Study Guide

Pulp Fiction Director

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Quentin Tarantino

By now, most movie fans are familiar with Quentin Tarantino, the self-professed high school dropout, obsessive movie geek, and world's most legendary video store employee. Tarantino lived and breathed movies at Video Archives outside of L.A., and could always be counted on to draw from his bottomless movie knowledge to steer customers to the perfect film.

If you've been living under a rock, now's when we tell you that Tarantino is a little controversial. Depending on you who ask, he's either a film auteur genius who puts an original and brilliant personal stamp on everything he does…or a rip-off artist who's never done anything really new, "delving into disreputable genres and trolling through the bottom drawers of schlock" (source).

We'll focus on the genius.

Tarantino got his start in the business with a small film in 1987 that served as the basis for his screenplay for True Romance. But he stormed into movie audiences' consciousness with 1992's Reservoir Dogs, the bloody story of a diamond heist gone seriously wrong. It was a modest box office success, but critics loved it. Hollywood beckoned, but the director had other ideas: he moved to Amsterdam to work on his screenplay for his next film. That film would become Pulp Fiction.

After Pulp Fiction's release and monster success, Tarantino became a household name. The guy went on to direct wildly successful films like Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained, all of which were huge critical and box office smashes. He was the embodiment of cool, and everyone wanted to work with him. It gave him enormous freedom in writing and directing his own projects and pitching in on others when he felt like it.

Good thing, because he's famously obsessive and perfectionistic.

An Actor's Director

Tarantino has acted in a lot of his movies and has some appreciation for the craft. But what sets him apart, according to the actors who work with him, is his unbelievably deep knowledge of films. Frederick Zoller, who worked with Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds, said "He remembers everything; he has the brain of an elephant. He can tell you who was the supporting actor in a 1930s Czechoslovakian B-movie" (source). He'll know what he's looking for based on the zillion movies he's familiar with and use that to help the actors get to that place.

There Will Be Blood

It's Quentin's universe. We're just living in it.

According to The Quentin Tarantino Archives, this universe is "comprised of most of the basic laws of our world, although it is a heightened movie version" (source). And nothing in this universe is more heightened than violence—a hallmark of most of Tarantino's films. He's been criticized for anesthetizing violence, i.e. presenting it in a stylized way so the full impact of the violence is diminished. He's been accused of glamorizing violence and therefore encouraging it.

Tarantino is pretty touchy about this subject. He says he has a lot of problems with real-life violence but none at all with movie violence, and that he's said everything he has to say about it: "The bottom line is I'm not responsible for what some person does after they see a movie. I have one responsibility. My responsibility is to make characters and to be as true to them as I possibly can" (source).

Still, check out the body counts. (Apparently someone had the time to do that.)

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