In my opinion, Quentin Tarantino is the most unique director to come out in the last twenty years. Though many influential movies have come out in that span of time, no other director produced work as iconic or individual as Tarantino. So few movies of the nineties or since then have had the cultural impact of Pulp Fiction. That movie alone has been ripped off so many times and usually not very well. So many directors have copied Tarantino’s use of non-liear time, stylish hoodlums and long winded dialogue it’s impossible to count them all. There is also his consistency. Barring Death Proof, which I don’t really count because it was one half of a project with another director, his filmography is remarkable solid. Besides, Death Proof wasn’t bad, it was just wasn’t as good as his previous work.
Over the past two decades, he has slowly built one of the best bodies of work in movies today. Part of this has to with how he has evolved, eskewing jarring shifts in tone or style for more subtle changes. Each film reveals something else that’s great about his style. He has evolved while sticking comfortably with his stregnths. From Reservoir Dogs to last years Inglourious Basterds, not only are all of his movies great but they’re all great for different for reasons.
Reservoir Dogs and its story of a bank heist gone wrong is visceral, quick-paced, and over before you know it, it’s vicious violence and relatively simple story moving things along at a rapid pace. It’s characters cheeky conversations about Madonna and tipping was also something new. Not to mention the soundtrack, filled with cheesy 70’s pop songs. Its body count is quite high. The final scene contained one of Tarantino’s favorites, the Mexican standoff, which is simply a gunfight where nobody has a very good chance of walking away. Pulp Fiction contained a lot of the same elements but it traded in the first film’s simplicity for a complex, shifting portrait of the Los Angeles underworld. It’s three main stories concering two constantly chatting hitmen first tracking an unknown object stolen from their boss and then cleaning up a messy accident (poor Marvin), one of those hitmen taking a local gangster’s wife out at said gangster’s request while hes out of town, and a boxer on his way out pulling a double-cross, are presented in non-linear form and contain themes of loyalty and redemption beneath it’s seedy and violent surface. Shocking and lurid, the movie set another precedent for crime films in the nineties.
Tarantino has been steadily building since then. Jackie Brown, his next film was a relatively kinder, gentler spin on his previous work. The movie put a larger emphasis on character and interaction, not to mention an even great emphasis on dialogue. The films story of a forty-something flight attendant under the thumb of a gun-runner who, after being arrested smuggling drugs through one of her flights, finally sees a way out, lacked the outlandishness of Pulp Fiction and the bite of Reservoir Dogs. The violence of his first two films is largley absent. There are only four deaths, a huge step from Reservoir Dogs, where every major character except weasly Steve Buscemi, is gunned down.
Next was Tarantino’s long-anticipated homage to kung-fu films, Kill Bill. His story of a former assasin’s revenge on her former mentor and his associates was split into two parts and once again reintroduced everything people love about his movies without rehashing anything. The movie used color, black and white, and even Japanese-style animation to tell its story. Kill Bill was his most action-oriented film, especially the first part. The second part was based more on his gift for dialogue and plot like his previous movies.
Last years Inglourious Basterds took the director into seemingly uncharted territory: the war film. The way its separate plot lines are slowly brought together reminds me of Pulp Fiction. An avenging group of Jewish-American soldiers tearing their way Nazi-Occupied France, the German actress/double agent whos helping them, and a vendetta-minded theatre owner all come together at the premiere of a film by Joesph Goebbells, the Nazi’s minister of propaganda. Unlike Pulp Fiction, the movie takes place in linear fashion. Everything he is famous for is present. The movie builds its suspense around dialougue and slowly mounting tension instead of anything that is actually done by the characters. The movie has lost of great dialogue and of course a lot of deaths.