With anticipation for his new movie The Hateful Eight (due in cinemas in January) reaching fever pitch, BFI Southbank presents audiences with the perfect opportunity to revisit the work of Quentin Tarantino on the big screen, with a dedicated season to coincide with the release. Exploding onto the scene as a fully-formed auteur with his 1992 directorial debut Reservoir Dogs, over the years Tarantino has established a distinctive style of storytelling characterised by lurid but irresistible characters, ultra-violence and a memorable use of pop music, all wrapped up in post-modernist black humour. The season will include all the features directed by Tarantino up to 2012’s Oscar-winning Django Unchained.
Having grown up as a movie and comic-book-obsessed kid, the future director took a job at the Video Archives in Manhattan Beach where he voraciously consumed all kinds of cinema. His love for Hollywood genres and popular culture matured into a fascination that fuelled his career.
1992’s Reservoir Dogs announced his arrival in an unforgettable blur of gangsters, blood, guns, sharp suits and sharper dialogue all set to a now-iconic soundtrack, it is hailed as one of the most important independent films of all time. He followed it up with 1994’s Pulp Fiction, in which three stories intertwine in a circular narrative structure that channels a B-movie universe of hitmen, mobsters, fighters and femmes fatales.
There will be a rare chance to see Four Rooms (1995), an anthology movie starring Tim Roth, which Tarantino contributed to alongside Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell and Robert Rodriguez. Adapted from Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, Jackie Brown (1997) had a markedly different tone. Pam Grier and Robert Forster give excellent performances in an homage to 70s Blaxploitation films such Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), both of which also starred Pam Grier.
Aficionados had to wait six years for his next feature, but their patience was rewarded when the two-part epic Kill Bill was released. This homage to martial arts movies and spaghetti westerns, starred Uma Thurman as The Bride – a former assassin who emerges from a coma to wreak revenge on those who tried to murder her on her wedding day. With a stellar supporting cast including David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and Lucy Liu, Kill Bill marked a return to the ironic, stylised exuberance that characterised Tarantino’s first two features.
With the Grindhouse double-bill he teamed up with fellow director Robert Rodriguez to pay tribute to the exploitation movies of the 70s; these films revelled in excessive violence, nudity and absurd characters and plots, and offered audiences an alternative to restrained studio films. Tarantino’s contribution, Death Proof (2007) stars Kurt Russell as deranged psychopath Stuntman Mike.
Completing the season are Inglourious Basterds (2009), the war movie that reinvents history, starring an ensemble cast including Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent and Michael Fassbender, and Django Unchained (2012) in which Christoph Waltz returns to buy the freedom of Django (Jamie Foxx), and then join him in a quest to free his wife. It is a season which serves to demonstrate that, like Jean-Luc Godard, the auteur who influenced him, Tarantino plays with cinema conventions, breaks rules with an anarchic energy and makes game-changing films.
Quentin Tarantino, 1-31 January, BFI Southbank, London.
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