I’ll admit it – I wasn’t always a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films.
Around age twelve I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time, during a lazy summer afternoon that I decided I’d had enough of my Sega Genesis for the next few days. The fact that Pulp Fiction was airing on some random afternoon is, in itself, a testament to how much Tarantino’s movies have become a facet of American pop culture. While watching, half distracted by other things like magazines lying around the living room floor, I instantly felt a notion akin to “What the hell is the point of this movie?” exactly at the moment Uma Thurman is resuscitated from the grip of OD-induced death by a quick jab in the heart from John Travolta.
To my twelve year old self, the premise seemed not only contrite but rather uninteresting and two dimensional. Unfortunately for me, the whole drug culture scene hit too close to home to be shocking or intriguing. Perhaps that was a rare point of view for a young girl in the nineties, but I felt that a movie full of what should have been ‘shocking scenes’ seemed little more than an obtuse attempt at something profane. Was this what Americans found entertaining? People who snort too much coke, get drunk, do stupid things and shoot each other? I was not impressed. After all, just a few weeks ago I myself had entertained a drug dealer from Detroit – an immensely muscular black man who was surprisingly soft spoken – while my mother dug cash out of a dresser drawer to pay him off. We played Sonic the Hedgehog together. I won.
Reality aside, I hardly had the capacity to take the movie for anything other than what it appeared to be on the surface. Unfortunately, because of that early, unfavorable exposure I spent the next ten years saying “I don’t like Tarantino films”. This was a terrible shame because now that I’m mentally and physically free to truly appreciate things without a gigantic, nihilistic chip on my shoulder, I have to play catch-up.
Quentin Tarantino’s films are, for want of a better word, creative. He is one of the very few prominent writers in Hollywood who doesn’t have his screenplays butchered to shit by a team of overenthusiastic interns every time it’s put into production. And it shows beautifully. The excellent thing about his films is you can absolutely tell they’re as close to an original artist’s pure expression as you can get, aside from some seriously esoteric indie works. I appreciate those indie films too, but there’s nothing quite like the support of a solid budget and truly professional crew to smooth out the edges of a finished project.
Recently I saw Django Unchained. Admittedly, this was the very first Tarantino film I had seen in a theater.
There is something to be said of seeing one of these films in a theater. It’s a certain kind of crowd that you’re sitting with in that dark, faintly vomit scented room. They laugh. They gasp. They clap and cheer and whistle. These are people who are actually experiencing the film. It had been a very long time since I had enjoyed a movie so thoroughly – my last recollection of such being one of the infamous midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings I frequently attended in Denver during my early 20s. I felt as though I belonged to a greater cause – we all booed the villains, cheered the hero as he defeated his enemies. And what a rare thing that is, to feel such camaraderie in an age where we do much of our personal social tending with impersonal, virtual text rather than in person communication.
What Tarantino gives us with his films is not only an opportunity to reflect ourselves upon a screen, but to band together against what is fundamentally wrong and in support of what is universally right. His movies consistently share this theme. That is what makes them an experience, and not just another way to pass the time.