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Monday, June 18, 2012

Cool Ass Cinema Presents: A Screenplay Not By Quentin Tarantino Part 1


"I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don't do homages. It's a great movie [CITY ON FIRE]. I steal from every single movie ever made."--Well, with that statement, he's shown himself to be incredibly arrogant and admitted he's a thief. At least he's honest... delusional, but honest.

Let's face it, Q Baby is the muthafuckin' movie messiah. From his days working behind the counter at Video Archives in California, to his successful directing career, Quentin Tarantino, proclaimed the 'King of Pulp', has ripped off, or, as he likes to put it, stolen (I guess the budget of the film being 'stolen' from decides whether said theft is a misdemeanor or a felony) scenes and dialog from a shit load of movies over the last twenty some odd years. After much anticipation, KILL BILL was the first film of his I saw in the theater. Like other motion picture vomit such as HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003) and the American GODZILLA (1998), I had to see it twice to verify that what I had witnessed was as shit-tastic as I had originally thought.

I'll get to that flick later. This is basically a rant about the QTmeister that I've been holding in for far too long and it's egging to get out like one o' them chest-bursters in ALIEN. See what I did there? Egg? Alien? Fuck it. I'm gonna go over the man's movies divulging what I honestly think of them noting what I like, and a whole lotta what I don't like. Rip offs, homages, whatever you wanna call it, this is strictly my opinion and nothing more.

I think he's done some great work, but since KILL BILL...PLEASE! came out, his movies have pretty much lost focus paying far more egocentric lip service to the man's own "Look what I can do!" writing ability as opposed to paying any sort of tribute to the films he constantly rattles on about with that machine gun he calls a mouth. Basically, I am exorcising my QT demons here because the power of the movies he rapes compels me.


"I was always talked about for my first two films like I was some sort of flash in the pan. But then I went from flavor of the month, to flavor of the year, to flavor of the decade."--QT during a Telegraph interview that features an entire paragraph where the interviewer descriptively and disturbingly makes love to the man.

I first heard about this guy named Quentin Tarantino in a Fangoria article that was heapin' all kinds of praise on this funny titled movie called RESERVOIR DOGS, a film that was causing a stir back in the early 90s. They kept goin' on and on about violence in the film, particularly a scene involving a bound and gagged cop, a suit wearing psycho with a blade and an ear that was about to be severed off. Nothing was shown, mind you, but the tone of the scene was what was making folks uneasy. At that time in my life, if Fango was giving it their seal of approval, I just had to see it.

I must admit, I was pretty well blown away by this movie at the time. It oozed Kool (a word that was ever so quickly to become closely associated with the subject of this article) in nearly every scene and had a lot of choice dialog exchanges. Dialog and the words Quentin Tarantino would rapidly form a symbiotic relationship that ultimately mutated into an annoyingly self-indulgent ego rampage as wild and unfettered as any number of Jack Hill movies the man freely pilfered from. In short, in Q Baby's world, it's the Chatter that Matters.

"Alright Ramblers, let's get Ramblin'!"

In what seemed like an over-night occurrence, QT became the critics darling and the new 'IT' director to a growing legion of fans. Many of these fans obsessed over his works to a parasitic degree displaying an irritating level of adoration praising the man to high heaven. Shamefully, I was one of them!

From a personal perspective, these fans generally fall into two camps--those who are unhealthily fascinated by the recurring themes of drug abuse in his scripts; or those who slobber over the cult film references that erupt every few seconds in his movies with a rapidity matched only by the shrill elucidation of listening to Q babble on as if that particular conversation is his last on earth. That latter camp is especially noteworthy in a "Let me get my flyswatter to squash these annoying ass bugs" sort of way. I'll explain that later, too, when I get to G****HOUSE (2007). I was in the latter camp, by the way.

Admittedly, I was awestruck by Q at this point, and even more so after picking up a copy of a then new book about him entitled KING PULP: THE WILD WORLD OF QUENTIN TARANTINO back in the mid 90s. The book is chock full o' anecdotes and essays about his films and his influences.

The brief write up on The One's love for Sonny Chiba (he even weaved some of that Chiba lust into his script for TRUE ROMANCE) and that iconic STREET FIGHTER photo demanded I plunk down the $14.95 for the 160 page book. I didn't need to see, nor read further. That Chiba was showcased within those pages was enough for me. Reading it I realized I liked all the same genres and actors and other such fan geek gushings as the 'King of Kool' had claimed to be infatuated with for much of his life. This was my major attraction to the work of this filmmaker with whom my disappointment would grow and fester in the ensuing years.


"There are only two kinds of people in the world, Mayonnaise people and Miracle Whip people. Now Mayonnaise people can like Miracle Whip and Miracle Whip people can like Mayonnaise, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice, tells you who you are."--Old Venoms5 proverb

PULP FICTION arrived in 1994 and really was the turning point for QT and arguably where he became far more braggadocios than was normally allowed of the average human. It was also here where he was noted for bringing once hugely popular careers back from the dead, yielding yet another attribute for the Tarantinosaurus to gloat about. That a plump, noticeably rotund John Travolta was returning to the screen in a big way as hitman Vincent Vega got this picture a good deal of media publicity; never mind that his LOOK WHO'S TALKING series (between '89 and '93) was a big financial success.

Hell, his obscure flick, THE EXPERTS (1989), was the film where he met his wife, the drop dead gorgeous Kelly Preston. As much as the dance scene in T Bone's tale of PULPy FICTION between Travolta and Thurman got a lot of notice, Travolta had already revisited his SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) days in THE EXPERTS. In that movie, Travolta and Preston pretty much have sex on the dance floor backed by Club Nouveau's cover of 'Lean On Me'. Preston is dynamite in that film, by the way.

PULP FICTION was a crowded landscape of filmic references of pictures from years past and a script device QT would pile layer upon layer in subsequent movies like a Scooby and Shaggy shit sandwich.

"The Japanese Fox was a kung fu master..."--I bet that one got Ric Meyers all a tingle!

Most famous of these PULP references would likely be the biblical speech maddeningly proclaimed by a wild eyed Samuel L. Jackson prior to blowing away his intended victims. This speech (uttered close to the beginning) was lifted from the US version of Sonny Chiba's BODYGUARD KIBA (1973), which was released here in a dubbed version in 1976 as THE BODYGUARD. This one has seriously been blown out of proportion. It's nice that T-Bone wants to keep Chiba in the public eye and all, but the man famous for breaking bones and ripping away genitalia with his bare hands never says that Ezekiel 25:17 passage. That was added to the opening crawl of the US version of THE BODYGUARD.

The closest Chiba ever got to saying anything remotely similar was on his popular Japanese show KAGE NO GUNDAN (known here as SHADOW WARRIORS).

In that show, when the corrupt officials, vicious swordsmen, or black arts practitioners were about to have their wardrobe re-fitted, Chiba would sternly reiterate the previous 45 minutes of evil perpetrated on innocent lives and would let these guys (and sometimes gals) know just where he was about to send them.

Chiba also philosophized in the best "I'm a fuck you up" fashion during the opening credits of his uber classic TV series THE YAGYU CLAN CONSPIRACY. There will be much more regarding Chiba when I get to the KILL BILL crapola.

"That's pride fuckin' with you. FUCK PRIDE!"

A lot of folks have stated that his pairing of Travolta and Jackson as the two man hit squad, Vinnie and Jules respectively, was inspired by a similar pairing of Henry Silva and Woody Strode from Fernando Di Leo's MANHUNT (1972).

While that may be true and all, it's almost uncanny that the stone cold, jive-talkin' duo of hitmen in 1973's BONNIE'S KIDS (played by Alex Rocco and Timothy Brown) bears a lot more in common with the T man's PULP tale of FICTION.

There's also a disco scene with sexy Tiffany Bolling and hunky Steve Sandor that recalls the one with Uma Thurman and John Travolta. Considering how huge a fan T Bone is of Arthur Marks, it seems it might be more than a coincidence. But then, this sort of thievery (well, those were the man's words!) makes one an artist of greatness. More PULP-US FICTION-US in Chapter three.



Samuel Wilson said...

On top of all you say, there is no Tarantino as a writer without George V. Higgins, from whom QT took the name "Jackie Brown" from The Friends of Eddie Coyle to graft onto Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch. Just read Higgins's Cogan's Trade (coming soon to a theater near you as Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softely) and that only reinforces the main point. I still enjoy Tarantino's stuff (except for Death Proof) but he begs to be deconstructed, so have at him!

venoms5 said...

Thank you for your additions and input, Sam, they are much appreciated!

I am only focusing on his directorial work and the way I perceived him, and his movies then, and especially now. I've not read any of the books associated with his movies, I'm afraid.

I have heard some interesting stories regarding his working relationship with Roger Avary.

I think his best work is in his earlier career with JACKIE BROWN being the best. After that, it was like a downhill ride, at least for me, so this will get more critical as it goes on. Part 2 will be up tomorrow.

Again, thanks for adding to the discussion, Sam, and DEATH PROOF is right horrible, too!

Wostry Ferenc said...

venom5, check out Barry Levinson's TIN MEN, and compare some of the scenes with the Royal with Cheese-scene and the later diner scene in PULP FICTION. Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

I am totally with you on the opinion that Jackie Brown marked a steady decline in what he had to offer. The Kill Bill movies are a joke (i worry for the sanity of the fans for these entries), however I thought Inglorious Basterds was a bit on the really good side. His groupies act like blind film students, and all it takes is a teaser trailer on youtube for legions to proclaim another "masterpiece." In Andrew Sarris' book, The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, he identifies QT as the forefather of the "cinemaphile modernist movement", which is enough to make me want to puke.

Samuel Wilson said...

venom, Tarantino definitely doesn't get enough credit for Jackie Brown and that probably shaped his subsequent career. I emphasized Higgins because Tarantino's dialogue initially defined him (and still does) as much as his generic thefts. By the time of Death Proof he'd lost the point of the long, digressive Higgins-style dialogue and was giving great gobs of it to people who were never going to do anything interesting but die. Looking forward to Part II and will probably have more to say then.

venoms5 said...

@ Wostry: I've not seen TIN MEN, but will look for it. In his book, QT states that he came up with the French burger bits from being in Europe at the time. He says his dialog comes from whatever he's doing in his life at the moment; which seems to be watching movies and pilfering things from them.

@ scandyfactory: Excellent response and very well put! I like a couple of things in BASTERDS, but little else. What irritates me most about his fans is how they proclaim how cool he is because he pilfers (read as pays tribute to) old movies, yet these same fans have no interest in seeing where their idol has clumsily utilized his sources.

@ Sam: Another choice response! DEATH PROOF was one of the worst things I'd seen in a long time. His earlier movies, the conversations seemed casual, natural. Post JB, everything feels forced and self absorbed.

Steve said...

I'm a fan of Tarantino's work. In fact, I owe my love of cinema in general thanks to watching Reservoir Dogs as a teenager. He didn't ignite my passion for East Asian Cinema mind you. That was a Bruce Lee documentary.

Anyway. I've been a fan of his work for years. While I will admit to his propensity for pilfering from other's work, he just seems to craft films that I like. Kill Bill Vol. 1 was the movie I had inside my mind for a long time. It combined everything that I had wanted in my own movie and I loved it, still do.

The only movie of his that left me cold was Death Proof. Intriguing premise. Truly awful, awful execution. Loved Planet Terror and the idea of Grindhouse did lead to Hobo with a Shotgun. One of my favourite films of last year.

You make some good, level headed point without delving into the "OMG HE RIPPED OFF RINGO LAM!" argument a lot of people make. Well, Ringo never asked Peter Wier if he could remake Witness now did he? I liked this, looking forward to reading the next part.

Wostry Ferenc said...

in TIN MEN DeVito and his partner don't talk about burgers in the car, but the dialogue is very much like the Royal with cheese scene. Later they sit in a diner when DeVito's partner proclaims he is leaving the profession because he got a sign from above.

Kaijinu said...

Well, I guess this is one thing we don't share feelings with. I abosulutely adore The Q man and I watch his flicks out of entertainment. Apparently my kind of entertainment. I can't explain it, but he's just good for me.

venoms5 said...

@ Steve: As I mentioned in the article, I was also a big fan of his at first. But after his bizarre behavior promoting his later movies and seeing KILL BILL (initially liking it, though), I pretty much lost interest in him, but felt the need to see his movies on DVD when they came out. And I HATED, HATED, HATED DEATH PROOF! Horrific movie. Actually, the whole of G****HOUSE was pretty horrific experience for me to tell the truth.

The attitude of a lot of folks who love him kinda helped turn me off to his work also.

Hell, with all these revisionist westerns coming out, maybe I can finally sell my wacky and wild western trilogy, too, lol.

@ Wostry: I remember the film, but never saw it. That's a bit of a coincidence, lol. Still, with all the praise he gets, it's actually very little originality involved when you come down to it. It's like rap music, but in cinema form, lol.

@ Kaijinu: I understand you totally, and I adored him too, once upon a time. I still like certain things about his movies, but overall, they leave me cold and irritated in the end.

Scott Strout said...

Holy Shit, you said everything I've ever want to say about QT, but backed it up with research and facts. You truly are the man. A hug, fistbump or beer is totally on me, your choice.

venoms5 said...

Scott! That's a difficult choice my man. You pick! Glad you liked it so far.

Franco Macabro said...

I personally love the fact that Tarantino's so honest about his influences, and taking scenes and dialog from other movies. I agree with what he says, all artists do this. It's how artists begin, they admire somebody, the copy them to a certain extent, then they go their own way. This is what Tarantino does, he is inspired by certain filmmakers and actors, then he does something similar, but gives it his own twists at the same time, sometimes even improving on the original source material.

He is a virtual encyclopedia of 70's films, he knows what he loves and where to draw from and he does...but even you have to admit he takes things to a whole other level then the films he is copying from, stylistically and technically.

And okay, he didn't make Chiba the star of Kill Bill cause Chiba is too old for that sort of thing..but I did think the role he got in KILL BILL was an important one, and he did get a lot of screen time and dialog...he didnt do "nothing". Any Chiba fan would have been happy to see him on the screen again, and playing Hatori Hanzo with a bit of comedy infused into the proceedings, that was a side of Chiba that I had personally not seen up to that point.

And what about the fact that a lot of the films that he pays homage to or steals from as he says are brought back to life because of Tarantino's films? I think this is something to be admired as well, I mean, maybe a lot of these films would have dissapeared into obscurity, but he has brought new life to films like Street Fighter, Lady Snowblood and many others, this is something positive in my book.

Cool articles dude!

venoms5 said...

I wasn't expecting Chiba to be the star and he's still doing movies in his 70s. Chiba did lots of comedy. His movie EXECUTIONER 2 is filled with it. He's very good at comedy. He also included a lot of comedy in his ninja series, SHADOW WARRIORS which QT rants and raves about being such a huge fan of.

I just think he totally wasted Sonny Chiba in this role.


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