Deconstructing Quentin – I wouldn’t even have come up with the idea of writing this article if I hadn’t turned into such an insomniac of late. I was tossing around in bed, furtively wishing that someone had written a Kamasutra for the best sleeping positions, when it struck me – more like a leather ball in the head than the proverbial lightning bolt. I had ended the night after seeing Tarantino’s Death Proof and my grey cells were flocked by post-midnightly ruminations about this prolific director. Staring at the shadow my little toe cast on the wall against the moonlight, I remembered coming across a statement that QT once made – ‘When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.’’ While most people are known for saying things and forgetting that they said it three seconds later, what impressed me was that Tarantino, in all his movies, seems to have stuck with that.
There is very little of what can be called ‘standard cinema-making’ in the movies of Quentin Tarantino. The plot does not follow a specific structure; often meandering around the ridges of seeming pointlessness. The events are often inconceivable after being stretched to an extent where rationality becomes non-functional. You do not ask ‘Why is this happening?’ You marvel at the fact that it is happening and thus move on with the film. While in linearly scripted films like Reservoir Dogs and Django Unchained, though everything is seemingly straightforward, it remains twisted at a deeper level. For instance, in Django Unchained, an undercurrent that throbs throughout the film is whether all the guilt for slavery ought to be attributed to the white folks when the black people themselves are so willing to be subjugated under white power. Tarantino asks this in a movie that undoubtedly whips the hind-side of this enslavement based on skin colour, but leaves it unanswered, lending more to the film that there superficially seems to be. There is also a high degree of brutishness in his movies .He seems to have a fetish of unloading buckets of red paint in all of his movies. His movies are often characterized by over-the-top, guns-blazing, body-parts-eviscerating action scenes that more often than not appear highly exaggerated. Do they make Tarantino seem like a whippersnapper? Undoubtedly. Does he care? Certainly not.
This outrageously audacious behaviour stems from the fact that Quentin Tarantino still makes movies as if he were a mere aficionado of cinema. The brazen, cocksure quality that his films possess is present because the director still sees himself as a fan, who has now taken up making movies just as his imagination deems movies ought to be. He does not care about insipid film-school necessities like a story culminating in a suitable catharsis or cinema-making that respects realistic boundaries which it is governed by. While a cinema stereotype might be to create characters that bare resemblance to real life people, his characters swerve in and out of the screen like battle-tanks on steroids, all the time indulging in activities that no real person who ever dream of partaking in. The Bride disembowels people without ever fearing the cops, Stuntman Mike lives for mowing other people down and Lt. Aldo Raine has an indelible, and unjustifiable, fetish for descalping Germans. Take Pulp Fiction – the entire movie is controlled by whims and fancies of its characters, which, for rational people, is not a suitable modus operandi. Yet Tarantino, who might seem like a delinquent with a hyperactive hormonal system, chooses this proverbial road not taken to go about his films, because he seems to be aware that this might actually prove to make all the difference.
What sticks out like a dolphin in a sea of sunflowers in every one of Tarantino’s films is his ability to make us like the antagonists. The bad guys in his movies are some of the baddest bad guys you are ever likely to see. They kill people, revel in torture and treat human rights when they pertain to other humans with absolute disdain. But, as it is with guilty sins, you cannot help but look at them with eyes glazed with admiration, almost desperate to fondle them out of adoration.
Okay, I might have stretched it slightly there.
From everyone in Reservoir Dogs, to Stuntman Mike, Col. Hans Landa, Bill and Calvin Candie – Tarantino ensures that through their quirks, idiosyncrasies and sheer evilness, we love them all. Despite being absolutely horrific excuses for human beings, the emotion they evoke in viewers is incredible. Calvin Candie makes Negro slaves fight for him and then feeds them to the dogs when slightly miffed, the various shades of colours commit a robbery and Landa is a man whose abhorrence probably outweighs that of Hitler himself. But they are in perfect control of whatever predicament they find themselves in. This power that Tarantino so generously bestows upon them results in the audience being drawn towards them like moths towards candles. You revere and respect them for this ability they seem to have; for always being a notch above whatever fate chucks at them. They are larger than life; which results in viewers taking inspiration from them. They are fiendish, but for moments you overlook that because of the panache they carry that fiendishness with. The evil they do outlives their mortal existence, but their mortal existence attaches itself to you so intimately, that you are willing to forgive their evils.
Tarantino respects his women, almost as much as Pixar does theirs, though in highly differing ways. Unlike Nolan, who could be termed as a closet-sexist considering the apathy with which he treats women in his movies, Tarantino venerates them and shows them as actually human beings and not as mere glitterati. They are often characterized so strongly that even if you don’t like them, you do end up remembering them, which shows the devotion the man has for the opposite sex. No one remembers what the chick in The Prestige was called. No one cares what happened to the lady in To Russia with Love. And heck, here’s a man who has made four movies based entirely on women. Pick any of Tarantino’s films and you’ll see that it will most certainly have a female who has an essential role to play in the movie. Besides the obvious – Kill Bills, Jackie Brown and Death Proof – even other films of his are either driven or have females in powerful and pivotal position – a role that is usually reserved for men in a secretively patriarchal world. Django’s actions are dictated by his devotion for his Lady Love, Inglorious Basterds has two of the most enigmatic female characters ever and so does Pulp Fiction in the form of Honey Bunny and Mia Wallace. They treat the world with a temerity that borders on disdain. His women might not be the ideal, motherly, loving, caring damsels in distress that you would love for a wife. They are audacious, free-willed and bellicose – which might not make them lovable, but it certainly makes them remarkable.
There’s more to Quentin Tarantino than meets the eye. If you make it through all the mayhem, gore and bloodshed, you realize that there is a depth that is rarely found in movies. It is the kind of depth that cannot be learned by spending hours perusing books on cinema. It comes naturally, once you’ve spent enough hours and dough in the theatre, watching and rewatching everything because that is how much you love movies.