When it comes down to it, there are few directors working today more divisive than Mr. Quentin Tarantino. Most people in the movie community respect him as the genius he is, but as far as the average viewership goes, you can walk into any suburban Walmart, ask everyone what they think of the man’s films and find it split directly down the middle. Up until very recently, I didn’t find myself on either side, as I had yet to see any of his films. Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen three.
To begin with, I sat down and watched Tarantino’s seventh film, Django Unchained. Let me tell you. If there’s any film that is perfect for virtually any audience, provided you aren’t offended by violence, it’s Django Unchained. Django is a thrill-ride from start to finish, full of stylized action, breakneck dialogue, and absolutely brilliant cinematography. Every actor in this movie absolutely blew me away. Jamie Foxx was intense and absolutely electrifying. Christoph Waltz, who I’ve known to be a good actor, proved himself to me to be a great actor. From the moment he arrived on screen, you were completely locked into every line he gave. Samuel L. Jackson, as always, is terrific, but, even more than that, Leonardo DiCaprio, who I don’t normally like, was fantastic in this movie. But most importantly, this was my first outlet into Mr. Tarantino. I’ve got to tell you, I fell instantly in love. Everything in the movie was full of style and creativity and uniqueness. But what if this was a one-time thing? So with a newfound love for Mr. Tarantino, I endeavored into perhaps his most famous movie of all time.
Pulp Fiction is not just Quentin Tarantino’s most famous movie. It is one of the most famous movies ever made period. And as I was watching the film I discovered that while it may be one of the most well-known films there is, it is nothing like anything else. I came to this realization about fifteen minutes into the film as John Travolta and Uma Thurman share a conversation at Pop Culture Diner Jackrabbit Slim’s. As I sat there, I had no idea what I was watching, but I knew with absolute certainty that I loved it. If I was expecting anything even remotely like Django Unchained, I was not given it. However, what I received was a movie that is much more masterfully made. Nothing against Django, it’s a phenomenal film. But Pulp Fiction is something else. Pulp Fiction is superior. Not just superior to Django Unchained, but superior to about 80% of films made. The script is actually earth-shatteringly good. Every line of dialogue, from two guys just talking about burgers, to an absolutely hysterical speech about the history of an heirloom, are proficiently composed to become a symphony of monologues and quotable lines that stuck with me long after seeing the film. There’s a certain feeling you get when you see a film that’s better than your ability to perceive it. It’s not an understanding, but a sense. You receive it when a movie ends, and all of your senses are tingling. You sit there in disbelief and struggle to comprehend what you have seen. But you know that no matter how hard you think about it, there’s simply no way that you’ll be able to elucidate just how superlative the movie is after the first viewing. This was the feeling that I experienced after seeing Pulp Fiction. It is because of this encounter that I will not attempt to dissect the film for you, out of anticipation of futility. It is also the reason that this past weekend I sat down to view Kill Bill Vol. 1.
Kill Bill Vol. 1. If there’s ever been a film that needed to be viewed more than once, it would be this. If I am going to be perfectly honest with you, I had virtually no idea what was going on during this movie. This is probably my fault, as it would be egregious to assume that Tarantino wasn’t communicating well enough to the audience, however, I found it very difficult to follow the story. And I don’t mean in a broad sense, in a broad sense, it’s very simple. It’s your standard revenge story, told through the medium of a samurai flick. But as far as each individual scene goes, I found myself pretty confused as to how each individual conflict contributed to the overall story. But, however disjointed I may have been for the first part of the movie, I was completely locked in for the entirety of the last act. The last thirty minutes of this film features the best action I’ve seen Tarantino direct, and the last thirty minutes of Django are pretty fantastic. If there’s one thing this man knows how to deliver, it’s an exciting climax. Additionally, the cinematography in Kill Bill is positively audacious. Every shot is pure enthusiasm to the eyes. So no matter if I wasn’t completely engaged in the story, the cinematography was brilliantly entertaining (minus the anime scene, that one was a little disjointing).
So what have I decided about Tarantino, upon seeing three of his films? Well to start with, I’ve determined that no Tarantino film is alike. I mean really, I’ve never seen three films from a single director so prodigiously different. It’s a true testament to the mastery of the man in the director’s chair that he can take three very different movies with vastly different material, and tackle each one with such expertise. He writes the scripts for all of his movies and does so with absolute brilliance. I mean truly none of these films would be close to the level they’re at without Tarantino’s scripts. But again, no script would be servable without a director of equal magnitude, and if there’s anything that Tarantino is, absolutely indisputably, is an indomitable director. Regardless of whether you are a fan of his films, you simply can’t say that he isn’t skilled. His films are positively dripping with style, with excitement and unbeatable charisma. While his movies are decidedly diverse, they’ve got recurring themes and motifs that you can pinpoint as being unique to him. And more than just gratuitous violence and language. Themes of retribution, reconciliation, and redemption. His characters are flawed beyond belief, but they always have qualities and backstories that make them redeemable to the audience. I believe Quentin Tarantino to be a genius, a man who makes a film in a way that’s equatable to the way a master chef concocts a fine tiramisu. I can tell you right now, Quentin Tarantino will be a staple of my life for many years to come.
Image: Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, by Miramax