Do you like samurai films? Kurosawa is the master of the genre. His films also introduced the world to the beauty of Japanese cinema.
...because Quentin Tarantino is the poster child of the auteur in contemporary cinema. His films involve traditional, straightforward plots that are complicated by jumps in chronology and more cinematic references than can be counted by the average viewer. The juxtaposition of extreme violence with moments of comedy and conversational dialogue about mundane and twisted subjects are trademarks of his unique writing style. When writing the screenplays for his films, Tarantino prefers to isolate himself for long periods of time – he famously wrote "Pulp Fiction" while holed up in an Amsterdam hotel room.
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What Andy Warhol was to painting, Quentin Tarantino is to contemporary cinema. Tarantino is unique in that he is an artist whose films connect with popular audiences. Tarantino has actually criticized traditional arthouse cinema as being stuffy, boring films that cater to a kind of “Masterpiece Theater” crowd (or what others might call Oscar-bait). So while he certainly doesn’t try to create art films, he still makes films that qualify as art (and end up winning Oscars). Part of this comes from his understanding of popular film genres and their clichés, which allows him to play with and often subvert familiar tropes. His willingness to experiment with narrative structure, genre conventions and film styles has also offered a window for viewers unfamiliar with avant garde cinema. Moreover, such early directorial quirks such as the self-contained cinematic “universe” of his films – a technique borrowed from the once niche culture of comic books and pulp authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft – have now become more or less mainstream via the comic book and franchise films that dominate the marketplace. Perhaps it’s just luck that his own interests in extreme cinematic violence and oddball humor have caught on with audiences. Or perhaps it is possible to make films that don’t simply pander to a lowbrow audience, but instead challenge them to raise their own standards...as well as critics who believe certain types of films never contain interesting ideas or emotion.
The signature “Tarantino style” begins with his unique approach to writing and story. A lifelong fan of genre films and westerns, Tarantino takes the simple premises found in these films, such as robbery, revenge or delivering a gangster’s briefcase, and then twists them into complex plot structures. To achieve this effect, his scripts often employ cross-temporal narratives that cut back and forth in time and alternating character perspectives to create “chapters” in each film. Tarantino often states that his process is closer to writing a novel than outlining a standard three-act screenplay. His screenplays display this literary quality that has earned him his reputation as one of cinema’s most decorated writers. "Pulp Fiction," which won him the first of two Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, is perhaps the purest example of his nonlinear, novelistic style. The film’s innovative format opens with a “prologue” scene that eventually merges with the final act of one of the film’s main stories. The narrative still has a beginning, middle and an end, but the sequence of events is matched up to the character’s emotional arcs instead of a simple timeline.
Few filmmakers are as open about their cine-philia as Quentin Tarantino...or as willing to consistently pay respect to other films through their own work. Like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and his own personal hero Jean Luc-Godard, Tarantino has a great appreciation for the history of cinema. He famously stated that he didn’t go to film school, he went to films. His own works reflect his mental vault of cinematic interests ranging from the bona fide classics to the obscure and forgotten B-movies. Tarantino so often self-consciously works in the shadow of past films and filmmakers that some say he borrows too closely from other works, though a more generous term for his appropriation of other films might be sampling (and Tarantino would be the first to acknowledge his sources). Tarantino also doesn’t confine his inspiration to the movie theater. He credits the novels he reads with providing the unique structure for films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction." As a teenager, he was caught shoplifting an Elmore Leonard novel, only to go on years later to adapt Leonard’s book "Rum Punch" into "Jackie Brown." Even stories people simply tell him in conversation can wind up in one of his screenplays, or get transformed into the trademark conversational dialogue of his characters. It’s a cliché to say good artists copy and great artists steal, but Tarantino’s career supports the idea that to make good stories, you need to consume good stories.
Tarantino has been known to work with a number of frequent collaborators both on and off camera. Actress and stunt woman Zoë Bell has appeared in a number of his films, as have actors Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Harvey Keitel. He has also worked frequently with producer Lawrence Bender and Bob and Harvey Weinstein. He also had a long time collaboration with editor Sally Menke, who was nominated twice for Best Editing on Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" and "Inglorious Basterds." Tarantino once described her as "hands-down my number one collaborator", and said that "I write by myself but when it comes to the editing, I write with Sally. It's the true epitome, I guess, of a collaboration because I don't remember what was her idea, what was my idea. We're just right there together."
Tarantino has been both praised and criticized for his use of abundant, graphic violence in his films. Many critics have found it to be sadistic and gratuitous, while others have found it to be emotive and realistic to the story being told. Regardless, stylized violence has become an integral part of a Tarantino film.
Known as much for his highly kinetic action scenes as he is for his slower paced, tension building standoffs and world building interactions among characters, Tarantino has borrowed and mastered techniques from multiple genres including westerns and noir. His style is notable for using long takes, frequent close ups and frenetic camera work in addition to his non-linear story telling and the presentation of his films through chapters that focus on different characters.
Tarantino owns the New Beverly Theater in Los Angeles. Upon purchasing the theater, Quentin made the unique decision to have the New Beverly solely project film prints. "I want the New beverly to be a bastion for 35mm films." Often times he'll show his personal prints of his films. If you're in town, put it on your list of 'must visits'.
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Quentin Tarantino: The Cinema of CoolBuy now $14
Quentin Tarantino: The Man and His MoviesBuy now $15
Quentin Tarantino: Interviews, Revised and Updated (Conversations with Filmmakers Series)Buy now $22
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Cannes 2014: Quentin Tarantino declares ‘cinema is dead’ ahead of Pulp Fiction screeningRead more
Sally Menke: the quiet heroine of the Quentin Tarantino success storyRead more
Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent FilmBuy now $17
Stylistic Innovations in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction:” Toward an Aesthetics of ViolenceBuy now $22
Script / Screenplay
Pulp Fiction: A Quentin Tarantino ScreenplayBuy now $1