It’s a super happy fiftieth birthday to one of America’s finest filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino. From the young and sparkling first timer of Reservoir Dogs to the Oscar winning auteur of today, the name Tarantino still spells quality, he hasn’t hit us with a rubbish kids movie (although Scorsese showed us how magical they could be with Hugo, I guess I was more looking at enfant terrible Danny Boyle and how his vision seems to have been watered down to the point where there seems to be little left) or a family comedy. It’s refreshing to have one filmmaker deep inside the system who can still electrify.
I remember the incredible impact of Reservoir Dogs, it felt like both a movie you had seen a million times before (the robbery, which of course you don’t actually view, the boss, the psycho, the veteran etc etc) and also completely fresh. This was probably due to the sparkling script and the theatrical setting – remember that much of the film takes place in a single environment, with a very limited number of characters. Naturally today you can just go and grab it from any store but when it came out, it was notorious. We were still being controlled under the umbrella of James Ferman and his BBFC daleks ready to exterminate anything that pushed things even an inch too far. There was no video but me and my dad used to go and see it whenever universities or cinemas did one night viewings. These were usually full of people seeing the movie for the Nth time just enjoying the brilliance of the film any chance they could get. My dad was more of a Seagal/Sly/Arnie kind of a guy normally but he was the first to point out whenever this was showing and we had some great times. I also remember film critic Mark Kermode doing a piece about it on Radio 1 and he sent me a copy of Mario Bava’s Lisa And The Devil after I sent him a letter about the BBFC and their censorship (oh wait it’s classification, riiiight) issues. I sent a long letter to the BBFC defending the film to the hilt and comparing it to other films now thought of as classics. With this and Bad Lieutenant, cult cinema was seemingly under the bright light of the interrogator and the fans needed to stand up for THE ART. Luckily, they did and both movies are now available to watch in the home and I am pretty sure no one has cut ears off or wandered naked high on crack thanks to Michael Madsen or Harvey Keitel.
Pulp Fiction followed and this time we were straight into the cinema as soon as the film opened, I lost count of how many times I saw this with my dad, we just both loved it and I remember plenty of magical nights with pizzas and then cola and popcorn in front of one of the most complex and connected films for years. Excellent times.
I don’t have my father anymore but he is totally there every time I watch Inglourious Basterds, man he would have loved this and for me it is the third best of Tarantino’s collection. It plays rather like a John Wayne movie, the big hero (or in this case Basterds) riding into town and saving the day from the evil Nazis. Naturally it’s not all black and white with Quentin and there are twists galore in this adventure, which is matched with excellent performances (hats off to Eli Roth, make this man a leading man NOW) and explosions, both figurative and literal. Excellent.
Those three films I can watch over and over and regularly do, just brilliant intelligent film making. That is what Tarantino brought back to the big screen above all and we should all be thanking him for it. As it is, we can raise a glass (I have Dandelion And Burdock – rock n roll!) and wish a happy half a century to Mr Quentin Tarantino. Thanks for the movies.