27 Mar 2013

The films of Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino (born March 27, 1963) is one of our top ten favorite directors and that's why we've decided to pay homage to him on his birthday. We love his narrative, his brilliant dialogues, the beautiful noir aesthetic of his films, his poignant soundtracks, his funny cameos, and that genius vision of his, that turns his films into an alternative world where the most insane thing makes sense
He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of an actor and amateur musician of Italian descent, and a nurse of Irish and Cherokee ancestry. He was raised by his mother, as his parents separated, and his stepfather was a musician. They moved to California where he took drama classes. He dropped out of school at age 16, to attend an acting class full-time at the James Best Theater Company in Toluca Lake. He grew bored with it and quit after two years. Later, 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. Here is his filmography as director, that contains some of our favorite films:

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
In January 1992, Reservoir Dogs was screened at the Sundance Film Festival and was an immediate hit, with a tremendous positive response from critics. It's a clever dialogue-driven heist movie that set the tone for his later films, with an incredible cast (Harvey KeitelTim RothMichael Madsen and Steve Buscemi in the leading roles... what else?), and a great soundtrack (like all his films) featuring the great 'Coconut' by Harry Nilsson, and this Stealers Wheel song, that plays in an iconic scene of the film:

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction is my favorite film from Tarantino. He received an Academy Award in the category of Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, which he shared with Roger Avary, and the film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Being a writer myself, one of the things I like the most it's that it covers three stories, all interconnected.  It became one of the most relevant films of the 90s, thanks to its rich pop-culture-laden dialogue, the wonderful soundtrack, and the great characters. Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace became an icon. With her black wig and the deep blue eyes, she was as charming as Anna Karina in Vivre Sa Vie, one of Tarantino's favorite films. He took inspiration from Godard too to make the remarkable dancing scene between Vincent Vega (the awesome John Travolta) and Mia at Jack Rabbit Slim's, that has become one of the most famous scenes in cinema. The cast also features a lot of my favorite actors and actresses, besides Travolta and Thurman: Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth, Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Rosanna Arquette, and Maria de Medeiros. The soundtrack is a masterpiece that I could have on repeat for days, and here are two of my favorite music moments of the film:

"All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl."  (Jean - Luc Godard)

Jackie Brown (1997)
Tarantino's third feature film was Jackie Brown, an adaptation of Rum Punch, a novel by Elmore Leonard, and a homage to blaxploitation films. Great cast again, and it has some cool moments, but this one is my less favorite film from his filmography.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 + 2 (2003/4)

Kill Bill (released as two films, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), is a highly stylized "revenge flick", with a great leading character named Beatrix Kiddo (aka The Bride, codename Black Mamba), portrayed by Tarantino's  muse, the gorgeous and talented Uma Thurman. Actually, Tarantino and Thurman had developed  Kill Bill's plot during the making of Pulp Fiction. Together they created one of the most visually stunning films ever, which also contains a lot of great dramatic moments (be ready to cry a little during Vol. 2). I remember going to the cinema to watch the first part and leaving the cinema totally amazed by it. Then, the first week the second part premiered I went to see it 'cause I just couldn't wait to find out the end of this powerful story. Like in all the other Tarantino films the full cast is amazing, and accompanying Uma Thurman we have David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen and Lucy Liu. And of course, the soundtrack is perfect, featuring the likes of Ennio Morricone, Luis Bacalov, Nancy Sinatra and Shivaree

Death Proof (2007)
Death Proof is another of my most beloved films from Tarantino. Is an action thriller that centers on a psychopathic stunt man who stalks young women. I'm not gonna reveal much about the plot, you have to watch it for yourself. It's pretty scary during some moments, but I love this film because it shows Tarantino's dark humor as its best and the dialogues between the girls are amazing (Tarantino knows women). The cast is lead by Kurt Russell, underrated but great actor, and an amazing group of girls: Rosario Dawson (one of my favorite actresses, she rocks in everything she does), Rose McGowan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (she's so cute here, and I loved her in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Sydney Tamiia PoitierVanessa Ferlito (you gotta lover her dance scene), and Zoë Bell (she is a stuntwoman and she did the stunt work for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Yes, she rocks that much). 

The whole aesthetic of the film is perfect: I love the muscle cars, the bright yellows and pinks, the Brigitte Bardot poster, the red nails, the lipsticks, and everything that contributes to emphasize that women are the stars of this film:

The soundtrack, as always, is delightful. It features great 60s tunes and this awesome song, Chick Habit by April March, the cover of the lovely Laisse tomber les filles performed by France Gall and composed by Serge Gainsbourg, that you can listen to into this fabulous video dedicated to the women on Tarantino's films:

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Inglourious Basterds is a war film that tells the fictional alternate history story of two plots to assassinate Nazi Germany's political leadership, one planned by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor, and the other by a team of Jewish-American soldiers. Some people said this was Tarantino's best, and I have to disagree a little with that 'cause I think it was entertaining, and the characters were  fantastic, but I've loved more other films from him. Anyway, it was really nice watching Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender and Daniel Brühl on a Tarantino film. And of course the lovely ladies: Mélanie Laurent (being a badass as Shosanna), the classy Diane Kruger (being the awesome woman she is as Bridget von Hammersmark), and Léa Seydoux, in just a few shots, but cute as always.

I loved the setting and fell in love with both Shosanna's and Bridget's clothes. Tarantino amazes me with his sense of fashion , again:
And of course, we have a great music scene. Mélanie Laurent looking gorgeous in red while David Bowie's "Cat People" plays. The scene is really beautiful, and Bowie makes anything magical. One of my favorite music moments from Tarantino's filmography:

Django Unchained (2012)
Django Unchained, is some sort of spaghetti western mixed with a slavery plot that only someone like Tarantino, with such a brilliant mind, could turn into a great film. Set in the antebellum era of the Deep South and Old West, the film follows a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who treks across the United States with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) on a mission to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a cruel plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). Samuel L. Jackson also features in the film, as Stephen, and he is perfect in that role. I love the fact that Waltz's character is a German guy and that Kerry Washington's character is named Broomhilda after the German heroine of the Nibelungen saga, 'cause I love that language and you don't see much German references on American films. The images are really powerful, with the bloody Tarantino signature, and the soundtrack has classic pieces from 60s and 70s films, mixed with nowadays songs. One moment that stayed with me for days after watching the film was the one featuring the great song "Freedom" by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton:

"When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, 'no, I went to films'.

(Quentin Tarantino)

ps: Happy Birthday Mr. Tarantino!