Quentin Tarantino’s complicated legacy in a diverse Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s complicated legacy in a diverse Hollywood

While Tarantino’s films have undoubtedly inspired a generation of young filmmakers, there’s a side to his stories continuously left untold that’s beginning to see the director’s influence diminish (Image Source: Humby Valdes)

By Josh Brine | @Josh_Brine

Since the release of his first film, Reservoir Dogs, in 1992, Quentin Tarantino’s nine movies have grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide.

But this number tells only part of the story with Mr Tarantino, whose influence and popularity go beyond ticket sales and box office numbers.

With the release of the acclaimed director’s ninth feature film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — his most nostalgic and sentimental work to date — it seems as apt a time as ever to get nostalgic and sentimental about Mr Tarantino’s career as well.

In the film, which the director said will likely be his penultimate release, he pays tribute to films, actors, and directors who have influenced him.

But just as these people inspired Mr Tarantino, he now inspires many in the current generation of young filmmakers.

Will Preece, a film student at Swinburne University, said Mr Tarantino has been a major influence for him ever since he first started watching his films in high school.

“It was around this time that I was beginning to take a keen interest in filmmaking,” Mr Preece said.

“I immediately connected with his eccentric style and compelling scriptwriting.”

A major factor as to why Mr Tarantino is an inspiration for aspiring directors is his own passion for film.

Dr Stuart Richards is a screen studies lecturer at the University of South Australia who is also affiliated with the Australian Film Critics Association.

He said Mr Tarantino’s “cinephilia” is something his [Tarantino’s] admirers connect with.

“He crams his films with so many references and so many allusions to other films,” Dr Richards said.

“I think that does inspire a lot of other filmmakers.”

“His routine of, before redoing a take, shouting to all the cast and crew ‘why?’ and demanding an enthusiastic response of ‘because we love making movies!’ speaks to why he is such a successful director,” Mr Preece said.

But Mr Tarantino’s influence is not simply because of his reputation as a cinephile; his unique and recognisable style also serve as an inspiration for many looking to create their own films.

Mr Preece said the director is “one of the few auteurs in today’s industry”, meaning he controls almost all aspects of his production and that there are trademark characteristics that can be seen in his films.

“There is a distinctive brand to his style,” Dr Richards said.

“So when you say ‘I’m going to see the latest Tarantino film’ you already know what kind of film you are going to be seeing.”

Quentin Tarantino’s wax sculpture at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood (Image Source: Rodrigue Zahr/Flickr).

Mr Tarantino’s unique approach to directing and screen writing has not just made him influential, it has also given him a passionate and dedicated cult following.

According to Comscore, an American media analytics company, 47 per cent of filmgoers have seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood purely because Mr Tarantino directed it—this metric is normally at about 7 per cent.

One of the reasons why Mr Tarantino has built such a strong cult following is his rise from humble origins to massive success in Hollywood.

“He began in what we refer to as ‘indiewood’…so Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction came out around the time when all of these really cool films were being picked up for distribution and were being commercially very successful,” Dr Richards said.

“[Indiewood films] were all very cool films that really pushed the notions of taste in terms of sex and violence, and so they all had a very strong cult following.

“I think that continued with his later films like Jackie Brown, and then it really started to take off with Kill Bill.”

Mr Tarantino’s popularity has grown extensively due to fans recommending his films to their friends.

“I had asked a few of my more film-educated friends about some essential directors I should check out to learn more about good directing,” Mr Preece said.

“Among names like Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher and Wes Anderson was Tarantino’s.”

Despite all this, and even while he still continues to enjoy immense success, Mr Tarantino’s influence may be beginning to diminish, as filmmaking continues to accommodate more diverse perspectives.

“Tarantino comes from a very straight, white, male perspective, so there’d be a lot of filmmakers who are being inspired by other directors like Barry Jenkins or Ava Duvernay,” Dr Richards said.

“Young filmmakers are way too different…a lot of other filmmakers want to do something different to what Tarantino does.”

The director’s role as an influencer has also been damaged by the #MeToo movement and his connection with Harvey Weinstein.

Mr Weinstein had been involved with the release or production of all of Tarantino’s movies until Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and it is reported that the two shared a very close, almost father-son, relationship.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Tarantino said he “knew enough to do more than I did” in response to accusations of misconduct against Mr Weinstein.

Around this time, actress Uma Thurman revealed that Mr Tarantino had forced her to drive an unsafe car during the making of Kill Bill, which led to Ms Thurman crashing into a palm tree.

While the director apologised for the incident in an interview with Deadline, saying “it’s the biggest regret of my life, getting her to do that stunt”, it left a sour taste in the mouth of some.

“I think people don’t see him as a trustworthy figure,” Dr Richards said.

In addition, with the recent diversification of filmmaking, Mr Tarantino’s narrow perspective can be increasingly jarring for audiences, something that Dr Richards notes is especially evident in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

“It’s a very white film…and he’s taken this story that is so centred around women and they have zero agency.

“For him to be in the centre of such a politically charged moment in Hollywood, to then make this film about Hollywood that is so conservative, is something that I think a lot of people will find challenging.”

Mr Preece said he believes the “hyper-realistic ultraviolence and perceived sexism” present in Mr Tarantino’s films also turns some moviegoers away.

While Mr Tarantino’s immediate influence on film may be starting to shrink, he is sure to leave behind an immense legacy once resigns from the director’s chair.

“His story is a good one to give people hope that outsiders can still make a big impact on the film industry,” Mr Preece said.

“His kind of punchy aesthetic I think [is what] we’ll see as his legacy,” Dr Richards said.

“But also, just the role he has had in the commercialisation of independent cinema will be a significant legacy of his.”


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