Once Upon a Time … in Tarantinoland

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Photo Credit: Channing Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Film fans flocked to theaters to witness famed director Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” on July 26. The nostalgic piece fixates on recreating 1969 Hollywood, and was the ninth highest grossing film of the summer.

With only a few films in his repertoire, Tarantino has become one of the most talked-about directors of modern times, garnering a massive cult following over the years. Although Tarantino is revered by many critics and moviegoers, it is difficult for those who study and critique him to pinpoint the reason for his success.

Tarantino is frequently recognized as a master of his craft. Rotten Tomatoes critics agree his screenplays are “witty,” with “pitch-black humor,”  his characters are charming, and his cinematography is “stylish”  and edgy. But the gratuitous violence of his films isn’t for everyone.

Radio-television-film professor Kathryn Fuller said she is not a fan of Tarantino’s films. Fuller researches audience reception, American film and RTF history.

“I think that, for some, his movies are like an amusement park ride,” Fuller said. “It’s those same people who like going to haunted houses, who love shocking horror — there is a physical, visceral thrill you get from viewing things like that.”

Thrilling, bloody action is one way Tarantino developed such a huge following, but fans also worship the man himself. His bold, unabashed manner has acquired widespread attention, both positive and negative, which doesn’t seem to bother the director.

He has an “affected bad boy persona,” said Noah Isenberg, chair of the radio-television-film department. “(He) lavishes upon an image that he’s cultivated.”

As a polarizing figure, fans relish in both the director’s shamelessness and his artistic genius.

“Tarantino is a perfect amalgam of cinematic knowledge and talent,” said Ariel Fisher, a film critic at the Toronto International Film Festival. “(But) he’s not a god among men. It’s bulls--- to think that no one will ever be as good as him.” Although ultimately a subjective experience, Fuller said men are generally more attracted to Tarantino’s films given his trademark violence.

“There’s women who might appreciate these kinds of things, and great for them,” Fuller said. “My guess is that they are also able to distance themselves from the violence and gore.”

Despite his global following of moviegoers, cinephiles and film critics, Tarantino is still in many ways an “indie” filmmaker. Not in the low-budget, lesser-known sense, but in the sense that his audiences feel like they are seeing something different.

“They feel a part of that subculture, but done so with wide commercial appeal,” Isenberg said. “There is an explicit hipness to his films, and you can claim your hipness by
liking Tarantino.”

While most of Tarantino’s work is controversial, perhaps his most widely praised film to date is “Pulp Fiction”(1994), an outrageously violent, time-twisting, dialogue-driven story full of
pop culture references.

“Yes, ‘Pulp Fiction’ is as good as everyone says it is,” Fisher said. “(It is) one of the greatest films of all time, top 100 at least.”

Fan or not, Tarantino’s powerful influence on the film industry must be acknowledged, Isenberg said.

“He’s always going to be a force to be reckoned with in the current film scene,” Isenberg said.