With his ninth film coming out this month, we look back on the indie titan and his deeply metatextual approach to cinema.
Every month, we at The Spool like to highlight the works of one or more influential filmmakers — folks who shaped the medium in innumerable ways, whether through form, impact or representation. In March, we celebrated the prolific work of the King of Quirk, Tim Burton; in April, we celebrated Black Women’s History Month with a spotlight on black women directors. For May, we celebrated the works of acclaimed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. And we celebrated Pride last month by examining the works of transgender filmmakers Lana and Lilly Wachowski.
July sees the release of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, the ninth film from genre-bending metatextual auteur Quentin Tarantino. As such, we thought it’d be a great time to re-evaluate his works — how they impacted the early days of independent filmmaking, their deep, unsubtle nods to cinema history, and how QT’s own sensibilities have changed over the twenty-plus years he’s been making films.
Tarantino’s arrival practically defined the experimental, genre-bending sensibilities of ’90s cinema. In many ways, his cinema knowledge falls along the tradition of Cahiers du Cinéma — the French film journal from which sprung Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and other auteurs of the French New Wave. While they were film critics whose obsessive study of film informed their works, Tarantino’s film knowledge came from working at a video store, obsessing over exploitation and genre films of the 60s and 70s.
From there, his big break came with 1992’s Reservoir Dogs, a grimy crime thriller filled with Tarantino’s patented quick-witted, reference-laden dialogue, hyperstylized violence, and an intriguingly non-chronological narrative. That gave him a leg up to finally make Pulp Fiction, and, well, the rest was history.
Over the course of the month, we’ll be looking at every major film Quentin Tarantino has directed, some he just wrote, and even some of his few… let’s say memorable appearances in front of the camera.
Even now, he remains a controversial figure: his films are very masculine, for lack of a better word, tales of tough guys talking shit and delighting in their edginess. The n-word is thrown around quite a bit, especially by white characters (and especially by QT himself), throwing into question how much of his films are just him building excuses to say the word himself. And of course, there are controversies like his endangering of Uma Thurman on the set of Kill Bill and other instances in which he’s put his foot in his fast-talking mouth.
We’ll explore some of that throughout this month, but it won’t be the sole focus of our work. Like most problematic artists, it’s important to recognize their flaws and foibles while also recognizing how we respond to their art. In the meantime, love him or hate him, his works have heavily influenced the world of American cinema, whether cultivating a broader love of camp and cult movies through his films (works which toe the line between homage and pastiche) or creating a new type of cinematic ‘cool’ that still reverberates in part in the cinema of today.
Read our Tarantino coverage here:
“Reservoir Dogs” is Quentin Tarantino’s Bloody Rosetta Stone
Tarantino’s Worst Excesses Come Out In Tony Scott’s “True Romance”
With “Pulp Fiction,” Tarantino Resisted the Mundane
“From Dusk Till Dawn”and Tarantino the Actor
The Unsubtle Social Satire of “Natural Born Killers”
The Tarantino-Heavy “Four Rooms” Needs a ‘Do Not Disturb’ Sign