Quentin Tarantino - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Quentin Jerome Tarantino in Knoxville, Tennessee, 27 March 1963; grew up in Los Angeles. Education: Studied acting. Career: Worked at Video Archives with Roger Avary; did telephone sales for Imperial Entertainment; began writing scripts for Cinetel; formed production company, A Band Apart, with Lawrence Bender; directed "Motherhood" episode of ER television series, 1994. Awards: Palme d'Or, Cannes Film Festival, for Pulp Fiction , 1994; Academy Award, Best Original Screenplay, and Golden Globe Award, Best Screenplay and Best Director, for Pulp Fiction , 1995. Address: A Band Apart Productions, 6525 Sunset Blvd. #G-12, Los Angeles, CA 90028, U.S.A.

Films as Director, Screenwriter, and Actor:


Reservoir Dogs


Pulp Fiction


"Man from Hollywood" episode of Four Rooms


Jackie Brown (uncredited answering machine voice)

Other Films:


Past Midnight (assoc pr)


Natural Born Killers (Stone) (uncredited co-sc); True Romance (Tony Scott) (sc); Eddie Presley (role as hospital orderly)


Killing Zoe (Avary) (sc, exec pr); Sleep with Me (role as Sid); The Coriolis Effect (short) (role as radio disc jockey); Somebody to Love (role as bartender); Destiny Turns on the Radio (role as Johnny Destiny)


Desperado (Rodriguez) (role as pick-up guy)


From Dusk till Dawn (Rodriguez) (sc, co-exec pr, role as Richard Gecko); Girl 6 (role); Curdled (exec pr)


God Said 'Ha!' (exec pr)

Quentin Tarantino (right) with Harvey Keitel on the set of Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino (right) with Harvey Keitel on the set of Reservoir Dogs


From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (exec pr);


From Dusk till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (exec pr)


By TARANTINO: books—

Quentin Tarantino: Interviews , edited by Gerald Peary, Jackson, Mississippi, 1998.

Quentin Tarantino: The Film Geek Files , with Paul Woods, London, 2000.

By TARANTINO: articles—

"A Rare Sorrow," in Sight and Sound (London), February 1993.

"Gangsters in Hollywood," in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), March 1993.

"Steve Buscemi," in Bomb (New York), Winter 1993.

"The Mouth and the Method," in Sight and Sound (London), March 1998.

On TARANTINO: books—

Bernard, Jami, Quentin Tarantino: The Man and His Movies , New York, 1995.

Clarkson, Wensley, Quentin Tarantino: Shooting from the Hip , Woodstock, New York, 1995.

Dawson, Jeff, Quentin Tarantino: The Cinema of Cool, New York, 1995.

On TARANTINO: articles—

Hoberman, J., "Back on the Wild Side," in Premiere (New York), August 1992.

Ciment, M., and H. Niogret, "A chacun sa couleur," in Positif (Paris), September 1992.

Pizzello, S., "From Rags to Reservoir Dogs ," in American Cinematographer (New York), November 1992.

Taubin, A., "The Men's Room," in Sight and Sound (London), December 1992.

Ryan, J., "Quentin Tarantino," in Premiere (New York), January 1993.

Atkinson, M., "Hype Dreams," in Movieline (Escondido, California), March 1993.

Deemer, Charles and Ira Nayman, "The Screenplays of Quentin Tarantino: Pop Go the Weasles," in Creative Screenwriting (Washington, D.C.), Winter 1994.

Boon, Kevin A., "Stoning Tarantino," in Creative Screenwriting (Washington, D.C.), Winter 1994.

Deutsch, Joel, "The Feature Film Four," in DGA Magazine (Los Angeles), April-May 1995.

Corsello, Andrew, "'Hello This Is Quentin - Your #&@ Tape Is Overdue!" in Gentleman's Quarterly , October 1995.

Fornara, Bruno, "Polpa e macinato. Il cinema in un film," in Cineforum (Bergamo), November 1996.

Leitch, Thomas M., "The Hitchcock Moment," in Hitchcock Annual (Gambier), 1997–1998.

* * *

Quentin Tarantino's meteoric rise to fame with the phenomenal critical and popular success of Pulp Fiction , his second feature, is not only the result of his considerable talent but of two forces operating within contemporary Hollywood: first, an economic mini-crisis brought on by the box-office and critical failures of many recent high-budget blockbuster productions ( Waterworld is perhaps the most remarkable example) that has opened the door, as in the past, for young directors who are able to make successful films on small budgets (made for $8 million, Pulp Fiction earned almost $64 million at the box office, not counting video sales and rentals); second, the continuing popularity of neo-noir films, a popularity not limited to its most thriving subgenre, the erotic thriller. If Hollywood's economic hard times have given Tarantino (and others) a chance, it is the director's personal obsessions, so much in tune with what contemporary audiences want to see, that have made him popular.

The widely read and very cineliterate Tarantino has an obvious liking for classic hard-boiled pulp fiction (evidently Jim Thompson and W. R. Burnett in particular) and classic film noir (Huston's Asphalt Jungle probably served as a model for Reservoir Dogs ). But like several of the prominent directors of the Hollywood Renaissance in the middle 1970s (especially Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader), Tarantino also owes a substantial debt to French film noir, especially the work of Jean Pierre Melville and Jean Luc Godard. Godard's modernist refiguration of noir themes and conventions ( Alphaville is the classic example), however, would hardly please the mass audience Tarantino has in mind. The most substantial contribution of nouvelle vague anti-realism in Tarantino's films can be seen in their creative use of achronicities, disorderings in the storytelling process that make the narratives intriguing puzzles even as they uncover interesting ironies for the spectator, who must take an active role in the deciphering of the plot. The anti-Aristotelianism of this procedure, its disruption of emotional identification with the characters' plight, allows Tarantino to concentrate on thematic elements, especially the role violence plays in American culture.

Like the gang in Asphalt Jungle , the crooks in Reservoir Dogs assembled to pull a heist (itself never represented) are shown participating in what is simply a "left-handed form of endeavor." If Huston endeavors to demonstrate that criminals too have an ordinary life (households to run, relationships to pursue, bills to pay), Tarantino, in contrast, is more interested in moral dilemmas and conflict, especially as these are brought to life by situations of extraordinary danger and threat. In fact, the central conflicts of Reservoir Dogs carry a substantial moral charge and significance, even if, in the end, as the allknowing spectator alone recognizes, the characters are destroyed no matter if they are sociopaths with a yen for torture or men of good will who stand by their friends even at the cost of their own lives. And yet Tarantino obviously sympathizes with those who despise mauvaise foi and make the difficult choices that confront them. A Sartrean and Camusian moralism pervades this film.

Much the same can be said of the similar characters in Pulp Fiction , whose existential plights and difficult choices are here examined from a serio-comic perspective. A torpedo working for a drug dealer is given the assignment of looking after the boss's flirtatious wife. He tries to resist her various come-ons, only to be faced with a sudden, more demanding test: she overdoses on heroin, goes into a near-fatal coma from which he can arouse her only by jabbing a harpoon-sized needle into her heart. Amazingly, she recovers, and Tarantino finishes this sequence with a comic leave-taking scene that ends their "date". Once again, in Pulp Fiction difficult moral questions are raised. A boxer in the same drug dealer's pay refuses out of personal integrity to throw a fight as ordered. Fleeing town, he meets his boss by accident on a city street. Their confrontation, however, opens unexpectedly onto another moral plane. Both men wind up the prisoners of local sadists, who plan to sodomize, torture, and kill them. The boxer escapes, and, feeling the pang of conscience, goes back to free his erstwhile boss, who forgives the man's earlier betrayal before exacting a terrible vengeance on his torturers, one of whom is a policeman.

With their philosophical dimensions, unremitting representations of venality and depravity among the criminal under and over class, art cinema narrational complexities, and black humor, Tarantino's first two films are strikingly original contributions to an American cinema struggling to rebound from the artistic doldrums of the 1980s. As a screenwriter, he has been no less successful. Written for former video shop co-worker Roger Avary, Killing Zoe offers a romantic twist on the themes examined in Tarantino's own directorial efforts. In this case, a somewhat naive and easily swayed young criminal must make a moral stand against his lifelong friend to save the life of a prostitute he has come to care for; the gesture is reciprocated, and the two rescue themselves from a nightmarish world of self-destructive violence and addiction. Similarly, True Romance and Natural Born Killers offer outlaw couples on the run whose loyalty to each other is rewarded in the end by their escape from a corrupt and disfiguring America that attempts to destroy them.

Tarantino's third film as a director, Jackie Brown , proved less successful with audiences, though it shares much in common with his earlier work. Though at times almost sedate, Jackie Brown also offers a nuanced meditation on the Los Angeles criminal underworld. Adapting an Elmore Leonard novel replete with a complex plot of double and triple crosses, Tarantino here focuses on the attempts of an impoverished black woman, a petty criminal and part-time stewardess, to heist the laundered money of a psychopathic underworld kingpin. Much in the Leonard vein, the film is very detailed in its mise-en-scène , which is carefully calculated to reveal both the seediness of urban L.A. and the cultural wasteland of the outlying suburbs; the film is also devoted to the depiction of character rather than the relentless advancement of the plot. This accounts for its more than two-and-a-half hours of running time. Like Reservoir Dogs , Jackie Brown is also a complicated cinematic homage. Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton appear in cameo roles that gently parody their screen personas. Pam Grier as the title character reprises the role of the independent woman who turns on her oppressors that she successfully portrayed in many 1970s blaxploitation films. Less philosophically oriented and characterized by a more subdued cinematic style, Jackie Brown nevertheless shows Tarantino working interestingly and creatively within his chosen generic limitations.

—R. Barton Palmer

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