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Quentin Tarantino

An American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor

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A Unique Style

  • Aug 31, 2009
Quentin Tarantino.  He needs little introduction.  Most people know of Tarantino becuase he did the film Pulp Fiction.  And that film is immensely popular and well known.  It's in the top 10 on the IMDB.  While most of us were introduced to Tarantino through Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction is where most of us know him from, and where most of us got to see the kind of director he was. 

Tarantino is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of films.  As a result, one of the strangest things about him is how many allusions to other films are locked within his own, and how many scenes he does as tributes to other films.  They're incredibly hard to spot if you yourself aren't as big on this as Tarantino.  Indeed I'm not, but it's nothing a little trivia from the IMDB won't fix.  What is more astounding about Quentin Tarantino is that based off of one film he has earned the power and respect of hollywood to do just about any film he wants.  As a result, he doesn't release films every single year.  In fact, for a director and screenwriter that's been active since the early 90's, it's amazing that within the past twenty years he's only released eight full length films of his own (and this is if you don't count Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 as two separate films).  It must be a marvel to whatever you want whenever you want.  On the other hand when Tarantino does a film there's always one word you can use to describe it: Different.  

In terms of being a screenwriter, I think that's where Tarantino's true gift is.  He is a remarkable director, but he's an even better screenwriter simply because he really knows dialog and he really knows story.  He may, in fact, know dialog a little too well.  A great deal of his movies are actually spent with characters in dialog exchanges.  This isn't exactly for everyone.  His recent fil Inglourious Basterds often gets criticized by people for that very reason.  Kill Bill Vol. 2 is another example of a film that's pretty dialog heavy.  Yet when Tarantino has good strong dialog between his characters, it's normally really good.  Some of it even funny and amusing.  Pulp Fiction, for example, has some of the best known dialog in any film of the 90's.  Pulp Fiction is also a good example of a very dialog driven film.  Pulp Fiction, like Inglourious Basterds, has several scenes in which the characters are really just standing there and talking.  In Pulp Fiction you get conversations such as two hit men talking about what to call a quarter pounder with cheese in Europe or talking about foot massages... or you may have those same two guys talking about how one of them doesn't eat bacon because a pig is a filthy animal, but a dog isn't filthy because he has character.  Reading ABOUT them here doesn't make these conversations seem all that fun at all.  But actually watching the film itself tells a different story.

Tarantino hasn't just written screen plays for his movies.  He's helped out on a number of others.  Right off the bat I can name From Dusk Till Dawn, True Romance and Natural Born Killers as screenplays that Tarantino has worked on.  They don't all have quite the same essence when Tarantino isn't behind the camera, but they still have his mark on them.  Tarantino is a good screenwriter.  His screen writing abilities have garnered him lots of awards and praise... including an Oscar for his screenplay of Pulp Fiction.  

On the other hand, his films are usually noted as being pretty violent as well.  When watching movies like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, anyone can jump to that conclusion, but other films such as Death Proof, Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Inglourious Basterds are actually quite tame in the violence department.  While there is plenty of blood and brutal violence in Inglourious Basterds it's few and far between.  Tarantino makes sure that his violence isn't misplaced.  It's not just Tarantino popping heads.  In most cases it adds to the story or leads characters into another dilemna.  The best example of this is quite possibly when Marvin gets shot in the face in Pulp Fiction.  This scene is often iconic because it showcases dark humor but also because it gives a huge conflict to that portion of the story.  In most cases it isn't mindless. 

Speaking of dark humor, that may be one of Tarantino's strong suits.  There's a strange sense of humor to many of his films.  In Kill Bill Vol. 1 there's a scene where the bride chops off someone's arm (I know, I know, just saying "a scene" is very vague because she chops off lots of arms... among other things), yet the way its presented is a bit more humorous.  Tarantino has a strange ability with films like Kill Bill to absorb us in what's going on, while reminding us that things are surreal.  He is influenced by several things. 

There's no one genre that Tarantino mostly sticks to.  In recent years he seems to be very influenced by Spaghetti Westerns.  Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Inglourious Basterds especially, play on more Spaghetti Western themes.  Yet he also seems to enjoy his mobsters when you look at Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.  On the other hand, he has also digged into Blaxpotation films (Jackie Brown).  He's versatile, but each time you see a film you can tell that it is his.  The closet thing that Tarantino has to being different from himself may actually be Kill Bill Vol. 1, and even that is distinctly Tarantino. 

And what about style?  Most directors have trademarks.  Quentin Tarantino has a few of his own.  In many of his films you'll see a shot from a trunk.  He's also got a foot fetish.  In every single one of his films you see a hot of someone's feet.  Whether it's the bosses wife walking around the home (Pulp Fiction) someone trying to wiggle their big toe (Kill Bill) or simply someone placing their foot on someone else's leg (Inglourious Basterds).  Yet what probably sticks about Quentin Tarantino the most is how his films are spliced together.  Most times they never start at the beginning itself.  Tarantino is one of the few directors who has really mastered non-linear storytelling.  In fact, a lot of his movies can feel like books.  They're usually edited together really well.  Not all his films are non-linear but some of his most notable works (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction) are very non-linear.  They start in the middle of things before starting at the beginning.  Pulp Fiction in particular was notable for confusing some people for a moment when John Travolta's Vincent Vega dies midway through the movie.  What audiences had to take time to figure out was that the story in which he dies is actually the last story.  This is despite that it comes in the middle of the film.  There are only a couple of other directors who can seem to do this sort of non-linear or flashback timeline (Christopher Nolan comes to mind).  On the other hand, it might take some time to really grasp.  Once you understand his style, you can sit back and enjoy the film.

Because of his approach to directing, Tarantino's films are also pretty unpredictable.  This is because Tarantino really knows how to play on suspense.  The infamous "ear scene" in Reservoir Dogs is a good example of this, but so is the entire film of Kill Bill Vol. 2 (the climax is especially enticing).  Sometimes he's just downright surprising and unpredictable no matter what (Pulp Fiction) but in other films he has a great way of really drawing out the suspense (Inglourious Basterds).  In most cases when you see a Quentin Tarantino film you might be surprised at what you see.  Even when we know how things will turn out, Tarantino makes sure that the ride is worthwhile.

All this adds into one basic thing: That Quentin Tarantino is definitely not for everyone.  His style is unqiue, but more than that the biggest problem most people seem to have with his films is that they might be a little too talky for some people.  One of the most common complaints I hear about Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill Vol. 2 is that they're "too talky" and "not violent enough."  Well, of course they're not that violent.  Tarantino may have violence in some of his films, but he hardly ever likes to throw the story under the bus.  Much of the time it's done to give us good character development.  Other times it's done to move the story forward.  This is one thing that grates on some movie goer's nerves.  Does Tarantino get to the point?  Yes, but you have to realize he's going to take his sweet little time in doing so.  Because of this his films are also pretty lengthy.  And for those not interested in dialog they may feel longer.  While Pulp Fiction seems to get universal acclaim for its dialog even by non Tarantino fans, his other films often suffer.  Kill Bill Vol. 2 is a great example of a film where there's a lot more dialog and conversation than any sort of action.  In the end, Quentin Tarantino is still a story teller.

There's also something that can be said about Tarantino's casting duties.  He has been known to cast people into some good roles and make memorable characters out of them as a result.  In Pulp Fiction, John Travolta pretty much got a revival to his career.  Samual L. Jackson had one of his most powerful roles in Pulp Fiction.  Uma Thurman just might be "the Bride" for the rest of her life.  We can often look at the cast of a Tarantino movie and say these actors ARE the characters rather than just playing them.  Take Bill, for example.  Could anyone do what David Carradine did for that role?  How about Christopher Waltz as Hans Landa in the recent Inglourious Basterds?  There are times when we try to think who might be better suited for a specific role, but in a Tarantino film it can be hard.  Because Tarantino works well enough with his actors that they do a remarkably good job.  It is ironic, then, that Tarantino isn't very memorable for his acting abilities.  He's a fantastic writer and director, but he is hardly memorable for his acting ability.

Quentin Tarantino has run into quite a bit of controversy with some of his films.  Most notably people have blasted his films for being incredibly violent.  Some say he glamorizes violence while others say he puts style over substance.  Neither really stand too tall.  While his films are violent, it's hardly there just for the sake of being there.  And it's unusual that when he does put a lot of substance into his movies, such as a good story, well developed characters etc., like what you see in Inglourious Basterds or Kill Bill Vol. 2, people seem to rip his movies apart for doing that, complaining that they're not violent enough.  You can never please a critic who just doesn't like a particular director.  As I said, Tarantino is hardly for everyone.  He has a lot of style, but it's not as if there's no substance that comes with it in most films.  More than that, with how many movies are often too quickly adapted from a book or (the new favorite) graphic novles, it's nice that at least Tarantino is coming up with different screenplays.  Love him or hate him, he still has a way about him that bodes well.  His films may not be for everyone, but at least there's structure and some of his films are even thematically ambitious.

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September 04, 2009
Sorry I'm a bit late, it has been busy on my end. Excellent write up and superb analysis of the filmmaker. One thing you may have neglected to mention is the fact that he also has an obsession with Asian cinema. He always seems to bill some movies "Quentin Tarantino presents "Hero" or "Iron Monkey" or even "The Protector"; this fact actually bothers me a bit, since he has nothing to do with the Asian film's production. I also read that he changed the soundtrack of some these films--but I forgive him for this. He is knowleageable with film, his Kill Bill series is a melting pot of all things about Asian cinema. Tarantino is a great storyteller and has a knack for making the 'nothing' scene feel 'something'. It can be argued that he takes a little of this and a little of that, but he is still one of the best filmmakers in Hollywood.
September 05, 2009
Oh, I forgot to mention, QT appears in the Japanese western "Sukiyaki Western Django" Unfortunately the U.S. release is watered down.
September 05, 2009
Yeah, I've seen it.  I was rather impressed with it.  But unfortunately I saw the U.S. release.  
More Quentin Tarantino reviews
Quick Tip by . December 06, 2011
Overrated in my book, but somehow Tarantino manages to convince the masses that he and everything he creates is something special.
Quick Tip by . August 31, 2009
Truly unique filmmaker responsible for some classic movies!
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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An American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and actor. In the early 1990s he was an independent filmmaker whose films used nonlinear storylines and aestheticization of violence. His films include My Best Friend's Birthday (1987), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill (Vol. 1, 2003; Vol. 2, 2004), Death Proof (2007) and Inglourious Basterds (2009). His films have earned him Academy, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Palme d'Or Awards and he has been nominated for Emmy and Grammy Awards. In 2007, Total Film named him the 12th greatest director of all-time.
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