Star Trek V idea of the Enterprise crew battling God to the studio, Paramount, Gene Roddenberry, et. al. shot back: “They can’t meet God!” Shat lost his balls. He should have grabbed Tarantino, then because this is a filmmaker who does not let history, social norms, or formula expectations dictate to his art.is claiming (again) that he only has a single film left in him: an R-rated “Star Trek.” Of course, volunteered to revive Captain Kirk. Paramount needs to jump on this. If anyone could breathe life into that long dead formula, it would be Tarantino. As for Shat, perhaps he would learn something, even at his age. When Shat took his
After his films with Sergio Leone, composer Ennio Morricone became such a cult figure that it wasn’t long before wannabe film composers began paying homage to him with one yawn-inducing, predictable tribute after another. Of course, most attempted to solicit his endorsement, and received blank stares and unanswered letters in reply. That is, until jazz composer John Zorn came along and filtered Morricone through snippets of Carl Stalling, video game music, and his own sensibilities. Morricone was delightfully startled, breathed a sigh of relief, and gave a resounding accolade, noting that finally here was a worthy tribute, because Zorn refused to treat him with reverence. Zorn was as radical and revolutionary as Morricone himself.
This is what Tarantino does consistently. The title of his latest is no coincidence, paying his homage to cinematic idol Leone. Tarantino clearly has an authentic love of 1960s and 70s grindhouse cult film as well; so much so that he is no mere imitator, and this makes him one of the most interesting filmmakers of the last 25 years.
As in Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino takes the role of a celluloid antifa and wallops the fascists. “Let’s kill Nazis,” goes the chant, probably much like the American troops sang on D-Day (one must ask: when did hating Fascism become a bad thing?), but he has a new Fascist offshoot target as well: cultists. And, as before, he rejects the way his source material ended, and so crafts a new dreamscape ending. In this, Tarantino reminds me of an artist named Antonio Adams who created adult sculptures of JonBenet Ramsey and Emmett Till, allowing them to grow up in his sculptures, denying their fate. So again, Tarantino rewrites history; not just for the sake of a better narrative (although there is that as well), but because it’s the right thing to do. If the way to do that is an alternative myth, so be it. It should not be an issue, since all films are myths.
Just as Zorn quotes multifarious sources, working them seamlessly into an integrated whole, so likewise does Tarantino, with influences as obscure as’s Female Bunch (it helps that Adamson filmed it on Spahn Ranch, but the quotation is more than mere location). Tarantino is also shrewd in his visual juxtapositions. Contrasting with Charles Manson’s dreams of a race war, we see nonchalant images of Gail Fisher working alongside Mike Connors (for all of us old enough do remember how naturally progressive that coolest of hokey cop shows was).
Tarantino’s love of rescuing actors from career fatigue continues as here he givesthe best role he’s had in decades, allowing the actor to flex his long overdue tongue-in-cheek skills. Pitt is actually refreshingly original once more as Cliff, the stunt double and buddy of ’s Rick, a fading Fifties western star now reduced to a late Sixties heavy. Rick’s cynicism recalls Bogart’s Rick, and he might have been played by Richard Boone (Paladin of “Have Gun Will Travel”) or Clint Eastwood (Rowdy Yates of “Rawhide”). DiCaprio is slightly miscast on the surface, but he does have an excellent chemistry with Pitt and a standout scene. (hilarious as a blind geezer who watches TV), , and Al Pacino make vibrant, eccentrically hued cameos. Julia Butters, as a child method actor who plays opposite DiCaprio in a well-directed scene, almost steals the spotlight from all of them.
Tarantino revels in visual metaphors (a century earlier, he’d have made a helluva symbolist painter). The more seemingly insignificant, the more pertinent. A case in point is the vignette of Cliff and his obedient, hungry canine, contrasted with the sight of a cinema marquee announcing a showing of the Frank Sinatra/Raquel Welch film Lady in Cement. Those of us with a degree in theology know that “Raquel” means “ewe,” the symbol of purity. Tarantino is letting us know that a lady in cement is not the goal here. Rather, Cliff is to protect one Sharon Tate ()—and, man, Tarantino loves Sharon and her innocence, best seen in her sense of wonder at being in the godawful Dean Martin Matt Helm movie The Wrecking Ball. (Martin was so devastated by Tate’s murder that he never made another Helm movie). She is also seen partying with hubby at the Playboy mansion and shopping for maternity clothes. With Pitt, she’s the wondorous heart of this fantasy.
Although Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a very good movie, it’s not Tarantino’s best (that would be Inglourious Basterds). It is flawed, taking too long with some pointless but still entertaining as hell scenes (i.e. the fight scene between Cliff and Bruce Lee, played by Mike Moh) and pop art reaching, but these are also delightful diversions. Still, warts and all, a Tarantino movie is always an event. Let’s hope that he’s lying through his teeth when he says he’s got one more film and instead we’ll be seeing his work for years to come; a not-so-final frontier. How perfect is that ?