Quentin Tarantino

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File:Quentin Tarantino.jpg
Quentin Tarantino, playing Mr. Brown in the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs.

Quentin Jerome Tarantino (born March 27, 1963 in Knoxville, Tennessee) is an Italian American screenwriter, film director and actor. His father Tony Tarantino (actor and musician) is of Italian descent, and his mother, Connie McHugh, is half-Irish and half-Cherokee Indian. He rapidly rose to fame in the early 1990s as a stylish auteur whose bold use of nonlinear storylines, memorable dialogue, and bloody violence brought new life to familiar American film archetypes.

He is the most famous of the young directors behind the independent film revolution of the 1990s, well-known for his public persona as a motor-mouthed, geeky hipster with an encyclopedic knowledge of both popular and art-house cinema. He regards himself as an Italian American.

Career history

Tarantino's biggest break came with the sale of his script True Romance, written with Roger Avary, which was made into a film starring Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater. He also wrote the original screenplay for Natural Born Killers, as part of the longer screenplay that True Romance came from, although it was changed significantly by subsequent writers, and he does not have a screenwriting credit on that film.

The sale of True Romance (eventually released in 1993) garnered him attention. He met Lawrence Bender at a Hollywood party and Bender encouraged Tarantino to go write a film. The end product was Reservoir Dogs (1992), a stylish, witty, and blood-soaked heist movie that set the tone for his later films. The script was read by director Monte Helman who helped secure funding from Live Entertainment and also Tarantino's directorship of the film. Harvey Keitel heard of the script through his wife, who attended a class with Tarantino. He read the script and also contributed to funding, as well as securing a lead in the movie.

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Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney are the Gecko brothers in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).

His followup was Pulp Fiction, which won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 1994 Cannes film festival. It was a complexly plotted film with a similarly brutal wit. It featured many critically acclaimed performances, and was noted for reviving the career of John Travolta. Pulp Fiction also earned Tarantino an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and it was also nominated for Best Picture.

Tarantino's next film was Jackie Brown (1997), an adaptation of a novel by his mentor Elmore Leonard. A homage to blaxploitation films, it also starred Pam Grier, who had featured in many of the genre's films in the 1970s. In 1998, he turned his attention to the Broadway stage, where he starred in Wait Until Dark.

He had then planned to make the war film Inglorious Bastards. However, he postponed that 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), Japanese film, and Spaghetti Westerns. It was based on a character (The Bride) and plot that he and Kill Bill's lead actor, Uma Thurman had developed during the making of Pulp Fiction. In 2004, Tarantino returned to Cannes where he served as President of the Jury. Kill Bill was not in competition, but it did screen on the final night in its original 3+ hour version.

Tarantino is given credit as "Special Guest Director" for his work directing a sequence of the 2005 neo-noir film Sin City.

On February 24, 2005 it was announced he would direct the season finale of CSI. The two-hour episode, "Grave Danger," was aired on May 19 to stellar ratings and reviews. Although Tarantino is best known for his work behind the camera, he's also made recent appearances on the small screen in the first and third seasons of the TV show Alias.

As of September, 2005, Tarantino has announced his current project is Grind House, which he is co-directing with Robert Rodriguez. He has stated he will "probably" follow that with Inglorious Bastards, but that he needed to spend another year working on the script before filming, making a 2006 release extremely unlikely.

Aesthetics

Tarantino's movies are renowned for their sharp dialogue, splintered chronology and pop culture obsessions. Often they are viewed as graphically violent, and certainly in his key films Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill there are copious amounts of both spattered and flowing blood. However, what affects people most is the casualness, and even macabre humour, of the violence, as well as the tension and grittiness of these scenes.

Fictional brands such as Red Apple cigarettes and Big Kahuna Burgers from Pulp Fiction have shown up in other movies including Four Rooms, From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill and even Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. The director is also known for his love of breakfast cereal, and many of his movies feature brands such as Fruit Brute (a spin off of the more popular Franken Berry) in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and Kaboom in Kill Bill.

Influences

Tarantino is widely known as a director who is very much a "film-geek", with an astonishing, encyclopedic knowledge of movies, film criticism, and film history. Particularly, he has a vast knowledge of foreign films, genre films and little-known pieces of cinema. He is a declared lover of exploitation films, Hong Kong action cinema, Spaghetti Westerns, French New Wave, and British cinema. His love of those genres is mirrored in his works -- all of his films regularly quote other movies and genres in their styles, stories and dialogue. He once summed it up by saying, "I never went to film school; I went to films." He said also to be influenced by the famous Italian horror moviemaker Mario Bava.

Criticism

Tarantino has come under criticism for his use of racial epithets in his films, particularly the word nigger in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, most notably from Black American director Spike Lee. In an interview for Variety, Lee said: "I'm not against the word... and I use it, but Quentin is infatuated with the word. What does he want to be made? An honorary black man?"

An oft-cited example is a scene in Pulp Fiction in which a character named Jimmie Dimmick, incidentally portrayed by Tarantino himself, dresses down Samuel L. Jackson's character, Jules Winnfield, for using his house as "dead nigger storage", followed by a rant that uses the word profusely. The fact that Jimmie had a black wife was also seen as an insult, specifically by Spike Lee. Lee makes direct reference to this in his film Bamboozled when the character Thomas Dunwitty states: "Please don't get offended by my use of the quote-unquote N word. I got a black wife and three biracial children, so I feel I have a right to use that word. I don't give a damn what Spike says, Tarantino is right. Nigger is just a word."

Tarantino has defended his use of the word by arguing that black audiences have an appreciation of his blaxploitation-influenced films that eludes some of his critics, and, indeed, that Jackie Brown was primarily made for "black audiences":

To me the film is a black film. It was made for black audiences actually. It was made for everybody, but that was the audience. If I had any of them in mind, I was thinking of that because I was always thinking of watching it in a black theatre. I didn't have audiences ridiculously in mind because I am the audience, but that works well for that too because I go to black theatres. To me it is a black film. [1]

Tarantino has also been criticized for allegedly plagiarizing ideas, scenes, and lines of dialogue from other films. For example, some scenes in Reservoir Dogs are based on ones in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Ringo Lam's City on Fire, and the events of the adrenaline-injection scene in Pulp Fiction closely resemble a story related in the documentary American Boy: A Profile of: Steven Prince by Martin Scorcese.

Much debate has been sparked on when such references cease to be tributes and become plagiarism. Tarantino, for his part, has always been open and unapologetic about appropriating ideas from films he admires (see Quotes).

Trivia

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  • One of Tarantino's trademarks is the trunk shot — the camera looking out from the trunk of a car at the actors. He has used it in all the films he has directed.
  • A trademark of Tarantino is that he uses biracial characters in some of his movies. In Pulp Fiction, Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson) mentions a half-black, half-Samoan named Tony Rocky Horror, and in Kill Bill Vol. 1, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) is half-Japanese, half-Chinese American, and her best-friend in the film, Sofie Fatale (Julie Dreyfus), is half-Japanese, half-French.
  • Tarantino once played an Elvis impersonator on an episode of The Golden Girls.
  • Always has an ad for Red Apple cigarettes in his films at some point.
  • Always has a scene where a character is followed around by the camera for a fairly long period of time.
  • Each of the four films Tarantino has directed and the three movies which he wrote the script for but did not direct have had plots revolving around crime and criminals.
  • Cigarette smoking by several main characters is a recurring element of Tarantino's movies, a notable exception being The Bride in the "Kill Bill" series.
  • One of Tarantino's closest friends is fellow director Robert Rodriguez (the pair often refer to each other as brothers). Their biggest collaborations have been From Dusk Till Dawn (written by Tarantino, directed by Rodriguez), Four Rooms (they both wrote and direct segments of the film) and the upcoming Grind House. In Pulp Fiction while Rodriguez is uncredited, he served as director for many of the scenes in which Tarantino was in front of the camera performing. It was Tarantino who suggested that Rodriguez name the final part of his El Mariachi trilogy Once Upon a Time in Mexico. They are both members of A Band Apart (a reference to the Godard film Bande à part), a production company that also features directors John Woo and Luc Besson. Rodriguez scored Kill Bill: Volume 2 for one dollar. In return, Tarantino directed a scene in Rodriguez's 2005 film Sin City for the same fee.
  • Tarantino has been romantically linked with numerous actresses, including Sofia Coppola, the Golden Globe and Academy Award winning writer/director of Lost In Translation, Academy Award winning actress Mira Sorvino, and comedienne Margaret Cho. There have also been rumors about his relationship with Uma Thurman, who he has referred to as his "muse". However, Tarantino has gone on record as saying that their relationship is strictly platonic.
  • He has stated that the character of Clarence in True Romance and My Best Friend's Birthday was somewhat autobiographical.
  • Often casts Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Uma Thurman, Michael Madsen and Samuel L. Jackson.
  • He is dyslexic and a high school dropout.
  • Tarantino directed the fifth season finale to the hit show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The highly rated episode shared a very similar situation from Tarantino's second Kill Bill film: CSI Nick Stokes is captured and buried alive in a Plexiglas coffin while an Internet camera broadcasts the whole thing to CSI headquarters. In Kill Bill, the Bride (Uma Thurman) was also captured and buried alive in a coffin.
  • Owns a rare 35mm copy of Manos: The Hands of Fate; he cites it as one of his favorite films.
  • In the 2002 Sight and Sound Directors' poll, Tarantino voted Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) as the best film of all time.
  • Tarantino was one of the few filmmakers pushing for Chinese action filmmaker John Woo to make an American film. When a studio executive once said "I suppose Woo can direct action scenes." Tarantino replied "Sure, and Michelangelo can paint ceilings!"
  • His father was Italian and his mother was of mixed Irish and Native American descent.

Filmography

Director & screenplay

Screenplay

Actor

Executive producer

Presented By...

In recent years, Tarantino has used his Hollywood power to give foreign films and smaller films wider exposure in the hopes of getting such films more attention that it otherwise would have. These films are usually given the credit "Presented by Quentin Tarantino." 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, thanks to Tarantino. 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 dollars. His next "Quentin Taratino presents" production will be Eli Roth's followup to his 2002 debut Cabin Fever, a horror film titled Hostel.

Quotes

  • "It's an artistic calling. It's a religion. You shouldn't be doing it as just a day job, to pay for your pool or pay for your house in Barbados. You should do it when it's special, when you'd die for the movie, when the movie is your baby."
  • "I steal from every single movie ever made. If people don't like that, then tough tills, don't go and see it, all right? I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don't do homages." Empire (magazine) interview, 1994.

See also

  • QT's Diary, a hoax purporting to be Tarantino's blog.

External links

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