Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Review: Quentin Tarantino: Interviews (Edited by Gerald Peary)

The University Press of Mississippi has provided an invaluable service over the years by publishing reprints of interviews from the most influential film directors.  These books serve as excellent primary sources on the creative process of these directors. The volume on Quentin Tarantino is a highlight of the series.

The best interviews are the early ones with Tarantino shaking up world cinema with Reservoir Dogs and the even more ambitious Pulp Fiction.  They defined 90s cool and pop culture, in the same way the French New Wave films of Godard and Truffaut revolutionized movies in the 1960s.  Tarantino was one of many movie geeks working at video stores during the mid 1980s, in his case the now legendary (and closed) Video Archives in Los Angeles.

Reading the interviews on Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are like a film school in themselves.  What separated Tarantino from other directors of his generation was his interest in every type of film and his ability to create a unique genre out of them, while taking in large amounts of film criticism, mostly from his favorite critic Pauline Kael who wrote for the New Yorker.

After the one-two punch of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino become a pop culture phenomenon: frequenting the chat show circuit, cameo appearances, hosting Saturday Night Live, and attempted to launch his own acting career.  His 1997 film Jackie Brown, an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, seemed an answer to his critics: a conventional, well plotted narrative with nuanced performances.

In the years since Tarantino's continued to explore genre: martial arts in the Kill Bill films, the war movie in Inglorious Basterds, and the Western/Blaxploitation in Django Unchained. In late 2015 he released the vicious Western The Hateful Eight.

A few general conclusions can be made about Tarantino from the book: his encyclopedic movie knowledge is unparalleled and that he's always been career conscious.  When he turns 60, Tarantino plans to retire and devote his life to writing criticism and fiction. After completing Pulp Fiction he stated his intention to make Westerns, war movies, and American History- all of which he's done.  

For a primer of the Tarantino aesthetic, look no further than this valuable book. 

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