Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hope for the Quentin guy?

On the subject of" the film Pulp Fiction", I will say again that I think that film is a masterpiece, sheer inspiration in ways of writing, editing, acting. Everything that Tarantino does in the film is      fresh and alive, a lively recasting of venerable Hollywood genre. The essential problem is that he uses the same tact over and over; directors are allowed to repeat certain things they do, since that is the essence of having a style. But the point of having an identifiable  style is being able to do different and unexpected things within the recognizable framework.
Howard Hawks, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and  auteurs too numerous to mention made movies which are praised for being individually stylish and avoiding being declining versions of earlier work. What attraction is how a director or an author's style is adapted toward the story at hand and the genre specifications that frame the narrative; if everything is working the way it ought to, a viewer or reader loses track of stylistics and suspends their proverbial disbelief.

A competently managed style eases the audience through the "fourth wall" and engages them in the story. Tarantino has it reversed, a condition not unlike what plagues a two generation of  able fingered rock guitarist, where the  structure is meant to serve the flashy pyrotechnics.   What Tarantino repeats himself, in a succession of films, that threaten to downgrade his method from "style" to mere shtick. Audaciousness quickly becomes an indulgent rut an artist can't climb out of.

 I would argue that virtually all of Tarantino's movies are reboots, in his case , the rebooting of a genre, be they crime stories, samurai tales, a war film, a western. Doubtless he'll resurrect the Hollywood musical, do a spy film and present us with super hero movie.  Those genre revivals, though, needn't be the over packed, eager to please student projects his last three films have been. As he did with his wonderful adaptation of Elmore Leonard's crime novel "Rum Punch" in the form of "Jackie Brown", Tarantino has the ability to let the tale advance without the worrying , hovering , obvious obsession to make the scene more clever than it needs to be. Many were disappointed when"JB " came out because it wasn't another "Reservoir Dogs" or  "Pulp Fiction"; I liked the way he scaled back his style, letting Leonard's plot unwind, allow the characters to have breathing room in the film space they inhabited,  letting the conversation ring stylish, idiomatic and true.

 What would be interesting is if Tarantino became bored with his established approach and challenged himself.  None of this means that QT needs to stop being the QT we were first attracted too--genre jumper, dark humorist, writer of quotable dialogue. What it means is that there is a wish that he soon acquires the most important trait any artist with serious ability can apply to a project he or she is working on, the sense of knowing when to stop, of knowing when enough is enough.


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