If you were to ask anybody my age how they connected with their fathers when they were just becoming children, a hearty number of them would most likely point to sports.
And notwithstanding my fathers attempt to siphon golf into me, the movies and music shown to me by him continue to stuff my brain with inspiration and love, among other things.
Among the, at the time, unparsable web of cinematic daredevils ranging from Stanley Kubrick to Paul Thomas Anderson, one name consistently spoken by my father was Quentin Tarantino. Even seven- year-old me could comprehend, even if only loosely, Tarantino’s cinematic tenure.
Once I convinced my father to let me experience even the most vulgar bends of his discography, Tarantino’s movies chiseled their own nook in my brain. My idea of the functioning film industry and my perception of its success was now contingent on his every whim. I was hooked.
Tarantino’s latest outing, titled Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood was released on July 26, triumphantly. I have seen it in theaters twice.
On the basis of openings, Tarantino places the setting of the film on a pedestal from the moment the company cards end. A small snippet from early 60s television softly nudges the fourth wall as it introduces both Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as stars of ‘Bounty Law’.
The parallels drawn between DiCaprio and Pitt and Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham begin here, though are a spry motif as the film progresses. It is here, the first of three time shifts, that the meat of the movie is contextualized, and it is done so masterfully.
The film’s subsequent foyer into Los Angeles in early 1969 kicks off the closest thing I’ve seen to a ‘setting-study’ perhaps in my entire cinematic viewership.
Atop this sanguine backsplash lays a tale hashing topics as ubiquitous as the loss of the fastball and as esoteric as a blind man watching TV, party habits of Tate and Polanski and the Manson Murders. Most filmmakers approach cinema like one would approach a kitchen. Tarantino treats this movie like a sandbox.
The characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are colored as dual and reminiscent of yin as well as yang, especially following the pairs meeting with big time cigar aficionado and agent Marvin Shwartz, played by Al Pacino. It is here that Dalton’s nearly catatonic insecurity and Booth’s brawn are revealed to the audience.
Booth’s drive back to his shack following the pairs discovery of their advantageous proximity to the Polanski residence is painted on the screen with Tarantino brand bravado.
Dozens of perfectly maintained vintage cars populate tracking shots along the neon Los Angeles night, and floodlights recreate the ancient Interstate 405.
The line between nuanced and self indulgent has become a tightrope, and Tarantino usually walks it like a champ.
The language of the movie, especially in reference to the omniscience of the camera, shapes the movie into a mural. Unlike the media rez of Pulp Fiction, “Once Upon a Time” operates on a linear timeline, while still throwing the films guiding perspective around the ensemble cast like a hot potato.
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