Film Club #5 – Tarantino

pulp fiction

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Did you know that Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 were both released in October, 19 and 10 years ago respectively? Feel old?

It’s for this contrivance reason, and certainly not just because we really wanted to write about his films, that we turn our attentions to the influential postmodern director this time around.

Myself, Raks Patel, Jack Sadler, Carl Eden and Film Club debutante James Gallagher have each picked a film that we really treasure from QT’s back-catalogue. There aren’t many to choose from, but boy, it was a tough decision…

[NOTE: Contains some spoilers]

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Carl Eden – Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s most important movie; landing as something of a cultural cinematic event back in 1994, Pulp was bigger and bolder than Tarantino’s Dogs debut and cemented both the director’s style and his career within public and critical consciousness.

It’s a post-modern masterpiece, a self-aware throwback to Black Mask style fiction of the 30s, a movie born of movies and existing in a world of pop-culture references.

Pulp Fiction is a smart and complex film, one which deconstructs cinema and plays with narrative convention, pushing the boundaries of structure in ways which seem standard now, but were almost unheard of in mainstream cinema at the time.

But it’s also a beautiful movie in execution, with an impeccable cast, iconic scenes, razor-sharp and memorable dialogue, and a stunning surf soundtrack backing glorious, Technicolor-inspired visuals.

The movie perhaps best summarizes 90s indie cinema, and was so culturally and critical successful that it essentially gave Tarantino the greenlight to make anything he wanted.

Jack Sadler – Death Proof

Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are classics. Kill Bill made me sit up and pay attention to the impact of films, as well as turning me into a fully-fledged cinephile. Inglourious Basterds is a 21st century masterpiece. Then there’s Death Proof.

I love every film Tarantino has made. Yes, even Death Proof. Originally featured alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror as part of the exploitation nostalgia-fest that is Grindhouse, it was released on its own in most of the world when the double bill flopped in the US.

And I think it stands out well enough as a solo film. Death Proof is much-maligned – it is not perfect… far from it, in fact – especially for its talky scenes (which are occasionally inconsequential), but this is vintage Tarantino. It’s a cinematic love letter, one with thrilling car chases, kick-ass women and a typically brilliant soundtrack. It’s fun, entertaining and wonderfully trashy.

James Gallagher – Jackie Brown

I think Mark Kermode put it best when he wrote that “everyone in a Tarantino film speaks like Quentin bloody Tarantino.” While I appreciate Tarantino’s desire to overindulge in the sensibilities of his favourite genres, his biggest problem has always been his inability to rein in his own personality. I think this is why I’ve always considered Jackie Brown to be his best film.

It’s an adaptation, ergo the characters and story are already partially written, so Tarantino slows everything down and decides to indulge in a subtle and curiously affecting character-study. The performances are edgy but subdued and Tarantino introduces a slow, burning intensity and sense of realism to the film that is lacking from all of his other efforts.

The result is a raw, gritty and darkly-amusing piece of cinema that is criminally under-appreciated. Perhaps controversially, I also think it has a much better soundtrack than Pulp Fiction

Michael Prescott – Inglorious Basterds

Kind of amazingly, I’ve been left with the choice of Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Vol.1/2 and Inglorious Basterds, which are my favourites of Quentin’s films. I should immediately confess that I believe his extraordinary (and game-changing) debut Reservoir Dogs to probably be my favourite, and almost certainly to be his best, but it’s Inglorious Basterds which I applaud here.

Inglorious Basterds is, despite the opinions of many, by far the superior of the two when compared with Django Unchained. It introduces Christoph Waltz in a stunning first performance (a career-definer) who simply goes on to replicate this role – with much less effect and impact – in the latter film.

Inglorious Basterds has wonderful set-pieces (the first scene, Fassbender’s cameo, etc.), playfully re-writes history as only Tarantino could, re-ignites his brilliant sense of dialogue and characters, and – despite its 150-minute ish running time – absolutely flies by. It’s an underappreciated and unrecognised modern classic.

Rakshita Patel – Django Unchained

Django Unchained is my favourite Tarantino film because it showcases the many strengths of Tarantino’s filmmaking. It has a very powerful story – unusually for Tarantino told as a linear narrative – of Django’s search for Broomhilda (the wife from whom he was parted) and his quest for freedom.

There are stellar performances from all the leads, including Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio. This is a Spaghetti Western (normally a lighter genre) that shines a light on slavery and racism in the pre-Civil War Deep South, depicting the violence, the brutality and the cruelty involved in slavery.

The Ku Klux Klan scene is one of the funniest I have seen in a Tarantino picture, showing the KKK to be completely ludicrous. Finally, the ending, where Django obtains vengeance by blowing up the plantation mansion and riding off into the sunset, is satisfying because you feel justice has been done.

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