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You know you are watching a Quentin Tarantino film if…

In our new bi-weekly series called 'You know you are watching...,' we take a look at the moviemaking styles of directors across the world. In the first edition, we dissect Hollywood filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's formula of making a film.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi | Published: August 14, 2019 7:52:38 am
quentin tarantino Quentin Tarantino on the sets of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Every filmmaker has a specific style. And it is a no-brainer that one of the most revered figures of modern cinema, Quentin Tarantino, would have his own set of trademarks to leave on every film he directs. In his short filmography, Tarantino has, over the years, built a reputation as one director who makes sure that an eager cinephile spots his easter eggs one way or the other.

Ahead of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s India release, we look at some of his ‘signature moves.’

1. Violence

Depicting explicit violence in movies comes easily to Tarantino. Be it the gruesome death of Hitler or breaking the leg of Diane Kruger’s Bridget von Hammersmark in Inglorious Basterds, the director leaves no stone unturned when it comes to ‘keeping it real.’ In fact, the aforementioned sequences are not the worst in the list of gory violence the filmmaker has depicted on screen. Remember the final battle between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu’s characters in Kill Bill Volume 1? Stylised violnce combined with punchy one-liners, Tarantino delivers in Tarantino fashion.

2. Music

In nearly every movie, Tarantino’s soundtrack stands its own ground. They are distinctive, reflective of the filmmaker’s personal tastes and they almost always fit well with the sequences. Take for instance Django Unchained. In the bloody battle towards the end of the film, a fusion rap of James Brown’s “The payback” and Tupac’s “Untouchable” hits us unaware but it is timed incredibly well as Django goes on a gun rampage, shooting everyone in sight. A rap in a western? Only in a Tarantino movie.

What music also does in a Tarantino film is break the tension and elevate it at the same time. Another example in case is the fight between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu in Kill Bill Volume 1. Santa Esmeralda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” plays in the background as The Bride and O-Ren Ishii ready themselves for the ultimate showdown.

However, my personal favourite is when Inglorious Basterds’ Shosanna puts on make-up as she dresses herself to the T to set Adolf Hitler on fire. David Bowie’s “Cat People” plays. Bowie sings of gasoline and putting out fire as Melanie Laurent’s character takes charge of the situation.

3. Dialogues

A film can be entertaining as well as dialogue-heavy as Quentin Tarantino has so often proved in the past. Dialogues is yet another Tarantino tool that the director uses to heighten the tension or convey a personality trait of the character. The elaborate exchange between the characters of Tim Roth and Amanda Palmer in Pulp Fiction is a classic example.

4. The signature shots

Tarantino has a few signature shots, one of which is the trunk shot, and another is his ‘ode’ to the human feet. In fact, Tarantino has popularised the trunk shot to the extent that an entire Wikipedia page has been dedicated to his obsession with this specific style of shooting. For the uninitiated, the trunk shot is a shot which is captured from the trunk of a vehicle. Some of Tarantino’s most memorable trunk shots are those from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Volume 1.

tarantino A trunk shot in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

And every Tarantino lover worth his/her salt knows how the director admires a pair of human feet. Not only does Tarantino show that through film, the director underlines his fascination with feet in Pulp Fiction via dialogue as well. Remember that conversation between Jules and Vincent about massaging a pair of female feet?

5. Paying tribute to his own influences via his movies

“I steal from every single movie ever made,” Tarantino had once said in an Empire magazine interview in 1994. And the man is not lying. Be it a certain fight choreography, the cinematography or the name of the movie itself, Tarantino has proved himself to be quite the craftsman when it comes to mixing and matching.

Game of Death and Kill Bill, City on Fire and Reservoir Dogs, Django and Django Unchained, Foxy Brown and Jackie Brown, Lady of Snow Blood and Kill Bill Volume 1. The list of Tarantino borrowing from a former piece of art is endless.

However, it is being said that in his ninth film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino has broken free of all his tried and tested formulas. Well, as long as it is entertaining, I am in.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood releases on August 15 in India.

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