Why I decided to watch Tarantino's last film if I despise him as a man and why you should watch it
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
There’s one thing I have never understood in film industry and that’s marketing. I mean I HATE marketing. I HATE people telling me what to do. I like to make my own decisions. So, about a year ago, I was bombarded by stills of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on my mailbox. Oh, no, here he comes again: Tarantino. And it’s his 9th film, which means, in marketing terms, his “almost perfect masterpiece”, because his 10th movie is supposed to be his last one and this will be the perfect masterpiece.
The truth is I only liked Tarantino’s debut movie, Reservoir Dogs (1992). I can watch Reservoir Dogs three times a week and laugh at the same jokes. I can go to a 25th anniversary meeting together with the cast at Tribeca Film Festival and enjoy myself. At that time I recognised a fresh voice that unfortunately kept repeating itself.
No matter what you say I consider Pulp Fiction (1994) a TV comedy sketch. All Kill Bill volumes (2003, 2004) could have been played by a leading man role. What’s the difference between Uma Thurman’s character and Shakespeare’s monologue in Edward III: “Bear with me; I am hungry for revenge, / And now I cloy me with beholding it./ Thy Edward he is dead, that stabb'd my Edward:”? I definitely consider any Spike Lee’s movie much more historically significant than Django Unchained (2012). The Hateful Eight (2015) is basically hateful, The Inglourious Basterds (2009) is full of preconceived ideas against Jews, Nazis and the American Saviours. And Jackie Brown (1997) does nothing to empower a female role. It’s indeed played by a black woman, Pam Grier, but she is a drug dealer.
Nevertheless I popped into my local cinema to maybe waste 2h45minutes of my precious time. I warned the ticket seller that I might curse during Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and she replied that many women left early the previous screening. “Only women?”, I asked. “Yes.” Hummmmm. Not me, I thought. Tarantino started winning my curiosity 1 second before I took a glass of wine. Coffee would have made me feel angrier, I concluded.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a love letter to his father, Tony Tarantino. It’s Quentin’s way to ask his father’s forgiveness. “Sorry about all the bullshit I said about you. I’ve always loved you. Do you want a prove of my love? I am casting Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, a decadent middle-aged actor who is unable to star in a blockbuster. Just like you, dad”. And DiCaprio plays a decent dick, someone who can’t avoid been drunk on the night before his last chance to shine in front of the cameras, but still can listen to a little girl’s piece of advice (Julia Butters).
Brad Pitt plays Dalton’s long time stunt double, Cliff Booth. A hybrid of John Wayne and Robert Redford Sundance Kid. -- By the way, Pitt is ageing as charmingly as Redford. -- And although he still flows out his libido in every single shot, Cliff is capable of repressing his sexual desires when he meets a minor seductive Lolitaesque girl (Margaret Qualley as Pussycat, no comments on the character’s name). This scene is another ask for forgiveness, this time to Tarantino’s #MeToo committed audience. “Sorry, I worked so many times with Harvey Weinstein. I guess we men must learn how to repress our sexual drive for good.”
Also Polanski’s character in the movie (Rafat Zafawierucha) is a reply to #MeToo movement. “I can understand Polanski’s crime. His Rosemary Baby hasn’t ceased to be a masterpiece but look what I do to Polanski. I give him no lines!”
Tarantino doesn’t have a clue what goes on a woman’s mind. So what? I have ceased searching for a female identification in his movies a long time ago. You should do it too. You’ll find it in Claire Denis, Jane Campion, Kelly Reichardt, David Lynch and even François Truffaut. I am not disappointed at Sharon Tate’s depiction in Robbie Margot’s performance. She is a stupid, gorgeous, innocent, self-voyeurism depiction.
The duo DiCaprio/Pitt delivers iconic, sensitive performances. Tarantino masters the masculine world. Their contradictions, their leitmotif, their falls, their success, their greed, their violence.
Violence in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is glamorous, laughable, ridiculous. It is a violence for Oscar’s Award Art Department. Props and make-up artists at their best. And we all know it is fake.
What kept me inside the cinema room was Tarantino’s love for cinema. His references to other movies, his obsession with the right angle, the mimesis in photography. Take a chance on a filmmaker who sees no compassion for women but whose obsession with films is undeniable. Even if you are, as me, a feminist.
PS.: I don’t work for Tarantino’s marketing team.