For a number of reasons, over the last few years, I have managed to rewatch all of Quentin Tarantinos films. Pulp Fiction, Grindhouse, Inglourious Basterds and the Kill Bill films I purchased on Blu-ray, so this factored into the rewatching. Indeed, all his films are stunning in hi-def.
It has truly highlighted how good a filmmaker Tarantino is. I wrote a post on Flickering Myth about defining his career in two chapters – the first three films as one chapter whilst the final three projects (I don’t think you can really separate Kill Bill because, though it was separated into two, it was conceived as one project, filmed back-to-back) as the most recent chapter. Due to this, I am only choosing the top 5 films from a total of 6. Which one is left out? Grindhouse. Or Deathproof if you really want to separate it. And I really like the film – and prefer it to Planet Terror – but it simply doesn’t have the depth of the other films. So, lets shoot through this Top 5…
5. Reservoir Dogs – Simply ground-breaking. We are in the Top 5 and we are splitting hairs amongst all of these. The film would have a solid 8.5 out of 10 – with the next 4 films slightly higher. The first watch, I think, is almost as if you are joining the gang in a conversation – you want to hear what they have to say. It doesn’t matter whether it is about Madonna or tipping, because the conversation is “important” to the participants. When we get into the heist you are thrust into asking “Who is the rat?” and, from then, the story has you hooked. Unlike Tarantino’s other films, it is short – and, as fast-paced, its a great film to rewatch, and show others. You see how his genius shines through in every facet of the film – from his own conversational manner, the film references and the obsession with pop-culture.
4. Kill Bill Vol 1/Kill Bill Vol 2 – Both these films seem to be more and more ignored since their release. I personally remember, on a first-watch, that Kill Bill Vol.1 was non-stop action, samurai-sword-fighting and hand-to-hand combat whilst Kill Bill Vol.2 was slow and plodding. There is parallels and contrasts between Eastern and Western filmmaking, themes and philosophies – but there is so much more to the films. I re-watched the films recently and both films stand-up. Kill Bill Vol.2 moreso, as suddenly the depth of the film shines through. It many ways, as much fun as Kill Bill Vol.1 is – and it is so much fun – Kill Bill Vol.2 takes itself seriously. It is important where Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) comes from – and it is important where she is going. And Bill (David Carradine) is a part of both. How do you deal with something that you hate, but is inextricably linked to you – like a family you dislike or a past you don’t want to face.
3. Jackie Brown – The most recent watch, it stands so incredibly strong. The film is held by Samuel L. Jackson’s Ordell Robbie. Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) herself is central as it is about her escape from a criminal lifestyle, but it is Ordell who is what we watch. His murderous, criminal and deeply-rooted selfishness is what drives the film – as we know he is capable of anything to achieve his own ends. Having said that, he is likable and approachable – and people trust him. It really is crazy to compare this stunning performance to his comic-book characters which, in comparison, seem so bland. Then there is Robert Forster, Michael Keaton and Robert DeNiro – subtle performances that reverberate throughout the film. You know, behind those Jack-Nicholson-eyes of Keaton is a character who is attracted to Jackie, who is desperate to be a good cop and who is young and naive. A brilliant film which is vastly underrated.
2. Inglourious Basterds – Think is Tarantino’s epic film. The scale of this film feels bigger than any of its predecessors. Kill Bill is big in scale, but the story is personal. This is dealing with World War II – and it rewrites the story. An exploitation film that exploits the deep-desires many of us feel for the horrors of the War. But, amongst the cliche-Tarantino ‘exploitism’, is also incredible sequences – such as the opening scene with the French farmer or Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt ‘making a deal’ in the final act. These are sequences which are exquisitely shot and incredibly well-written. In term of sequences, I think many of these sequences are the best in Tarantino’s entire filmography.
1. Pulp Fiction – Out of respect, you cannot ignore how perfect-a-film this is. Fluidly cutting between stories, out-of-sequence, but subtlety paying-off sequences with a clear connection to another sequence. The set-ups are cliche gangster-stories – the bosses-wife, the ducking-boxer and the hold-up – yet all end in the most unexpected way. You have no idea where these stories will go – and when the twist hits, mid-story, not only is it unexpected, but generally it involves a character form a different story. Tim Roth and Samuel L. Jackson or Bruce Willis tied-up alongside Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Each character has such well-rounded characteristics – the pop-belly, the ‘square’ Uma Thurman highlights or the ‘Royale with Cheese’. Instantly unforgettable and iconic moments in cinema history.