So I recently carried out a poll to find out what everyone’s favourite Quentin Tarantino film is. We have a whopping 52 votes, thanks to everyone who took part. There’s some interesting results … let’s talk about this!
Pulp Fiction (1994) 36.54% (19 votes)
Inglourious Basterds (2009) 23.08% (12 votes)
Jackie Brown (1997) 9.62% (5 votes)
Resevoir Dogs (1992) 9.62% (5 votes)
Django Unchained (2012) 5.77% (3 votes)
None, don’t like his movies 5.77% (3 votes)
Death Proof (2007) 3.85% (2 votes)
Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003) 3.85% (2 votes)
The Hateful Eight (2015) 1.9% (1 votes)
Kill Bill Vol.2 (2004) 0% (0 votes)
Four Rooms (The Man from Hollywood) (1995) 0% (0 votes)
Pulp Fiction proved to be the most popular QT movie, taking 19 votes. Now that’s a pretty predictable and understandable result. But why?
The first time I saw this movie, I was left gobsmacked but knowing I’d experienced something memorably hilarious, visually pleasing and brutally shocking. I knew the experience was a cinematic spectacle. It feels like a movie can’t be any more cinematic than Pulp Fiction if you know what I mean. It’s not just being a movie for the sake of being a movie, you can feel the passion in the creation of it, and that’s the case with all Tarantino’s work. There’s not a traditional narrative structure, he plays with chronology like it’s a brand new Christmas present. The characters don’t just say stuff for the sake of saying stuff, their dialogue is extensively meaningful without seeming so, and every word, anecdote, monologue and exchange drives the plot in some way. Usually with a film there’s maybe one, two or three truly prominent scenes, but I feel like there’s several with Pulp Fiction; the Jack Rabbit Slims dance scene with Uma Thurman and John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson’s “bible” recital, the events that unfold in the basement with the gimp and Zed, the hold-up in the diner and many more. So many references, homages and nods towards other filmmakers, other movies and QT’s own work are carefully sewn into the tapestry of the plot and there’s a lot of mystery and unanswered questions; what’s in the briefcase? What’s the significance of the plaster (or band-aid, for the Americans amongst us) on the back of Marsellus Wallace’s neck? Are these elements secretive motifs? Or are they simply just … there? So many questions.
One of the greatest things about Pulp Fiction is the countless genres and sub-genres that are interwoven throughout the movie. Black comedy, neo-noir, gangster, crime, drama, romance, tragedy. It’s impossible to allocate Pulp Fiction simply to one or two genres. But it’s this innovative style that makes the movie so refreshing. It’s a fun and unqiue experience for us to watch a movie and be completely unable to guess what’s going to happen next. I’m almost sure that no matter how many times a viewer watches Pulp Fiction, something new will be discovered, and what comes next in the non-linear narrative will be a surprise every time.
I wanted to discuss one of my favourite Tarantino movies. But it’s one that doesn’t seem to be overtly popular in the poll, or with movie fans in general. That is Death Proof.
Although Death Proof is one of my favourites, it received a pretty moderate reaction from the critics and I read that QT himself has noted it as his worst movie. There’s a lot of things that I love about Death Proof. Sure, it’s OTT. All the Tarantino techniques are used in this movie. And by used I mean squeezed the hell out of, capitalised on, exploited you could say. But it’s enjoyable as hell! It’s one fun ride of a movie.
So, what Tarantino signatures are present in the movie? There’s the long, drawn-out conversation scenes, with the camera subtly observing in 360 degrees. There’s the references to other movies and interlinked characters; the Twisted Nerve ringtone, the homage to car chase films like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) and Gone In 60 Seconds (1974), the father and son Sheriff duo (Michael Parks and James Parks). There’s the combination of genres, as Death Proof is essentially a slasher movie with Kurt Russell as the notorious killer who stalks his young, female victims with a view to kill using his most prized possession – the death proof stunt car. There’s also elements of crime, action, thriller, adventure and drama in the movie, to name but a few. The general QT signature throughout the movie is his passion for ‘true’ movie making. This he achieves through the exciting car chases, which are not just a CGI’d blur of action, they’re real stunts. The aesthetics of the movie also really pay tribute to the older ‘B’ movie making, with damaged reels causing a flickering, grainy picture.
All these Tarantino-esque techniques make the movie different from your average Hollywood blockbuster of today. But there’s got to be some reasons why Death Proof isn’t as popular as the movies released by QT on either side of it. The long, drawn-out conversations in the movie seem to have less relevance the plot than Pulp Fiction, for example. A lot of the exchanges in Death Proof contain anecdotes and content that is not always necessarily important to the plot, but I love that about it! I really enjoy strong dialogue because it gives you an insight into the characters, without simply acting as a propellor in the narrative. The movie begins with the first group of girls talking about their experiences with guys and how they’re going to get weed for the evening. We can see some parallels when the second group of girls are having a similar discussion in a car in the latter segment of the movie, and it’s really multi-dimensional, enticing conversation that makes you feel like you’re actually there in the scene talking with them. For some people, the dialogue in this movie is just boring and too extensive – “get to the action!”
I love how the movie feels like two different films. The colours in both acts are completely different. The first half looking like a grainy, dark and spine-chilling Slasher with blacks, grays and dull wash-overs. The second half looks like we’re getting down to business with a surreal, action/adventure indie movie, there’s bright yellows, reds, orange, green and pinks. Without sounding cheesy, and this could be a spoiler, it kind of symbolises the outcome for each group of girls.
Lastly, I’d have to touch on the soundtrack of the movie. It’s got to be one of the best movie soundtracks with some seriously awesome hits in there. The ‘Hold Tight’ car crash moment, the ‘Down In Mexico’ lapdance, I love ‘The Love You Save’ by Joe Tex. And there’s some fantastic Ennio Morricone in there too. Death Proof, to me, is a very fantastic movie because it’s just so fun. It’s a crazy ride that goes too far, but it’s absolutely brilliant movie making that pays true homage to the great car chase action scenes of its predecessors.
Finally, a touch down on another QT movie that wasn’t so popular in the poll. In my opinion, the best of the two Kill Bill installments is Vol. 2. Yes, that’s right. I recently re-watched the movie for potentially the hundredth time. Why’s it better than number 1 in my opinion? Because it gives us so much more of an in depth look into the characters. We meet Bill for the first time, and learn about his history with Beatrix. We also become well acquainted with Bill’s brother, Budd – another one on The Bride’s kill list. And, most enjoyably, we get to see the excrutiatingly extreme training with the legendary Pai Mei; the training that turned Beatrix into the unbeatable assassin she becomes.
I know the huge battle royale style fight scene with the Crazy 88 in Vol.1 is perfect (and incredibly popular), but for me the character dynamics and the narrative in Vol.2 is just way more juicy. There’s so much more to it. I love the desolate, sandy Western-style outback where Budd lives, and the detail to the trashy setting inside his trailer is just great. It makes me wonder why Budd let himself go, why he stopped being a straight-laced professional killer and became a run-down, lonely, alcoholic cowboy who works as security in a strip club. I think in general, Vol.2 has a Western feel to it, especially with the black and white, washed out scenes in the remote chapel, whereas I feel the martial arts action theme is more prominent in Vol.2.
There’s some really mesmerising Ennio Morricone scores in the movie, and that all familiar combination of genres makes Kill Bill Vol.2 a particularly enjoyable movie for me.
Hopefully this post had shed some light on why I really like these QT movies, and why his movies are so popular in general. Do you have a controversial favourite Tarantino film? How do you feel about the poll results? Please comment below!
**I’m going on my holidays tomorrow, so I apologise in advance for any delayed replies and a couple of weeks without any posts. I’ll just leave this here… :)**