Quentin Tarantino needs little introduction. Or maybe he does. For those who need it, he is an American filmmaker widely known for making gory movies with non-linear story-lines. I am writing about him and his movies because I happen to be an admirer of his works and the flashy set-pieces, the stylized charisma of his dialogue, and his narrative structure appeal to me in a very positive manner.
Many critics believe that his movies are more of violence than of substance. However, he has never failed to amaze me with his movies. The colors he uses, the ‘in your face’ attitude of his characters and excellent casting. He makes the kind of movies which gets common people like me, who don’t know much about movie-making and may not enjoy the most tasteful of the movies, appreciate the beauty of movie-making. I remember one comment from some post on r/movies that I read at some point, which I, however, could not locate again to quote. The OP had rightly commented that watching Tarantino’s movies is like reading Stephen King. It might not be the most tasteful literature but once you tackle an 800-page book and realize it’s not as long as you thought it would be, it means you enjoyed it. I see Tarantino the same way. You see his films for the first time and it’s apparent that filmmaking is indeed an art that you have never realized before, especially if you’re exposed at this impressionable age.
I recall that the first Tarantino movie that I watched was Django Unchained and recently realized that I have forgotten most parts of it. But I strongly recall that it was an awesome movie with the kind of violence that I had never seen earlier.
One thing I particularly adore about his movies is the way he portrays bad people with high morals and beautiful portrayal of violence. His movies are always laid on the preset of revenge, vengeance, and betrayal. And, why not? The desire for revenge is perhaps the most knee-jerk of all reactions that keep you engaged because you are not satisfied until the revenge is taken. All Tarantino seems to be doing is whetting our appetite for bloodlust and then satisfying it within the course of the film and he does that beautifully.
Although the impression of his movies, that I myself had, was much of the kind of movies where there is just violence and vengeance; the elements which I did not realize at that time were the high morals and style. This realization came a bit late when I was already in college and finally watched Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Kill Bill. The sheer quest, struggle, and methods of assassination make most scenes worth it. There is always a strong emotion working in the foreground, driven primarily by vengeance which turns into a blend of vengeance and morals by the end. Let’s talk about a particular scene from Pulp Fiction.
Jules: You read the Bible, Brett?
Brett: [gasping for breath] Yes…!
Jules: Well, there’s this passage I’ve got memorized, it sorta fits the occasion. Ezekiel 25:17? “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. [begins pacing about the room] And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord… [pulls out his gun and aims at Brett] …when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
[Brett shrieks in horror as Jules and Vincent shoot him repeatedly]
[Later, on Ezekiel 25:17]
Jules: I been saying that shit for years. And if you heard it, that meant your ass. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was some cold-blooded shit to say to a ************ before I popped a cap in his face. But I saw some shit this morning made me think twice. See, now I’m thinking, maybe it means you’re the evil man, and I’m the righteous man and Mr. 9 Millimeter here? He’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. Now I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is…you’re the weak, and I am the tyranny of evil men. But I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.
This tells us that though Jules used to be a gangster and killed people for money, he was desperately trying to be a good man as well. This prompts me to conclude that though his characters indulge in extreme violence, they are people with high morals and a good sense of responsibility too. Remember the part from Kill Bill where Beatrix Kiddo kills Vernita in front of her daughter? She does tell the little girl, “When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.”
Jackie Brown and Death Proof are probably the most un-tarantino movies in the list of his famous 8 movies. Despite the general environment in these movies is quite similar to the rest of them, the elements and the characters are not as vivid. The way he uses violence as a color in his movies is certainly not as vibrant and as righteous in these movies. Tarantino claims that Death Proof is the worst film he has made. He may not be absolutely right or wrong, but definitely, these are the ones which certainly fall at the bottom of the totem pole of the 8 of his finest works.
However, I gather from the internet that Jackie Brown is the favorite Tarantino film amongst people who don’t really appreciate what Tarantino does. It’s the least Tarantinian of his films to date. On the other hand, the film that best expresses who Tarantino is, would probably be Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction.
The Hateful Eight, the most recent of them all, is widely known to be the most boring of the eight. The internet houses many people who say that they could not even survive the first half of the movie, I beg to differ. I agree with the feeling that the movie is not a catchy in the beginning but again, the cast is excellent, which makes the age-old practice of having bounty hunters in a country-themed film, new(er). I do not want to spoil much for the people who haven’t seen it yet. But yeah, the bounty hunter and the gangster lady, who is held captive by that bounty hunter is amazing. I remember that scene when Samuel Jackson had just met the duo and the three were traveling in a chariot to the Red Rock and then the lady said something unwelcome making the bounty hunter furious. He smacked the lady on the face with his stick. And she, not quite surprisingly, smiles, looks directly in the eyes of Samuel Jackson, licks her lips as blood comes out of them in a very appealing manner and act like she did it on purpose, while ‘Apple Blossom’ plays in the background. That scene was remarkable. Also, the movie does get intense and naturally, interesting, towards the end. So if you are planning to watch it anytime soon, do not lose patience, there’ll be stuff to come.
To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.
Another aspect of his movies is the great music he uses, especially for the opening sequences. To some directors, the music heard in their films seems as (or more) important than the images seen or the dialogue spoken. I, despite being a person who is not too much into music, would blatantly disregard a Reservoir Dogs without “Stuck in the Middle with You” or a Pulp Fiction without “Misirlou”. The movies won’t be the same without the opening credits music.
He has this practice of using relatively unheard songs which already exist, at the right place. I happen to have a particular liking for ‘My baby shot me down’ by Nancy Sinatra, which got featured in Kill Bill in a very apt manner. Thanks to David Guetta, the composition is much more popular now. I feel bad for the people who say that this mix of Guetta’s is one of their favorite few but are unaware that this was used in Kill Bill.
There are two sides to every coin. Critics believe that his movies have a very simplistic world view and they do not challenge his audience morally, politically or intellectually.
So, while I agree that there’s something missing in Tarantino, I think that void is just part of who he is an artist. While critics see him as a talented artist who’s selling out to a certain extent, making unchallenging films to get better results at the box office, I think Tarantino’s newer films better reflect his worldview – which (to my frustration) happens to be an unchallenging one. By having such cinematic moments a movie, one is truly able to just sit back and have fun exploring the what if’s of the lifestyles and worlds they dream about while also having a real world application of them. Maybe if filmmakers understood that audiences want to just have fun watching a film then there would be more cinematic films in the world.
Note: with inputs from