Documentary Review: “QT8: The First Eight Films of Quentin Tarantino”

 

Here’s a career retrospective documentary that began life as “21 Years: Quentin Tarantino,” and was finished a few years ago (2017) — brushed up, repurposed, re-titled and released on the heels of a very successful run of “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”

Footage from the trailer to “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” was added to the coda of a film that considers Quentin Tarantino’s Hollywood films, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “The Hateful Eight.”

It leaves out Tarantino’s first feature-length directing and co-writing credit, 1987’s “My Best Friend’s Birthday.”

“Not canonical?” OK.

So,  he’s nine films into his career — “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown, “Kill Bill Vol. 1.,” “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight” and “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”

That means leaving out “Death Proof” from “Grind House,” which “QT8″ covers,  and his contribution to another anthology,” Four Rooms,” which “QT8” ignores.

And then there were his “True Romance” and “From Dusk Til Dawn” scripts, the story for Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers.”

So purists will have a lot to bicker about before the credits to “QT8” roll on this Fathom Events Oct. 21 release (at a theater near you).

And I’ve burned through hundreds of words just getting past the inaccuracy/problems with the title.

Filmmaker Tara Wood — she also did a “21 Years: Richard Linklater” documentary — doesn’t interview Tarantino for the film. She uses quotations by him and the barest slivers of footage of him, on sets, etc., and lots and lots of interviews with actors who have worked with him, or owe their careers or “comebacks” to their association with “QT.”

So it’s not exactly a critical reconsideration of the filmmaker’s work, a deep dive into his biography to connect it to the work. Nobody’s here to challenge the assertion that he’s “the voice of his generation.”

But no matter. What is here is fun, enlightening and entertaining.

One Tarantino quotation that sticks out — “If you love movies enough, you can make a good one.” You can’t argue that he doesn’t, and even a hater would have to give it to him that he has.

The actors take us through the Tarantino universe, the connections between this guy in “Reservoir Dogs” and that one in “Pulp Fiction,” the possible kinship of bad hombres from “The Hateful Eight” to bad hombres in films set later.

Michael Madsen, who launched his career with “Reservoir Dogs” and still managed to turn down the Travolta role in “Pulp Fiction,” remembers telling the writer-director, “I don’t want to be killed by Tim Roth! Who’s HE?” (“Reservoir Dogs”).

And Roth taunts Madsen back over the actor’s refusal to do his sadistic little Golden Oldies torture dance in “Dogs.”

The film breaks into chapters — “Chapter 2: Badass Women & Genre Play.”

We get a taste of Tarantino’s influences, Kubrick’s “The Killing” and Ringo Lam’s Hong Kong thriller “City on Fire.”

And stars like Robert Forster marvel over Jackie Brown’s long, romantic walk out of prison towards his character in “Jackie Brown” — “They never DO that.” Christoph Waltz talks of how Tarantino “uses filmic vocabulary,” Jennifer Jason Leigh opines that “He writes strong women like nobody’s business” and more than one performer confirms his on-set demeanor, how he speaks in “movie shorthand.”

A good take will earn an “Ok, we GOT that. But we’re gonna do ONE more. Why? Because we LOVE making movies!”

Eli Roth, Lucy Liu and others speak of screenplays “that read like a novel…He’s adapting his own novels to the screen,” of how he writes scripts in longhand “because you can’t compose poetry on a computer.”

Kurt Russell, the great stuntwoman/actress Zoe Bell, and many others speak.

Nobody talks about the QT crutches, how unwatchable his movies can be merely by removing the offensive language (“American Movie Classics” my arse!) and the easy laughs the Samuel L. Jackson profane and un-PC soliloquies provide.

The indulgent longueurs (most emphatically overdone with Brad Pitt in a car in “Once Upon a Time…”), the inane and dated pop culture debates — in every film save for “The Hateful Eight” — the junk TV and Z-movies referenced.

Listen to Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink talk about what he “deems” to be true, and wonder how many low-life thugs you’ve ever heard use words like “deems.”

And Harvey Weinstein hangs over Tarantino and “QT8,” an animated ogre (literally) who was exposed (in Oct. 2017) just as this documentary was being finished, a stain on Tarantino’s legacy that he has acknowledged and been self-critical about.

It’s not the definitive Tarantino documentary in the way works about John Ford, Woody Allen, Hitchcock, Kubrick and others have been. But with Tarantino long threatening to get ten films in the can and make a graceful exit, stage left, it’s good enough to suggest the rough framework of such a retrospective.

Only a smart aleck would point out, “But with ‘My Best Friend’s Birthday’ that makes it ten feature films ALREADY made, without counting the long shorts “Four Rooms” and “Death Proof.”

Because that might deprive us of a Quentin Tarantino “Star Trek” movie.

2half-star6

MPAA Rating: unrated, violence and profanity

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Michael Madsen, Lucy Liu, Tim Roth, Diane Kruger, Jamie FoxxJennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Eli Roth and Zoe Bell.

Credits: Written and directed by Tara Wood. A Wood Entertainment/Fathom Events release.

Running time: 1:40

 

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