So I went to see The Hateful 8 the latest Quentin Tarantino film with some friends this weekend. It was good. Not up to his best but perfectly enjoyable. Prior to going I’d read briefly on the web a quote from him saying that the movie “was inspired by his first reactions on seeing John Carpenters The Thing.” That makes sense. He seems to have reimagined the general themes of The Thing as a western. Paranoia, duplicity, one or more of these men are not what they appear to be and of course it stars Kurt Russell.
Most of us have enjoyed his work since he arrived with Reservoir Dogs. Can you still remember how you felt on first seeing it at the cinema? It’s a film that lodges in your head for life. I’d never seen anything like it before. Scenes playing out that at first didn’t seem to make sense until a later flashback would put them in context. The sharing of vital information with the audience that is held back from the characters in the film. Making everyday dialogue about the mundane sound almost explosive. All techniques he still uses and are now used in much film and TV writing, but I don’t think anyone has managed to use these tricks as effectively as he does.
When Pulp Fiction arrived his reputation was cemented. How many great scenes? The brilliant set up of a mundane chat about hamburgers that causes massive tension when revisited in a later scene. The horror of Z and the Gimp. And who will ever forget the adrenalin injection? His first critics also arrived around the same time. “But what is the point of it all?”
I remember after seeing the first part of Kill Bill a friend remarked that, “he’s great at taking pretty rubbish source material from popular culture and making it great.” Which is kind of true but that’s because he actually loves that “rubbish” source material in the first place. Geeks are everywhere now but he was the first to enter mainstream entertainment.
On seeing the latest film another friend remarked that, “yes it was good…but I don’t really get the point of it. What was the message?” I think at times especially among his best stuff such as Revoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill films there isn’t a message. It’s just pure entertainment for pure entertainments sake. There’s nothing really wrong with that. But in later stuff such as Inglorious Bastards, Django and the latest film he does tackle some unsavoury history. The Holocaust, the American Civil war and in Django in particular he takes a close and at many times disturbing and uncomfortable look at Americas history with slavery. But while doing all this entertainment remains to the fore. He’s been criticised often for this but even a film such as Schindler’s List is still at the end of the day doing the same job. I think that’s his best strength. Yes there’s a moral…but it is only a movie…often a movie about the love of making movies. Few directors manage to get that personal love for the art form up there on the screen and keep it blisteringly entertaining.
I do wish he would let up on that N word. He’s made his point, move on. Where he moves to next looks uncertain. He’s talking of retirement but I can’t really see that lasting. He’s often spoke of how he would love to be allowed to do a Bond film. How awesome would that be. “The name’s Bond…James mother fuckin’ Bond. You got a problem with me being black?”