Although Quentin Tarantino, unlike the Young Turks de Cassier cinema or Piotr Bogdanovich, he didn’t see “all the films”, maybe he got close enough. In Film Speculations (La Nave di Teseo editore, 2023), the director’s second book, he tells us the story of his sentimental education in film.
Already in the first chapter, we are not talking about the games and tragedies of childhood and adolescence, but about the Saturdays and Sundays that Tarantino spent with his mother Connie and his partner on duty in the cinemas of Los Angeles. Tarantino was born in 1963 and from the age of 8 or 9 until adolescence, cinema was his authentic, if not exclusive, cultural education. Cinema, that’s his true childhood paradise.
Paradise, which also carries with it the topographical memories of a certain Los Angeles of the 70s and early 80s. Sunset Strip Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard and theaters like the Tiffany Theatre: Tarantino remembers him among the places where he saw and rewatched his films from a young audience. François Truffaut himself in a book such as Movies of my life, created an unforgettable attachment to Pigalle’s cinema and, like Truffaut, Tarantino himself writes films, directs them, thinks about them and writes about them as a critic, joy multiplied by three. It was at Tiffany’s that he entered the cinema for the first time at the age of seven.
Not only here is his vocation born, something like Spielberg said in a very recent Fabelmansbut this calling coincides with the end of “the old Hollywood of films of the past, which has dissolved and been replaced by the New Hollywood of youth culture and hippie clubs.”
These are films, precisely from the 1970s, in which sexuality and violence explode without hesitation and without Hollywood’s muting and allusions to the Hays Code, the informal bible of film censorship. The cinema of a very young Tarantino, therefore, coincides with the so-called New Hollywoodremember Scorsese, De Palma, Coppola, who were influenced by New wave French and European cinema as a whole is updating the gigantic economic and artistic mechanism that is the Hollywood Dream Factory with new stylistic and content elements, such as non-linear and discontinuous editing, the cancellation of happy endings, the presence of anti-heroes. It’s also the movie years hardcorefrom the films of the so-called black exploitationthat is, choreographed and performed by African Americans for an African American audience.
These are also the years of the Vietnam War, Nixon and the Watergate scandal, but above all, these are the years of youth counterculture, sexual liberation and the spread of synthetic drugs such as LSD, the Black Panthers, urban violence and the impotence of the law. The resounding success, explains Tarantino, of films such as death wish (Death Wish, 1974) with Charles Bronson and de Inspector Callaghan: Scorpio’s business is up to you. (Dirty Harry, 1971) with Clint Eastwood was due to the fact that they described a reactionary (but not fascist, as critics of the time wrote) America, which Nixon called the “silent majority”, which no longer understood its children and their anti-patriotism and fearfully opposed social change. , glorifying an unconventional law enforcement officer and a simple citizen who took justice into his own hands. L’Inspector Callaghan in particular, the director notes, it opens up a genre in which from the 1980s the protagonist will be a serial killer terrorizing the city.
Some analyzes of the book are memorable and demonstrate, apart from Tarantino’s very early obsession with cinema, his interpretive intelligence, revealing details and meanings that have eluded us in films that we may have seen many times since Dirty Harry exactly, and Escapefrom Quiet weekend of fear To Taxi driver (to whom he dedicates one of his most beautiful performances). So what is it Movie speculation? Not only is this a personal tribute to cinema through some of his favorite films, but it also reveals the genealogy of Tarantino’s cinematic aesthetic. On this front, however, there is a paucity of observation of filming technique, apart from a tour of the sequences filmed in De Palma’s films.
Tarantino has no problem thanking his directors, and he does this, for example, in connection with the split screen, an attribute of Brian De Palma’s cinema. In fact, this technology is used in Kill Bill I, in the scene in which Daryl Hannah crosses the hospital corridor to kill Uma Thurman, with the music of Bernard Herman playing in the background. Here, Tarantino writes, it is as if Brian De Palma has taken control of his film. But a tribute to a 1977 B-movie like rolling thunder John Flynn, which is easy to find on the net, a film that ends with a cold and geometric massacre and which is certainly the basis of the “Revenge Film” that Tarantino loves so much, that is, those films that talk about revenge with a final massacre. Tarantino writes that rolling thunder it is not only the first film he analyzed as a critic, but also one of his favorites because of the overt and cathartic portrayal of violence that would later characterize his films (Edoardo Giaretta’s book on the subject has just come out.
Here, as in the first book, we discover Tarantino’s love for actors. About Steve McQueen, for example, he tells how a screen star is born, how his becoming a movie icon was not accidental. The actor’s laconic style, that is, a few lines throughout the film, was desired and sought after and reaches its peak in Bullitt. Steve McQueen does what neither Paul Newman nor Warren Beatty could do, which is “just exist and fill the frame,” as Tarantino said. But we shouldn’t forget his attention to co-stars and supporting actors, and here are the names of actors we’ve seen a thousand times but never got to know: Ben Jonson, Joe Don Baker, Jeff Corey, Jack Klugman and Bill. McKinney. Speaking of unknown actors, I would also like to mention pages about the extraordinary impact, both on the public and on the thirteen-year-old Tarantino, rocky with Sylvester Stallone upon its release in 1976: “Every element of the film took everyone by surprise: the main character, who was a stranger; emotional charge of the story; incredible, uplifting music by Bill Conti; and one of the most thrilling endings ever seen in a movie theater.”
Today Tarantino is at the peak of his career, his fame is almost planetary, because he can say everything, he has no restrictions either in time or in writing, it is difficult to read criticism that writes in conditions of absolute freedom of opinion, language freedom too. and with his wonderful irritability. What makes Tarantino a critic sui Generis is the constant weaving of the critical eye, the deep knowledge of the cinematic machine, and the display of his own tastes and his own subjectivity as a viewer. Like when he judges some endings like endings Escape or Taxi driver. In the book, Tarantino was said to pay homage to films, directors and actors important to his profession, among them he recalls the little-known Floyd Ray Wilson, an African-American who dated his mother for a while and who, like him, loved cinema. Tarantino hasn’t heard from Floyd since 1979, but he recalls that Floyd told a young Tarantino that he had written a script about a black cowboy who kills white villains. Does it remind us of anyone? Certainly, Django Unchained!
Here Tarantino’s book ends with remembrance and gratitude: “My dream of a black hero in the Far West. Django Unchained (…) won me an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. By the time I stepped onto the podium and took the gold statuette along with Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron behind me, Floyd was already dead. I don’t know how he died or even where he is buried. But I know I should have thanked him.”
Published Thursday, August 24, 2023
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