Flashback Friday: When Quentin Tarantino addressed critics' comment on his 'borrowed, formalist' filmmaking
In 1994, Quentin Tarantino gifted the world... Pulp Fiction. A film, that literally became pop culture! It's hard to believe that Pulp Fiction was only the filmmaker's second directorial after Reservoir Dogs. The world premiere of the John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames, and Uma Thurman starrer took place at Cannes Film Festival and deservedly took home the prestigious Palme d'Or. While Pulp Fiction lost to Forrest Gump at the Oscars, the universal acceptance to the modern film makes it a masterpiece in unconventional filmmaking. Even now, the fanbase for Pulp Fiction increases with every repeat or new viewing!
While many consider Quentin Tarantino amongst the all-time great filmmakers, there are several critics, who aren't too fond of his 'out of the box' style of direction. During the Cannes 1994, in an interview with Michel Ciment and Hubert Niogret for Positif magazine, Quentin was asked about said critics who felt that he was "just making borrowed, post-modern, self-reflexive art with no connection to reality, just a kind of formalist game." In terms of his response, Tarantino had shared, "I’m never bothered that people say I don’t make films 'from life' and that I have 'nothing to say.' I don’t try to say anything but to create characters and to tell stories out of which meaning can appear. What’s more, I think I make films about life since I make films about me, about what interests me."
The 55-year-old filmmaker continued that the only artistic training he had was as an actor, who uses what works! When he used to see the works of Marlon Brando and Michael Caine, Quentin used it in his own acting, albeit, without betraying the truth of his style, rhythm and voice. "Actors work like this: they steal from others and make it part of themselves," Tarantino stated and added that he doesn't consider himself to be a director. Instead, he's a movie man who has the whole treasure of movies to choose from, take whatever gems he likes and twist them, giving it a new form. And then, he brings all these things together, which have never been matched up before. However, it should never become referential to the point of stopping the movement of his films!
"My first concern is to tell a story that will be dramatically captivating. What counts is that the story works and that viewers will be caught up in my film. Then movie buffs can find additional pleasure in getting whatever allusions there are. But I never try for an exact copy or a precise quote or a specific reference. Carbon copies give me headaches," Quentin shared.
Tarantino admits he liked mixing things up, citing the example of the golden watch story in Pulp Fiction, which begins with the spirit of Body and Soul and then unexpectedly ends up in the climate of Deliverance. What Quentin truly enjoys are space-time distortions as he explains how you don't particularly need to watch Body and Soul and Deliverance to appreciate the watch story in Pulp Fiction, but it's even more surprising and fun when you do!
"Sometimes I have an idea for a film which I carry around in my head for five or six years, without writing the scenario, since the right moment hasn’t hit. But when I sit down to write, everything that’s going on in my personal life finds a place in the film. When I’ve finished a scenario, I’m always astonished by what it reveals about me. It’s as if I were disclosing a bunch of personal secrets, even though people don’t notice, and I don’t really care if they notice or not!," Quentin revealed to Positif.
Quentin takes the example of Irene Jacob in Red, who was driving to the film set and hit a dog, which in turn affected the acting, no matter how well the scene had been prepared. What happened is going to show up on stage (theatre) or on the screen!
"Anyone able to keep strictly to what had been planned isn’t really creative. At least that’s how I think about my work. Whatever happens to me, even if it’s completely unrelated to the subject I’m doing, will find its way into the scenes I’m shooting, because I want my characters’ hearts to really beat. If you really knew me, you would be surprised by how much my films talk about me," Tarantino signed off in the most Quentin Tarantino style!
Also, let's say a very big Happy Birthday to one of the pioneer filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino, who truly trailblazed the landscape of Hollywood!