Quentin Tarantino was
born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1963.
His mother, 16, named him after the figure Quint, played by Burt Reynolds,
from the television series Gunsmoke. According to other sources, he
was named after the girl
Quentin from William Faulkner's novel The Sound and the Fury. Tarantino
grew up in South Bay at the southern end of the city of Los
Angeles. He watched a lot of television, liked going to the cinema and
read many comics. He was a hyperactive and highly intelligent kid with
several (step)father's and legal guardians. After the early divorce of his
parents, Quentin had no more contact with his father Tony. Despite this
fact, he later adopted his family name: Tarantino. Quentin had
difficulties with reading and writing (in German: Legastheniker).
He hated school and quite it after the tenth grade in order to work in a
porn cinema, the Pussycat Theatre in
Torrance, where he checked tickets at the entrance. At the same period, he
began to take acting lessons. Tarantino spent five years as a video clerk in
a shop called Video Archives in the Californian Manhattan Beach before he
had become a script writer and widely acclaimed director with cult status.
He even spent a (short) time in prison because he could not pay a parking
Peter Körte points out to the
fact that Quentin Tarantino has introduced some fictitious elements into
his biography. He attributed himself a guest appearance in George Romero's Knightriders (1980)
and in Jean-Luc
Godards King Lear (1987. On the other hand, he neglects to mention
his appearance as Elvis impersonator in the television series Golden Girls.
As somebody once said: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend...
From 1984 to 1986, Tarantino
worked on the film My Best Friend's Birthday, which remained
unfinished. But already his first released film, Reservoir Dogs
(1992), on which he worked as screen writer, director and actor, made him
a cult star. Shortly before, on a one month workshop at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute
Utah, he had learned the basics of the director's and cameraman's work.
Without having attended a film school, he shot Reservoir Dogs,
which opened him all doors. Produced with a $1.5 million budget, it made
only $3 million at American cinemas, but was still profitable. It was only
after the success of Pulp
Fiction that video cassette sales sharply increased and his debut
movie started to make a lot of money worldwide. In England, the video of Reservoir Dogs
had been on the index for almost two and a half years for excessive
Quentin Tarantino wrote
several screen scripts. Between 1987 and 1989 he wrote for True Romance
(1993) by director Tony Scott. Tarantino criticized the happy end Scott
added later. Quentin was also the author of the script of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994),
but later he openly distanced himself from the movie. The screenplay of Natural Born Killers
was based on The Open Road by Roger Avary, one of Tarantino's
colleagues at Video Archives.
Together with Lawrence Bender,
born in 1958, Tarantino founded the production company A
Band Apart in the early 1990s. In 1997, the two also established a
record company, A Band
Apart Records, in order to release the - mostly sensational - soundtracks
of Tarantino's film's. Madonna's Maverick
Records is in charge of distribution.
In 1994, Tarantino shot his second movie, Pulp
Fiction, which won him a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.
Made with a budget of $8 million, it brought Miramax a profit of $100
million. The film largely lives from the unforseeable nature of its
ingenious story. Both the plot and the music are fresh and unusual and for
itself an object of cult. Even the book behind the movie became a top ten
bestseller in England where more than 165,000 copies were sold. The
construction of Pulp Fiction follows the maxim "answers first, questions later".
Tarantino catches and maintains the viewers interest by his surprise
attacks. In a second viewing, the film is less sensational and the
imperfections become evident. Still, for a second film, the result is
Tarantino has created a movie
based on a series of film quotations rooted in the world of killers,
dealers, crooks and boxers. Tarantino confidently commented the fact by
saying that great artist's steal, do not make an homage, which itself is
based on a remark by somebody else and is itself, therefore, a transformed
quotation. But Tarantino does not simply copy scenes from previous films,
he makes them into ironic quotations which create a certain tension. A
critic wrote that Pulp
Fiction belongs to the category of geek movies. Back in the days of
Vaudeville, the geek was the lowest job in show business. It was the guy
who bit off the chicken's head for a place to sleep and a bottle of booze. John Travolta
responded rightly to critics that his disco film Saturday Night Fever
was pop culture, whereas Pulp Fiction
is a reflection on pop culture. Herein lies a big difference.
Tarantino was inspired by Hollywood's B-pictures, by the French Nouvelle-Vague
and the action cinema from Hong Kong, especially films by John Woo and his
fetish star Chow Yun-Fat,. Quentin has used all these styles and put them
evenly together. A lot of the characters in Pulp Fiction come from
the American hard boiled literature of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson,
and others, e.g. the killer, the gangster boss, the femme fatale, the
boxer and the men for special tasks. For these different roles, Tarantino
uses a lot of stars from the respective genres. In this way, he creates a
comic, but one that does not make stars like John Travolta, Bruce Willis
or Harvey Keitel look ridiculous.
The story is about two killers,
Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta),
their boss Masellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), and the boss' wife Mia (Uma
Thurman). Other characters are the boxer Butch (Bruce Willis) and his
French girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Madeiros). Other stories are built
into the main one, such as the one about a golden watch, which captain Koons
(Christopher Walken) tells a small boy, or the one about a specialist for
special tasks, Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), who has to give the two
killers indications on how to clean the unnecessarily blood stained car. In a small part, one can see actor Dick Miller as Monster Joe. Miller
has been part of more than 130 cheap horror, western, motorbike, high
school and beach party movies by producer
Samuel Z. Arkoff. His appearance is Tarantino's tribute to B-Movies.
After Pulp Fiction, Tarantino did not
only make hit movies. He tried too much to use his popularity and
experienced some setbacks: Four Rooms and Destiny
Turns On The Radio were a career backlash after too much Pulp Fiction
For From Dusk Till Dawn, the
young American director Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Desperado)
teamed up with Quentin Tarantino, who not only wrote the screen script,
but who also plays one of the main characters. The result is an original
mix of a gangster, action and a horror movie. The film is great fun, but
superficial. But From Dusk Till Dawn is not as "stupid" as it seems.
It is clever to see how
the action movie changes from one moment to another into a vampire film. Also in other moments, Tarantino
has the spectator expecting one
thing - and then he does something else. He repeatedly disappoints
expectations and ironizes Hollywood genres such as action, family, police
and vampire movies. All that is impertinent, surprising and new.
Quentin Tarantino plays Richard Gecko, a psychopathic gangster who,
together with his brother Seth (George Clooney), leaves a bloody trace
behind him trough the state of Texas. Richard frees Seth from prison. They
rob a bank and on their flight, they live an orgy of destruction. Richard
is uncontrollable. He just wants to get a road map in a shop and ends up
killing two people. Afterwards, the two brothers kidnap the former Baptist
Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and his family. After his wife's death, he had given
up his office and seems to have lost his faith. He travels from one place
to another, together with his two children (Juliette Lewis und Ernest Lui). Richard
promises Jacob to release him and his kids, once he has smuggled the two
gangers to Mexico. There, they all end up at the Titty
Twister, a strip bar for horny boozing companions, mostly truckers.
Richard only intends to meet a Mexican gangster with whom he wants to make
a deal, but the Titty Twister, after an erotic snake dance performed by Salma Hayek,
turns out to be a place of terror. Vampires with the unpleasant habit to
suck their guest's blood run the place. But the Gecko brother's and their
hostages are not in a mood to surrender without fighting. Seth's argumentation
for the proof of the existence of God is logical: Since they can see that
there is hell, God must exist too. This should convince Jacob, because
only a devout priest is a substantial help in the fight against the
vampires. The Titty Twister is open from dusk till dawn, hence the
film's title. In the final scene, one can see the backside of the place of
horror: the strip bar is built on a slope, on the top of an Aztec temple.
The abyss is filled with decaying trucks and motorcycles.
is based on Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch. Pam Grier, born
North Carolina in 1949, was a star of the blaxploitation movies of
the 1970s, among them Foxy Brown (1974). She plays the lead
role. Rum Punch is about a white woman. Tarantino chose an African-American, but this has no great effect on the movie.
Brown is a woman who, until now, has had no control over her life.
She has lived a shabby existence as a stewardess for a second-rate
airline (she had to give up a job in a good one after she had a run
in with the law). Now, she has decided to break out. Samuel L. Jackson,
born in Washington, D.C. in 1948, plays the black arms dealer Ordell
who has only one more objective in his career: secretly bring back
to the United States the $500,000 he has made in Mexico and then settle down afterwards
(little does he - or Tarantino - realize that half a million would not be
Therefore, Ordell needs the help of
his former cellmate, Louis Gara (Robert De Niro). Beaumont (Chris Tucker), who should have helped him
before, went into trouble and risks to go to jail for quite a while.
Ordell knows Beaumont could never keep quiet and would talk to the
cops in order to get out of the prison. Ordell has no choice, he has
to liquidate Beaumont in order to protect his hidden money. Ordell
tells Louis about the situation in order to make clear who is the
boss. He also explains to Louis why he chose him as partner: because
you are "as serious as a heart
The movie Jackie Brown
contains two "love stories". One is between Louis and Ordells
little white girlfriend Melanie (Bridget Fonda), as far as "love" is something Melanie can
experience. Louis had last seen Melanie some six or seven years ago,
when she was a teenager. Melanie knows what Louis needs after
years spent in prison. She offers him a "quickie" - and he
The police officer Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton), together with a
partner, wants to get Ordell. Therefore, he needs the help of the
stewardess Jackie Brown. The woman in her mid-40s makes him believe
that she accepts his offer to help him - otherwise she risks to be
sentenced to jail. At the same time, Jackie also pretends to be on
Ordell's side. Nicolette, an average cop, thinks he is a clever guy
and has everything under control. But he overestimates himself.
The "pearl" of the film, as Tarantino
rightly remarks, is the second love story, the one between Jackie
Brown and Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a bail dealer who had already
gotten Beaumont out of jail and who, again on Ordell's behalf, has
to get Jackie Brown out now. For him, it is love at first sight.
These two characters are real, a man and a woman of flesh and blood,
no stereotypes as most of the other characters who fill Tarantino's
films. Robert Forster, who had started his career a long time ago in
a theatre in Rochester, N.Y., has rightly been nominated for an
Oscar for his performance.
Tarantino chose Robert De Niro for
the small but important part of Louis because he needed an actor
who, only through his body language - since Louis is a man of few
words - could express a lot. De Niro perfectly fits into his role as
a dim loser, one of his best performances in recent years.
As in his earlier films, Jackie Brown
contains quotations of other films, but not whole scenes. Tarantino
also plays with quotations of himself. The dress Jackie Brown buys
at the mall at the moment of the money exchange is the same Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman)
wore in Pulp
Fiction. As Jackie Brown enters the prison, the song Long Time Woman
can be heard, which Pam Grier once performed in the film The
Big Doll House. In contrast to Tarantino's previous films, the
soundtrack of Jackie Brown is not outstanding, with the
exception of Bobby Womack's soul song Across 110th
Street, which can be heard in the long opening as well as in the
closing scene of the film. The music by the Delfonics, which Jackie Brown
loves and, therefore, interests Max Cherry so much, is trash, but
fits well into Jackie's and Max's characters.
In Jackie Brown, Tarantino has
again made a series of "goofs". A series
of them is explained on the DVDs extra features (not all of them are
real goofs, such as the remark on the walls between the changing rooms
in the mall is mistaken - no goof): the film takes place in the year
1995, but the calendar in Jackie's kitchen is from 1997. Despite the
goofs, Jackie Brown is Tarantino's most mature work until
today. Real people with authentic feelings play a key role. Last but
not least, a lot of films are ruined with the last scene. Not so
with Jackie Brown. This movie is a masterpiece - better than
the generally more highly regarded Pulp Fiction.
Some films by and/or with Quentin
- My Best Friend's Wedding (unfinished, 1984-86)
- Reservoir Dogs (1992)
- True Romance (screenplay, 1993)
- Natural Born Killers (screenplay, 1994)
- Pulp Fiction (1994)
- Four Rooms (episode: The Thrill of the Bet, 1995)
- From Dusk Till Dawn (screenplay, actor, 1995)
- Jackie Brown (1997)