Doc must emphasise that his opinion is not neccessarily shared by his fellow writers on HCF!
A couple of weeks ago I watched Pulp Fiction for the umpteenth time, and I became very depressed. Not because the film didn’t hold up. Oh no, the combination of clever storytelling, with that stunning moment at the end where the plot just whips round and starts all over again, fantastic characters, laugh-out-loud humour and incredible dialogue which you just want to quote over and over again, was as wonderfully entertaining as it always was. The reason I became depressed was to think of its writer and director Quentin Tarantino, and what a difference there is between the genius who made Pulp Fiction and the hack who concocted Inglorious Basterds [yeah, it’s so cool that ‘bastards’ is spelt wrong, yeah?]. They almost seem like two different directors to me. Now I know that Tarantino has many fans who still love his stuff and who wait in excitement for each new project, and fair play to them. For me though, the days when I looked forward to the next Tarantino movie are long gone.
How I remember the days!! Being already a big film fan who read as much he had time to, I couldn’t move during the second half of 1992 for reading about this exciting new movie by this precocious talent called Quentin Tarantino called Reservoir Dogs, and when the film finally came out early 1993 in the UK, I rushed to see the film immediately and was not let down one bit. Being an avid fan of Hong Kong cinema, I realised straight away that criticisms of the movie borrowing from City On Fire were justified. It was virtually a remake of the second half! Never mind, Reservoir Dogs introduced a bold new voice in cinema and I loved it; the complex flashback structure of the story, the minutely detailed characterisation, the lengthy scenes of dialogue where people actually talked crap the way most people actually do talk, yet with the dialogue remaining etched in your mind, the realism but also the very black humour in the violence, the use of obscure 70s songs that somehow fitted the action perfectly – it was great. Of course it helped that Tarantino was a huge film lover, and seemed to love many of the kinds of films did, and when the film got banned on video and Tarantino urged people to get the film by any means necessary – I mean, how cool could he get!
Pulp Fiction more than fulfilled expectations, and of course the hugely enjoyable True Romance was seen as a Tarantino film despite Tony Scott directing it. From Dusk Till Dawn and Natural Born Killers showed very well that Tarantino scripts could result in wildly differing films, but what we fans wanted to see more than anything else was the next ‘proper’ Tarantino movie. Well, Jackie Brown came along and it was kind of “….um….yeah…..it’s kind of okay”. Though it had a few of the expected touches, the film was just dull and almost seemed much ado about nothing. What warmth and subtlety [two things Tarantino generally seems to lack] existed seemed due to it originating from an Elmore Leonard book. O well, it was seven years until the next one, which was a martial arts movie and was apparently so long it had to be split in two. Cool! Kill Bill: Vol 1 was certainly a fun ride while I watched it, I mean how could I not love a film which used a set from the latest Godzilla movie, was partially filmed in the Shaw Brothers studios, and totally avoided computer effects? The trouble was that too much seemed to be made up of bits and pieces from other films. O look, it’s the yellow track suit from Game Of Death. O look Lucy Lui is basically playing Lady Snowblood. Far more damagingly, Tarantino seemed to have lost his knack for writing good dialogue.
It was after this that he really lost it. Kill Bill: Vol 2 promised so much and was just a bore. Despite the fact that it was supposedly a martial arts revenge thriller, it had about five minutes of action, the rest of it consisting of mostly unremarkable dialogue, and the bits when the dialogue was good seemed to stick out, with the performers being told to utter it as if it was incredibly important. Tarantino was beginning to disappear up his own arse. For me the film almost entirely failed to deliver, but worse was to come. Death Proof was just complete and utter tedium, filled with reams of banal and random dialogue and showing that Tarantino was lost writing for lots of women, unless his making them so dislikeable was intentional so we want to see them killed. Once again, the film promised action which it didn’t deliver, and, though I didn’t mind this quite so much in earlier films, I was totally sick by now of hearing bits of other movie soundtracks, music that I liked, plonked into his movies. What the hell are a few bars of Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Bird With The Crystal Plumage doing backing up a shot of some girls walking along?
Then came Inglorious Basterds, and I really thought this would be the one that would restore Tarantino’s greatness. Silly me! The film was a crushing disappointment, and I partially blame Tarantino’s bullshit about him making a war movie, for it was a war movie with no bloody war! Once again, it was acres of tedious, unmemorable dialogue [he just has trouble writing decent dialogue the way he used to now, and as I write this I remember that a lot of Pulp Fiction was actually written by Roger Avary] interspersed with ‘homages’ to films he like. It also revealed, more than any other films, his limitations as a creator of characters, with the only fleshed-out personality in the film being Christoph Waltz’s, of course the nastiest. Of course this was not always the case, but Tarantino seems to have almost totally lost his skill as a writer, and if anything he is regressing, his writing becoming more and more childish. There’s a cold, callous feel to Inglorious Basterds, as if Tarantino just doesn’t like people much anymore, a big problem in a film when they yap on and on. In these days where more and more young people lack a knowledge or awareness of history [not something that is their fault], a film which seems to kill off Adolf Hitler is just extremely irresponsible, while Tarantino even got a bad performance out of Brad Pitt.
No, I’m just not looking forward to the new one at all. Tarantino ‘does’ the Spaghetti Western? Well, I know what that’s going to be. It’ll be the usual tedium; loads of ‘tributes’ to [read ‘copies of’ because Tarantino has few ideas of his own any more] obscure movies Tarantino likes, about a minute’s worth of action [just as unforgiveable in a spaghetti western as in a war movie] and loads and loads of waffling. I expect the music will be various cues by Morricone etc from other and better movies. Being that I am a big fan of spaghetti westerns, I also expect it’ll send me home to watch the first Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci or Sergio Sollima movie I lay my hands on, and I’ll find it ten times more fulfilling then Tarantino’s half-arsed Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers do the Italian Western.
Tarantino is at the stage in his career where he should be making his masterpieces, not stuck stringing together bits from movies he likes with people talking crap, like a nerdy teenager with a camera who has just discovered cinema but doesn’t know how to make a proper film.