Quentin Tarantino

brutally cool by joshua brudich

Quentin Tarantino (b. 1963) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, and actor. In the early 1990s, he began his career as an independent filmmaker with films employing nonlinear storylines and the aestheticization of violence.

His films include ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992), ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994), ‘Jackie Brown’ (1997), ‘Kill Bill’ (2003, 2004), ‘Death Proof’ (2007), and ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009). His movies are generally characterized by stylistic influences from grindhouse, kung fu, and spaghetti western films. Tarantino also frequently collaborates with his friend and fellow filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.

Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Tony Tarantino, an actor and amateur musician who was born in Queens, New York, and Connie McHugh, a nurse. Tarantino’s father is of Italian descent and his mother is of Irish and Cherokee ancestry. He was raised by his mother, as his parents separated before his birth. When he was two years old, he moved to Torrance, California and later to the Harbor City neighborhood where he went to Fleming Junior High School in Lomita and took drama classes. He attended Narbonne High School in Harbor City for his freshman year before dropping out of school at age 15, to attend an acting class full time at the James Best Theater Company in Toluca Lake. Quentin grew bored with the school and quit after two years, although he made a point of keeping in touch with all his acting friends. Then he landed a job which threatened to interfere with his long-term acting ambitions.

As an employee of the Video Archives, a now-defunct video rental store in Manhattan Beach, he and fellow movie enthusiasts, including Roger Avary, discussed cinema and customer video recommendations at length. He paid close attention to the types of films people liked to rent and has cited that experience as inspiration for his directorial career. Tarantino has been quoted as saying, ‘When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.”

After Tarantino met Lawrence Bender at a Hollywood party, Bender encouraged him to write a screenplay. Tarantino directed and co-wrote a movie called ‘My Best Friend’s Birthday’ in 1987. The final reel of the film was almost fully destroyed in a lab fire that occurred during editing but its screenplay would form the basis for ‘True Romance.’ In 1992, Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ screened at the Sundance Film Festival and was an immediate hit. The film garnered critical acclaim. It was a dialogue-driven heist movie that set the tone for his later films. Tarantino wrote the script in three and a half weeks and Bender forwarded it to director Monte Hellman. Hellman helped Tarantino to secure funding from Richard Gladstein at Live Entertainment (which later became Artisan). Harvey Keitel read the script and also contributed to funding, taking a co-producer role, and a part in the movie.

Tarantino’s screenplay ‘True Romance’ was optioned and eventually released in 1993. The second script that Tarantino sold was ‘Natural Born Killers,’ which was revised by Dave Veloz, Richard Rutowski, and director Oliver Stone. Tarantino was given story credit, and wished the film well. Following the success of ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ Tarantino was approached by Hollywood and offered numerous projects, including ‘Speed’ and ‘Men in Black.’ He instead retreated to Amsterdam to work on his script for ‘Pulp Fiction.’ After ‘Pulp Fiction’ was completed, he then directed Episode Four of ‘Four Rooms,’ ‘The Man from Hollywood,’ a tribute to the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ episode that starred Steve McQueen. Four Rooms was a collaborative effort with filmmakers Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, and Robert Rodriguez. The film was very poorly received by critics. He appeared in and wrote the script for Robert Rodriguez’s From ‘Dusk till Dawn,’ which saw mixed reviews from the critics yet led to two sequels, for which Tarantino and Rodriguez would only serve as executive producers.

Tarantino’s third feature film was ‘Jackie Brown’ (1997), an adaptation of ‘Rum Punch,’ a novel by Elmore Leonard. A homage to blaxploitation films, it starred Pam Grier, who starred in many of that genre’s films of the 1970s. He had then planned to make the war film provisionally titled ‘Inglourious Bastards,’ but postponed it to write and direct ‘Kill Bill’ (released as two films, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), a highly stylized ‘revenge flick’ in the cinematic traditions of Wuxia (Chinese martial arts), Jidaigeki (Japanese period cinema), Spaghetti Westerns, and Italian horror. It was based on a character (The Bride) and a plot that he and Kill Bill’s lead actress, Uma Thurman, had developed during the making of ‘Pulp Fiction.’

In recent years, Tarantino has used his Hollywood power to give smaller and foreign films more attention than they might have received otherwise. These films are usually labeled ‘Presented by Quentin Tarantino’ or ‘Quentin Tarantino Presents.’ The first of these productions was in 2001 with the Hong Kong martial arts film ‘Iron Monkey’ which made over $14 million in the United States, seven times its budget. In 2004 he brought the Chinese martial arts film ‘Hero’ to U.S. shores. It ended up having a #1 opening at the box office and making $53.5 million. In 2006, the latest ‘Quentin Tarantino presents’ production, ‘Hostel,’ opened at #1 at the box office with a $20.1 million opening weekend.

Music is an important part of his filmmaking style. He said he would listen to music in his bedroom and create scenes that correlated to the music playing. Tarantino cited Filipino directors Cirio Santiago, Eddie Romero, and Gerardo de León as personal icons from the 1970s, citing De Leon’s ‘soul-shattering, life-extinguishing’ movies on vampires and female bondage, particularly ‘Women in Cages.’ ‘It is just harsh, harsh, harsh,’ he said, and described the final shot as one of ‘devastating despair.’

Actor Steve Buscemi has described Tarantino’s different style of film making as ‘bursting with energy’ and ‘focused,’ a style that has earned him many accolades worldwide. According to Tarantino, a recurring hallmark in all his movies is that there is a different sense of humor, which gets the audience to laugh at things that aren’t funny.

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