclopedic understanding. In the work they do (which is not meant to be parody) that is crucial.
Can a reader use knowledge of the real author in constructing the implied author? I used to say no, influenced by the Formalists and Jakobsonian structuralists.
Now I say what happens, happens. People do. But at the end of the day if you focus too much on the Us Magazine version of Tarantino and let that infect your notion of the implied author, you’re really going to lose a great viewing experience, so it’s less about an endless quest for objective reality, and more about what you’ll miss out on. Which is substantial.
Wow, nice read, Michael… I got lost in the pissing match, as happens, and forgot even what Jimmy wanted to talk about. I agree that it ultimately doesn’t matter if Tarantino loves film, but I don’t think there can be much of a question that he does, evidenced by the very warmth with which you note he regards his influences and, I would say, the passion with which he has woven them into a literary universe. His vision is perhaps megalomaniacal, slightly crazed, and chemically-altered, but it’s a vision all the same, and entertaining as hell to those who are willing to surrender. I think he certainly loves stories. Who actually loves actors, besides actors themselves?
I think what was at the heart of Tony’s objection to his work and my aggressive response was the question of the moral purpose of art, and what Tarantino’s films in both production and reception have to say about that. It would be nice if Tony would stick around and really talk about this, but I’m not sure he’s gonna. I’m wondering if he would say your reading on Tarantino is irrelevant, because his (QT’s) vision is morally compromised, and the construction of a voice through mastery of a style and loving references ultimately is evasion, not invention. I disagree with this, of course, and think Tarantino shows, like RZA and DJ Premier, that there is much originality within the postmodern. I also think he makes strong moral stances across his movies… though, again, I haven’t seen Death Proof, and Jim suggests it’s unconcerned with what’s good.
I’m curious… why didn’t you like Kill Bill?
See, this is an interesting (and important) question — was Oscar Wilde’s style, for instance, a result of an evasion moral absolutes? Or was his style simply well formed to the subjects he chose?
Do we want a world we turn our Oscar Wildes into George Bernard Shaws? Isn’t there room for both?
Postmodernism can be maddening with it’s tendencies to endlessly reference but never ground. But ultimately that style is in itself an attempt to make sense of reality.
And to make storytelling the subject of your storytelling — i would argue it’s a weighty endeavor. Was Last Year at Marienbad without moral consequence?
Shifting gears — I find the end of Pulp Fiction profoundly moving — because the past is rearranged so that the present leads up to it — in a movie that is obsessed with the random fates of characters, the timeline is bent to lead up to a moment of will, determination, revelation, and charity as it’s climax. And from there the characters walk out into an uncertain world that we are intimately familiar with but is unknown to them. We are aware of the value and transience of that moment in a way they are not.
So there’s this tension of the will with an incredibly random (and seemingly ammoral) universe. Sequenced normally, it’s ammoral universe: 1, human will: 0. But I would argue the film sequence of that at least pushes for a Camus-like romanticization of our efforts to construct a life where we are in the driver’s seat.
I’m a sucker for this construct, I’ll admit. I tear up when I watch the “backwards” Seinfeld (where Kramer saves the snowball).
Should stop now, but my point is in the first 2 movies, there’s is this idea that even though life does not make sense to the characters it would if
a) you had all the perspectives, or
b) you rearranged time
Not stunning insights (and much lifted from the genres he is “doing”) — but certainly a meaningful stance as any, and chock full of worldview, no?
Wow Luke and Mike, rock on!
First, Mike that is an excellent reading of the end of Pulp Fiction. This idea that the sense of perspective and meaning is radically redefined by the subversion of narrative chronology at the end of the film is a nicely nuanced reading. My problem with Pulp Fiction was, and may always be, too much Tarantino. What I mean by this is that when he started “acting” like a maniac in the Bonnie Episode I lost interest (1/3 of the film was dead to me). He had such a tight narrative beautifully acted and written, then he comes in and showed just how much he cannot act. This might seem pissy and an overly “aesthetic” critique, but when the first two thirds of the film are acted so superbly introducing a character that is so poorly acted ends up ruining a large part of this film for me. So, some of the best dialog and narrative disruption in recent cinema was spoiled for me by Tarantino ranting in his robe.
Although, this might be why I liked Jackie Brown so much, it never pissed me off and afforded all of the narrative mastery of episodic perspective as Pulp Fiction. Moreover, the scenes in the Del Amo Mall were some of the best on film. The way the film traced and re-traced the steps of each character’s perspective of the same heist was nothing short of genius. Not to mention Bridgette Fonda’s taunting of Lewis in the parking lot (she deserved an oscar for that performance).
Yet, after these comments, I’ll have to watch Pulp Fiction again. As for Kill Bill, I would love it if someone gave me a compelling reading of this film. I saw it and came away completely empty. I am pretty familiar with many of the references he is making throughout the movie(s) (Master of the Flying Guillotine, Five Deadly Venoms, the original Iron Monkey, and the Kung Fu TV series to name a few (much of this knowledge thanks to Mikhail).
What struck me as unimpressive about Kill Bill is having seen many of the movies he references, I found they depended on far more effects, gore, and bad writing than the originals without have the dramatic effect. In fact, all the films above were vastly superior b-kung fu movies than Kill Bill–and he just didn’t capture the exploitation “feel” of the Shaw Brothers films. It just seemed to me that Tarantino was out of his league with the Kung-Fu– the choreography was mediocre and the gore was often ridiculously overstated.
And, by way of transition, this was not the case at all in Death Proof. Rather D.P. is the realization of a 70s exploitation/horoor film that is referencing the originals but at the same time far greater for its effect. Whereas Kill Bill is a failed attempt to join the ranks of great Hong Kong film, and this might have a lot to do with th fact that Hong Kong fil is currently a much richer, diversified, and thriving creative center for film than Hollywood, making the competition for good Kung-Fu that much stiffer –even for Tarantino.
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I care ….but not for long. It seems like he’s soin to foregin films that it would be hard to understand him anyhow. I’m glad with Death Proof ,since I had to take it on it’s move from New York City to Denver Colorodo. And this was better since I got a friend out there who’s got movie friends and gave us a nice date out What a blessing!!!! Withan extra zinger! At the time I was drunk at the movie and it took me through a long amount of phases like “The Qualifacations…” The fake trailers were like a blast and the violence turned me back into a girl who covers her eyes up during the car crash sceans. I usually have some emotional dramas for this film on alchohal. I see alot of this film was made through worry maybe someone wouldn’t understand or that maybe they had stepped out to the toilet and could not catch up since the vow of movie silence.
I did perhapse return to consciencness when I heard a really bad T-Rex song ! I hate T-Rex, and it’s kind of freaked how many people actually do get into car wrecks on the T- Rex jams. I usually turn the station . I always knew that T- Rex was some kind of satanic car crash curse….. It did become so gross that sceane that I cried and closed my eyes for a minute…. But boy was I glad at the revenge parts (confused by the cheeleader) came on!!! I love any revenge film1.>*dirt*