Christopher Tookey compares Tarantino's films with Evelyn Waugh's novelsby Christopher Tookey / July 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Published in July 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the past 12 months, I must have browsed through dozens of articles “celebrating” 100 years of cinema. Most read like funeral orations. They express either nostalgia for a vanished era of Hollywood elegance, or lament the demise of a promising art form.
One name is used, again and again, to signify everything that has gone wrong with modern movies: Quentin Tarantino. He has replaced Arnold Schwarzenegger as the iconic figure of the “new brutalism.” His films are slammed for plundering the ideas of others, for hiding within genre rather than confronting real life. Tarantino’s affection for sleaze is denounced as “trash chic” or, in France, as “Le cin?ma du Big Mac.”
But the anti-Tarantino backlash is falling on deaf ears. Readers of Empire, Britain’s most popular film magazine, have just voted Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction the greatest movie of the last 100 years. A Robert Rodriguez-directed, Tarantino-written “gorefest” From Dusk Till Dawn was slammed by most critics one week, number one at the British box office the next.
Tarantino is often dismissed as someone who worked for too long in a video store, but one legacy of that period is that he’s immensely cine-literate and not bound by film school assumptions.
Those who know only of his taste for the violent Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo may be surprised that Tarantino’s production company is called A Band Apart (in tribute to Jean-Luc Godard’s film Bande ? Part) and that Tarantino is an enthusiast for the actionless, super-humane films of Eric Rohmer.
One important aspect of his work is that he trained as an actor; and, whether or not you think he has anything to say, he has undeniably reintroduced long speeches to American movies. Tarantino has brought to mainstream cinema other elements of David Mamet-style theatre-Reservoir Dogs takes place in real time, mostly on a single set, with mounting tension and characters who aren’t able to leave.