On the shelf
speculation in the cinema
By Quentin Tarantino
Harper: 400 pages, $35
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Quentin Tarantino brews coffee, and it’s, as Samuel L. Jackson’s “Pulp Fiction” hitman would rave, “a serious gourmet s—” served in a mug bearing the logo of his eponymous podcast, Video Archives. the famous Manhattan Beach video store where Tarantino worked in his early 20s before becoming a filmmaker.
We set up shop in the library of Tarantino’s Hollywood Hills home, although pretty much any room in this spacious, multi-story mansion could technically qualify as a library. Movie books and magazines are piled in almost every nook and cranny on every surface, rows of record albums weave across the carpet and tile floors, metal carts overflowing with VHS tapes just off the kitchen, revolving shelves of comics loudly screaming for attention . And we haven’t even ventured into the guest house, where Tarantino keeps a massive collection of magazine and newspaper clippings. It’s not “Hoarders” — there’s too much floor space — but it’s safe to say the man will never be short of entertainment.
It’s Halloween, and Tarantino’s wife, Daniella, and their two children are at home in Tel Aviv, where the family divides their time throughout the year. Left to his own devices, Tarantino has gone through his horror film collection and made a small batch to check out later tonight. These are movies he hasn’t seen since they came out, like the 1977 supernatural thriller The Sentinel, and others he’s never seen at all (“perhaps for good reason,” he says, laughing), like ” Man’s Best Friend,” in which Ally Sheedy unknowingly adopts a genetically modified dog.
Neither of these films are mentioned in Tarantino’s new book Cinema Speculation, although the volume, the 59-year-old filmmaker’s first non-fiction work, is full of references and musings to other genre films (Tobe Hooper’s slasher flick The Funhouse, the vigilante thriller “Rolling Thunder”) as well as reflections on universally recognized classics like “Bullitt” and “Dirty Harry”. There’s a chapter that reflects on what Taxi Driver would have looked like if Brian De Palma had directed it instead of Martin Scorsese. (De Palma was the first to read Paul Schrader’s screenplay.) There’s even credit for longtime Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas, whose enthusiastic reviews of exploitation films captivated Tarantino as a young reader.
“He seemed to be one of the few practitioners who really enjoyed his job and, consequently, his life,” Tarantino writes, adding that Thomas’ appreciative review by Robert Forster in the 1980 copy of Jaws, Alligator, told him about the remembered for years – which led him to cast the veteran actor in Jackie Brown.
Tarantino saw all of the films he writes about in Cinema Speculation as a child, often at an age that some might find totally inappropriate. He boasts that he saw a double film of The Wild Bunch and Deliverance when he was 11. Movies were (and still are) everything for Tarantino, and the book is often as much about his experiences of seeing them – at a grindhouse like the Carson Twin Cinema, or perhaps Westchester’s second largest Paradise Theater – as the films themselves .
Asked if there are any films he might want to do Not As a child, Tarantino recalls asking everyone to leave the theater during “Bambi” after the mother was shot and the forest fire broke out.
“I think ‘Bambi’ is known to traumatize kids,” says Tarantino. “It’s a cliche, but it’s true. The only other movie I couldn’t handle and had to leave was at a drive-in theater in Tennessee. I was there alone, sitting on the gravel next to a speaker, watching Wes Craven’s “Last House on the Left.” So ‘Last House on the Left’ and ‘Bambi’ are right next to each other on my f— shelf.” He laughs. “Both take place in the forest. and they both made me say, ‘I have to get out of here!’”
Tarantino has thought about writing Cinema Speculation for years. The book evolved, he says, from a mere tribute to his favorites to a survey of films that inspired a “talkable point of view.”
“It made me respect the film criticism professionals even more, because I just realized I couldn’t do what they do,” says Tarantino. “If my job was to watch the new movies every week and then write what I think, I couldn’t imagine myself having anything to say all, apart from a synopsis of the plot and a “good”, “bad”, “indifferent” verdict. With the book, I wanted to find something quirky that was interesting and worth talking about.”
And so the chapter on “Taxi Driver” emphasizes the foundations that Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” laid for it. (Tarantino also recalls seeing the film in front of a raucous audience at the Carson Twin, hardly the kind of movie buffs who worship him today.) Filmmakers De Palma, Don Siegel, and Schrader become sort of characters who make their way through move the book and Tarantino’s young life. In fact, there was so much Schrader at one point that Tarantino decided to remove a chapter devoted to his 1974 Japanese gangster homage The Yakuza.
“If I had kept that, I would have needed Paul to write a foreword to the book,” Tarantino says, laughing.
When asked why he ended up on Schrader, which is known for films about tortured men and their righteous anger, Tarantino paused for a moment.
“I don’t want to be the one who sums up his subject in one sentence, but inarticulate, lonely men with nothing but a job that exists within four walls,” says Tarantino. “And sometimes these four walls are her home, sometimes a city, sometimes the damn planet Earth. Sometimes it’s just other people and how they bump against the four walls until they’re mostly covered in blood.”
The films in Cinema Speculation have a fair amount of gory moments, as you’d expect from the filmmaker who created Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Kill Bill… Me could go through the filmography further, but you get the point. But there are also – and this applies equally to his oeuvre – plenty of laughs. Tarantino calls them “snarky little sidenotes out of the corner of his mouth,” and they usually come in parentheses as if he’s thinking about them, in the way the anti-establishment writers of the ’60s rejoiced when studio music adaptations fell out of favor today, and filmmakers “can make the day.” can’t wait for them to say that about superhero movies.”
“The analogy works because it’s a similar stranglehold,” says Tarantino.
But when can we expect a turnaround? “The writing isn’t quite on the wall yet,” he says, “like it was in 1969, when it was like, ‘Oh my God, we just poured a bunch of money into things that no one cares about anymore.'”
And yet so many author films have been made about superheroes. I ask him why he’s never raised his hand for a Marvel or DC Comics flick, even though I know the answer. Sometimes it’s just fun to hear him say that.
“You have to be an employee to do these things,” says Tarantino. “I’m not an employee. I’m not looking for a job.”
Tarantino was 14 when Star Wars came out in 1977 and changed movies forever — pretty much the perfect age to blow your mind. But there is little mention of George Lucas’ space opera in the book, certainly nothing he writes about Jaws, which when it was released in 1975 “may not have been the best Movie was ever made. But it was just the best Movie was ever made.”
“Of course I liked ‘Star Wars.’ What’s not to like?” says Tarantino. “But I remember – and that’s not a ‘but’ in a negative sense, it’s a ‘but’ in a positive way. I was totally blown away by the movie and I just rocked and rolled with these characters… When the lights came on I felt like a million bucks. And I looked around and had this moment of recognition and I was like, ‘Wow! What a time at the movies!’
“Well, that’s not necessarily my favorite type of film,” he continues. “At the end of the day, I’m more of a ‘Close Encounters’ [of the Third Kind]’ Dude, just the bigger idea and Spielberg setting out to make an epic for regular people, not just cinephiles. Few films have had such a pinnacle as Close Encounters. It blew the audience away.”
They don’t need Quentin Tarantino to tell you that Star Wars is an entertaining romp or that Close Encounters is a masterpiece. (For the record, he now ranks both films behind Ridley Scott’s Alien.) More intriguingly, however, Cinema Speculation ensures that Rolling Thunder is a “deeper portrayal of war casualties than the contrite one.” Coming Home.’” Or the way the whole project is reminiscent of a pre-internet era, when you had to search far and wide to find someone who took genre films seriously.
“There was a guy at the [Los Angeles] Herald Examiner, David Chute, and he was an expert on Hong Kong films, Japanese genre films and stuff like that,” Tarantino recalls. “And there was a time when David Chute was the only person to write about genres in such a skilled way in a regular publication that went into everyone’s house. Now everyone is trying to be hip and cool writing like David Chute. There’s nothing wrong with that; actually everything is good about it. But there was a point where he was this lonely voice to himself. Little did we know this was going to become a voice the critical voice of the internet.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2022-11-03/why-quentin-tarantino-will-never-make-a-marvel-film-i-dont-need-a-job Quentin Tarantino talks Marvel and book ‘Cinema Speculation’