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Tarantino: influenced or influential?

How does one best sum up the films of Quentin Tarantino? Do you assess their individual worth? Do you take a grander overview of his tightly interconnected universe of shared characters and history? Do you look at his massive influence over cinema over the last two decades or do you take a peek at the films he took influence from? The answer is, of course, all of the above and more but we only have 500 words.
Quentin TarantinoInstead we shall focus on the problem that many viewers seem to have with Mr Tarantino. His first big hit was Reservoir Dogs, praised at the time for its originality. The images it created, including Mexican stand-offs and slow-motion walking gangsters are some of the most iconic to be found in all of cinema.

However, many, if not all of these famous moments are lifted directly from several different films; the most obvious ‘homages’ being to Ringo Lam’s City Of Fire and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. Tarantino fan-boys ogling over the mysterious glowing suit-case in Pulp Fiction may want to take a look at Kiss Me Deadly at some point for the first version of that particular visual gag.

The list doesn’t end there as Tarantino’s fascination with homage is also prevalent in one of the finest scenes he has ever penned, the apartment sequence, again, in Pulp Fiction. Samuel L Jackson executes two young men in their apartment but before he does, he recites a now famous Bible passage that is ironically entirely made-up.

It stands as a sterling bit of dialogue from Tarantino that caps a spectacularly funny and tense scene. However, the entire Bible passage in question was in fact lifted, word for word from The Bodyguard. No, not the 90s Kevin Costner film, the entirely more forgettable 1973 Sonny Chiba vehicle.

The reason no one spotted it? No one’s really seen the original film, it took Tarantino himself to point it out! Just how many strange and obscure films did he watch while working in a video rental shop? Clearly enough to inspire his more recent works like Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained.

In the end though, one of most obvious questions still remain: Does any of it truly matter? At the end of the cinematic day, we only really watch Tarantino for his dialogue and character, something every film of his has in abundance.

The images are nice but they’re merely window-dressing. That pseudo Bible passage? It only works because of the scene before it. Cinema has always been a medium that hybridises and lifts its best work from other pieces. Yojimbo was remade as the Western classic A Fistful of Dollars and from The Seven Samurai, we were treated to The Magnificent Seven.

We live in a world of remakes and reboots, so if nothing is truly original, let’s at least enjoy the works of Tarantino as a director who brings a true sense of style to the table.


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July 2021
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