The Crimes of Quentin Tarantino
This past week saw the announcement by one of Hollywood's favourite children on their latest project. Quentin Tarantino is one of the few directors working in Los Angeles who manages to walk the line between critical acclaim and commercial viability. The internet seemed to light up as Q.T news broke that having turned his hand to pulp crime, carploitation, martial arts and war genres he is to turn his distinct attention to the western and with specific focus on the sub-genre of the Spaghetti Western.
I'm sure there are a lot of critics and fans out there who are overjoyed with the announcement of Hollywood's most "original" voice is warming up again...but just how original is Quentin Tarantino? Ever since he broke on to the scene with his "classic" Reservoir Dogs there's been problems with Q.T and in specficially the origin of his genius. Is there something he's not telling us? It's amazing that one man can be so masterful of so many different genres while at the same time have very different styles in each of them. Even auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock and Sam Fuller had a cinematic signature. Quentin seems to be something of a cameleon, but how exactly has he achieved this status and who should be receiving the credit?
To listen to QT would be to believe that the film was born out of his own imagination, life experiences and characters he knows from the mean streets of Compton, CA. Quickly he follows up one sleeper hit with another, larger, even more successful and acclaimed Pulp Fiction. Grander in scope but 100% Tarantino, his voice, vision, cinematography and soundtrack is screaming out...an American director with a fresh and original signature. The auteur that Cahier du Cinema would have been waiting for.
There's only a handful of little problems, it's all been done before. Years of working in a video store have clearly served Quentin well, he has viewed and injested a lot of cinema but the arrogance of the man to think he's the only one who has watch the films he has blatantly ripped off is insulting. I too have watched Ringo Lam's City on Fire, and I know at least one other person has as it was screened on Film Four at 3:30AM so at the very least the TV programmer knows of...and then there's Mr. Lam himself (of course). For those who haven't been fortunate enough to have seen this 1987 crime thriller it tells the tale of an undercover cop who gets in on a heist which goes very wrong. Now I know, there are so many films out there that have that storyline...watch it, then tell me it's not Asian Reservoir Dogs...and the use of colours for names where did that come from QT? Was it your idea?? Cos I can vaguely remember a little heist film from 1974 that did the same thing or perhaps your video store didn't stock The Taking of Pelham 123, you could of course watch the remake but that element was removed as obviously (thanks to you) people would think they were stealing the idea from the great Quentin Tarantino. He can't even open the film without a quick theft...
Reservoir Dogs - 1992
Ocean's 11 - 1960
Pulp Fiction, that's a different store all together right? Wrong! Quentin's intelligent enough to know that most American cinema goers won't have seen Jean-Luc Godard's Bande a part but he's too arrogant to think that maybe people elsewhere would have and generally interviews are too polite to call him on his theft. The best film he's actually directed is Jackie Brown and that's only because the source material is so undeniably cool and beautifully crafted that it would take a complete creton to destroy it. The material in question is Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch but Tarantino being Tarantino had to put his own stamp on it, drastically rewriting large portions and ultimately disfiguring an adaptation that most Leonard fans were jumping up and down in anticipation for. Years pass, blissful years than don't involve the motormouth one popping up and chattering us all into believing that he is the one man creative genius that even Orson Welles would bow down to.
For the sake of time, Kill Bill will be dealt with as one film rather than the two volumes that QT and the Weinsteins opted as a more financially viable option. Tarantino's rowing rampage of revenge has all the trappings of Quentin, a catchy strap line, a cool soundtrack and beautifully crafted cinematography...but is it all his? 'Fraid not. Returning to the well of general ignorance Tarantino reaches into the film archive he's generated from years of watching foreign titles and robs a pretty sizable grave to showcase his latest "original masterpiece". The film in question is Lady Snowblood and the similarities are...below.
Oh look it's the bride fighting O-Ren Ishii in a snowy courtyard!
No..no wait that was a scene from Lady Snowblood...this is the bride fighting O-Ren Ishii in a snowy courtyard.
Tarantino's mastershot of the snowy courtyard.
Oh no...wrong again...this is getting awkward!
Even his signature low angle POV shot, you know the one where the gang stand over the bride watching her "die" at least that's all QT right? If anything, this could be considered part of the "Tarantino Signature" that Cahier du Cinema look for. After all he's used it in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction hie segment of Four Rooms (which is a blatant rip off from the Man in White episode of Hitchcock's TV show BTW)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 - 2003
Lady Snowblood - 1973
One of these screenshots belong to Kill Bill.
The other doesn't. Which is which?
Volume 2 is no better, the genre has changed from Samurai film to Western but those quick off the draw will realise that that's not a change at all thematically only culturally. Now in his new genre it would be ill-fitting to continue to steal from directors like Toshiya Fujita but his western counterparts John Ford and Sergio Leone...they're up for grabs and the grave robbing continues.
This is a little embarassing now...as it's beginning to look like all of Tarantino's work is like a visual mixtape right? It's almost as if he's making a visual version of a soundtrack only he's not claiming to have written and sung any Nancy Sinatra songs. This continues through the film, for over 2 and a half flabby, self indulgent hours. As for Death Proof, as a fan of the Grindhouse era I really wanted to like it but to be honest after the amazingly original and entertaining Planet Terror it was difficult to sit through something so dull and stolen as Death Proof. After the tenth reference to Vanishing Point the decision was made to stop watching the pathetic excuse for a film and watch Vanishing Point ...a decision that was quickly proved right.
Finally (for now) we come to Inglorious Basterds, well now he's just lazy. So confident that he'll be able to simply pass off anything he wants as his own original work and we'll buy it QT hasn't even bothered to pick an original title! Though in fairness the original didn't make it to the International market so perhaps he thought that most people wouldn't think to google the title. Having been consistently lied to by Tarantino in relation to his origins of his genius I have yet to watch one minute of Inglorious Basterds. However if I do and by chance it is, with the exception of the title, an original film and not a mish-mash of older titles you're not expected to have seen cos you didn't work in a video store or you're not as cool as Quentin then I'll have to retract this entire blog...but I doubt it.
In preparation for Tarantino's gunslinging epic that will be loved by critics and fans alike I have prepared a list of Spaghetti Westerns that will most likely be raided in order to create the Tarantino "frankenstein's monster" that is his film style. His legal, even approved, grave robbing will probably borrow heavily from...
- The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
- A Fistful of Dollars
- For a Few Dollars More
- A Fistful of Dynamite
- Go Kill and Come Back
- Any Gun Can Play
- The Hills Run Red
- Death Rides a Horse
- The Ruthless Four
- I'll Forgive You Before I Kill You!
Watching any combination of these titles will most likely provide you with a good 85% of what Tarantino will have to offer once his "masterpiece" is made. I know this blog is far from original, there are dozens of other blogs out their pointing out the same case against Tarantino but there's only so much hysteria that can be humoured before you have to vent frustration at an unjust career and the arrogance that comes with it and this is far less expensive than therapy.