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Quentin Tarantino

Film4 Quentin Tarantino

Since first bursting onto the filmmaking scene, Quentin Tarantino has managed to remain truly unique whilst loading his films with homages to the greats of cinema, and inspiring a multitude of imitators. Film4.com lays out what you need to know about QT.

WHO IS HE?

Ex-video rental store employee turned demon dog of Hollywood; an insatiable consumer of cinematic classics and curios; and a staunch defender of 35mm film (not to mention the right to steep it in bloodshed).

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

Because no other director has such a singularly recognisable style and gets bums on seats like Tarantino. Plus, he’s essentially a multi-millionaire, Palme d’Or-winning fanboy, and if you’re not familiar with his films, a thousand and one parodies will go over your head.

WHAT SORT OF FILMS IS HE FAMOUS FOR?

Violent, blackly comic, dialogue-heavy slices of doorstop cinema slathered with pop culture references and post-modern knowingness. From his earlier work, expect non-linear, noirish crime flicks with an off-key bent; and later, fluorescent homages (or is that reinventions?) of genre movies.

WHO DOES HE WORK WITH?

Uma Thurman is his self-confessed muse, but since Samuel L. Jackson has shown up in five Tarantino movies and counting (six including True Romance,) we think it might be him. Christoph Waltz is shaping up to be the new darling, though.

WHAT DO THEY TELL YOU AT FILM SCHOOL?

That he is living proof that all you need to get a movie made is a great script, although he’s broken most screenwriting rules along the way - just try and fit Pulp Fiction into a conventional three-act structure. Character and dialogue is his true speciality; the old filmmaking maxim might insist you ‘show, don’t tell’, but Tarantino is more likely to show and then tell. At length.

FILMS YOU SHOULD SEE

  • Reservoir Dogs

    Reservoir Dogs

    Let me tell you what Like A Virgins about. Tarantino himself speaks the words that open Reservoir Dogs, and appropriately so, because this brilliantly scripted and cast tale of a heist gone bad announced his arrival to the world through a megaphone (and with a slew of profanity). Tarantino skips the botched caper itself and tells the story in negative space, from the convivial banter of the assembled crooks before the job to the snarling accusations and escalating tensions after. All his trademarks are here¬ - the disassembled narrative, the back-and-forths over everyday minutiae, the explosions of brutality - and Reservoir Dogs said one thing; theres a new hound in the junk yard, and hes got teeth.

  • Pulp Fiction

    Pulp Fiction

    If Reservoir Dogs is tableaux vivant of criminal life, then Pulp Fiction is a fresco painted on a toilet door, as sublimely ridiculous as it is artfully realised. Gangland enforcers Jules and Vincent (Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta) have to run a few simple errands for their boss, but between a double-crossing boxer, a serious drug overdose, two twitchy armed robbers and one possible divine intervention, they end up with a lot to chew over. With a brilliantly conceived structure, smart mouth dialogue, and a sense of vision greater than its idiosyncratic parts, Pulp Fiction revived Hollywood like a shot of adrenaline.

  • Kill Bill Vol. 1

    Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2

    Tarantino once again called upon Uma Thurman, who smouldered at Pulp Fictions heart, for this lurid love letter to kung fu flicks and spaghetti westerns. Thurman plays The Bride, a former member of an elite hit squad turned on and left for dead on her big day; unsurprisingly, shes hankering for an all-you-can-eat revenge buffet. Frequent nods to genre flicks and a lightness of touch offset all the mayhem, and while Volume 1 is undoubtedly the zippier, both boast katana-sharp direction that heralded a new exuberance in Tarantinos style.

  • Django Unchained

    Django Unchained

    While Django Unchained is superior to its predecessor Inglourious Basterds, theyre from the same recipe book: take a sensitive historical topic, pit some magnetic good guys against some despicable villains, and dress with lashings of claret. The films strength lies not in action, but in the war of words between freed slave Django and his bounty hunting mentor Shultz on one side (hooray!) versus rotten-toothed Calvin Candie and his loathsome house slave Stephen on the other (hiss). The way Tarantino pulls and stretches his key scenes until theyre ready to tear with tension is fearless and masterful, much like the film as a whole.

TRADEMARKS

The drawn out exegesis on pop culture ephemera (cheese burgers, Madonna); the wry nod to classic filmmaking techniques (the Hitchcock zoom, the Kurosawa wipe); and the brutalisation of gentle MOR classics (‘Stuck In The Middle With You’). You can also expect to see title cards, sharp suits, sexy cars, and feet - though he insists rumours of a fetish are greatly exaggerated.

INFLUENCED BY

Where to begin? Tarantino’s a glutton for movies, and there doesn’t seem to be much he hasn’t seen. He’s a serious Western buff (The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly is his number one), but aside from that, his Top Ten list includes everything from Carrie to His Girl Friday to Five Fingers of Death.

COPYCATS

Guy Ritchie and Martin McDonagh have recycled much of Tarantino’s style into interesting new forms, but lesser imitators are everywhere. The man himself once claimed that one in every three scripts doing the rounds in Hollywood was deemed ‘Tarantino-esque’.

CRITICISED FOR

Using violence and racial epithets as just another aesthetic flourish, and refusing to apologise for doing so.

PRAISED FOR

The energy and abundance of ideas in his films, things that could only come from someone truly infatuated with the medium.

HE SAYS…

“Violent films don’t turn children into violent people. They may turn them into violent filmmakers, but that’s another matter altogether.”

“I’ll never live long enough to make all the movies I want. I’m just making as many of them as I can.”

TRIVIA

Tarantino’s first job was in a ‘full-on triple XXX porno cinema’ called the Pussycat Theatre.

Madonna reportedly gave him a copy of her album Erotika, signed with the words: Quentin, it’s about love, not dick’.

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