Like all great Tarantino features this just wouldn’t be complete without a killer soundtrack and what better way to kick things off than with Dick Dale and the Deltones.
CHAPTER 1: THE BIG KAHUNA
Quentin Tarantino is many things. Conventional is not one of them. If you wanna make it big then take a leaf out of his tattered note book, with sidenotes all over the place and indecipherable scribbles filling the margins.
For Tarantino, Pulp Fiction just wasn’t ready for the world, or rather, the world just wasn’t ready for Pulp Fiction. And so we got our first taste of QT from the delectable Reservoir Dogs and the rest is history. But as we all know Tarantino’s career is far from over and soon we will be treated to the eighth film of his illustrious career. The Hateful Eight is released January 8 2016 (UK) and will no doubt be another stunning entry into QT’s canon of trunk shots, Red Apple cigarettes, and revenge.
But while we wait I figured what better opportunity to present the Big Kahuna, a list for the Tarantino purist, from the not so cool to bloody brilliant.
Afterall, it’s not just a burger, it’s a lifestyle.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
The conclusion to Tarantino’s sprawling 250 minute revenge epic ranks highly in many Tarantino lover circles and understandably so. But while I can see the attraction I’ve never bought into it. The satisfying conclusion and sense of relief felt for The Bride is great but if I’m ever buried alive I won’t miss it.
This could, in part, be to my growing appreciation of the finer works of Tarantino’s corpus (a backhanded compliment if ever I saw one). But in recent years Kill Bill has fallen off the pussy wagon and I’ve never really looked back.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
After Eight films and twenty years in the business Tarantino’s debut feature, Reservoir Dogs, has aged appropriately. Making way for epic ambition and the growth of the ‘realer than real’ Tarantino universe Dogs is a benchmark of personality and experimentation.
Like the diamond heist gone wrong Dogs has gradually emerged as a flawed masterpiece in the QT back catalog. But for Hollywood’s newcomer this was just the start and Reservoir Dogs will never escape the burrowing intrigue of a cinephile as long as it stands as QT’s debut feature.
CHAPTER 2: DOWN IN MEXICALI
Stuntman Mike has got to be the smoothest talking psychopath to get a lapdance off one of his victims before brutally relieving his more manic urges in the history of cinema. Props to QT for filtering out the elaborate criminal ruses and honing his infatuation with B-movie Grindhouse drive-ins into one of his finest pictures.
A far cry from his more recognisable work, heck he’s even criticised it as a mis-fire on his part. But that’s giving way too much credit to the films that have given him the freedom to make whatever he wants. Deathproof was never going to be the cremori segetem we might be forgiven for expecting. It is instead a poetic and saddening film that could repeat itself ad finitum with style and finesse down to the brutal, but deserved, comeuppance.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Unlike our good friend Monsieur Tarantino I do not share the same infatuation with classic kung fu movies. However, nothing spells Tarantino purism quite like his boundless knowledge of genre movies and Kill Bill is just an extension of his visceral vision for cinema. I may not love it like Jackie Brown but in so far as QT purism goes the Kill Bill saga is up there.
A return to the hectic fantasy world of Beatrix Kiddo has been heavily hinted but I don’t know if it will have the lure to drag me back in.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Never before has Tarantino’s gratuitous violence reaped such sadistic smiles from the audience. Never before has the ‘Nazi’ symbolised such caricatured, yet pure evil on screen. We’ve all read the history books, we all know who Hitler and his band of brainwashed goons were but even Oliver Hiershbiegel managed to spin a harrowing humanism when depicting the Nazi Downfall.
Tarantino opts for a more direct approach. In one of the most memorable opening scenes of all time Tarantino sets up one of the greatest revenge stories to grace his canon. Complemented by Brad Pitt’s rambunctious Basterds Mélanie Laurent’s revenge story is of such impeccable taste that Tarantino out does himself with his ironic WW2 vengeful reimagining. Inglourious Basterds indeed.
CHAPTER 3: THE TOP THREE
Django Unchained (2012)
The epic of the bunch rounds out the top three and marks a new direction from Tarantino, soon to be followed by The Hateful Eight. With a blistering soundtrack and stunning performances from Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz Django Unchained breathes a cool breath of fresh air into the starved lungs of the spaghetti western.
A phenomenal revenge adventure that takes the time to nod it’s head to the classics that inspired it. It’s no secret that Tarantino is a fan of the western genre and to the more attuned viewer you might spot the odd reference here and there. Oh what am I saying, this film is full of little nods you might as well start calling it Fritz.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Huh, huh, haaaaa! Miserlou chimes in as you sit mouth agape. How can Pulp Fiction not be #1 on a purist list? Well I’ll answer your question with another question, what’s in the briefcase?
Frankly dear it’s all a matter of opinion and when it comes to purism Jackie Brown steals the show, oh Pam Grier you fox! Having said that Pulp Fiction is and always will be a Timeless Classic. With LA’s bungling criminal community reeking havoc across the city Tarantino rarely pauses for breath much to our delight. Iconic scenes, iconic soundtrack, iconic characters, iconic picture. Not #1 though.
Jackie Brown (1997)
That’s right, not Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and not Pulp Fiction but Miss Jackie Brown sitting at top spot.
In my stand alone review of Jackie Brown I commented that Tarantino threw a curveball at his early 90s hipsters who raved about the pop culture references and eccentric characters of Pulp Fiction and concluded that Jackie Brown is somewhat muted in this sense. However, muted does not necessarily mean absent, merely that these references are far more subtle and unbecoming.
Jackie Brown exudes a confident air of purism from script to soundtrack to scene. Complemented by oustanding performances from the ensemble cast including Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Chris Tucker, Robert Forster, and Michael Keaton Jackie Brown delivers on all fronts and contains my favourite scene of all time. Full of QT tropes and a few nuanced extras including a love story no less, Jackie Brown is and will always be my #1. Never change Jackie.
That does it for the feature films written and directed for the screen by Quentin Tarantino. But what of the screenplays that never saw the master’s touch behind the camera? Well, as a huge fan of True Romance I got to thinking this purist list just wouldn’t be complete without it. In fact, had Tarantino directed True Romance there’s no question it would have made the top 5. It’s that good.
When Butch returned to his Beautiful Tulip Fabienne and declared “Zed’s dead” we knew Tarantino had a unique approach to romance. Considering his more recognised trademarks this has always appealed to me. His written romances are always a little odd ball, never pandering to Hollywood convention and always airing on the surreal.
True Romance couldn’t be more attuned to this trait. When Christian Slater, a lonesome comic book store clerk named Clarence meets hooker Alabama on his birthday tradition the two fall in love instantly. It may sound a little mushy for a QT script but Tony Scott does a sterling job to make this screwball romance as faithful to Tarantino’s vision as he possibly can. The rest of the film is pure magic, eccentric characters, embellished monologues, pop culture references, Gary Oldman as a pimp and Brad Pitt as a stoner, and a mexican standoff to beat all mexican standoffs. Oh Tarantino,