Wednesday evening, two days after celebrating his 60th birthday in London, the director of “Pulp Fiction” stopped at the Grand Rex cinema in Paris for a “master class” around his new book, “Cinéma Speculations”, devoted to cinema 70s. We tell you.
He arrives on stage like a rock star, waves with his hand and remains standing for a long time before going to sit down, welcoming with a smile the standing ovation of the crowd of spectators which includes this evening (Wednesday March 29, 2023) young groupies unleashed. Like a rocker on tour playing songs from his latest album, American director Quentin Tarantino came to defend his second book, Cinema Speculation, just released (March 22) by Flammarion. In this book, the cult filmmaker, known for his cinephilia and his immense erudition, mixes autobiographical details, anecdotes, analyzes and reviews of films from the 70s, his favorite period.
He will shoot his next film this fall
At the entrance to the Grand Rex, you first had to silence your mobile phone and lock it in a locked pocket. However, the filmmaker is not about to make startling revelations. The only real confidence, released at the very end of this “master class” is in a few words: his next film, the tenth (and perhaps the last since he always said he would stop after ten films, both Kill Bill counting as one) will be called The Movie Critic, he has finished writing the screenplay and filming should begin this fall. The action will take place in 1977 and it is not a biopic about the American film critic journalist he reveres, Pauline Kael (1919-2001), contrary to what some sites “came out of their ass“. Yes, he speaks like that Quentin, he swears a lot, with a certain gluttony, and he uses a familiar tone, including in his book (admirably translated by Nicolas Richard), which gives salt, humor and biting about him – he is obviously aware of it.
But let’s resume. If the director of pulp Fiction banned smartphones from the room, it’s not for fear of deflowering his remarks (everything is in his book). But to force the public to listen to him attentively, as he would have done in the 70s, without compulsively consulting his phone, an attitude that has the gift of exasperating him. “Today, if I talk about an actor or a film, people immediately pull out their cell phones.he laments. But they better listen to me!“. Thunderous applause in the room.
“I wanted to write something both funny and compelling”
It is Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Cannes festival and director of the Lumière Institute in Lyon, who stands in the chair opposite him to lead this “conversation”. He took care to warm up the room before the director’s arrival, pointing out that Quentin had celebrated his 60th birthday two days earlier in London where he had been “very well received“, inviting us not to be outdone. The dialogue begins with the writing of Cinema Speculation.
“I always wanted to write a book about cinema, but I didn’t know what form it would take. I just wanted them to be New Hollywood movies, released between 1967 and 1981“, recalls Tarantino“The goal was to write something both funny and compelling. I started writing the first chapter which explains how my cinephilia started at a young age, it is the statement of purpose of the book. Then I said to myself that they had to be films that I had seen when they came out. This is what made it a book rather than a collection of essays.
” And Quentin to sting some journalists critical of his book who, if they have seen the films he is talking about – in particularDelivery , Bullitt, Trap, Taxi Driver Or Escape from Alcatraz– “didn’t see them when they came out, in the context“, which he says makes all the difference. How did he choose the films he was going to talk about? They imposed themselves because he had “something to say“. Which is not the case for all. ” I adore Apocalypse Nowbut i have nothing interesting to say
“, he remarks.
Exposed at a very young age to cinematic violenceThanks to his mother and his stepfather, both moviegoers, who regularly took him to the cinema, little Quentin often found himself, to his great pride, the only child in the room. “Jloved cinema more than any other activity, more than music, more than sport .(…)I gathered a lot of information, I went to the library to take notes on the films. I did this all my childhood. I sucked in school but I was unbeatable in movies and acting. “He was exposed in doing so early, from the age of 7, to adult films and hyper-violent scenes that his peers would not be allowed to see until much later. (The only film he did not could bear the violence wasBabythis film which “screw up the kids
“, he reveals in his book).He who has often been accused of gratuitous violence in his films, remembers one day asking his mother why she allowed him to watch feature films that his classmates could not see. ” I worry more when you watch the news, she replied.A movie can’t hurt you.“One day, however, she refused to take him to see a film, and he never forgot her arguments:” It’s a very violent movie. she told him.This is not a problem for me in itself. But you wouldn’t understand the story. And since you wouldn’t understand the context, you would just watch violence for violence’s sake. And that I don’t want.
Crazy laughter around New Hollywood ticsThe most exciting moments in the conversation revolve around New Hollywood, which he traces back to 1967. According to him, Old Hollywood” became dated overnight”. MASH,Five Easy Pieces and Love Storyreleased in 1970, “are films that could not have been made before“, he insists. “But the question was: can it last?“Movies had become”provocative” And “in 1970, spectators began to be afraid because they never knew what they were going to find when buying a ticket
“.THE “happy endings“(happy endings) being the norm in Hollywood forever, the New Hollywood takes the absolute opposite:”the endings are ironic, even cataclysmic“, he notes. “ One of the clichés of movies from the early 70s is that the heroes die for nothing at the end, like Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in
Easy Rider.” He then makes the whole room howl with laughter by launching with his irresistible flow of machine gun in a series of examples of unexpected tragic outcomes occurring just before the end credits, in the films of this period.
On the influence of “Rocky” in the return of “happy endings”“In the 70s, movies were about guys who had problems“, he then expounds.” Then came Rocky,a guy with problems that we used to fall in love with“. It seemed impossible that the boxer character played by Sylvester Stallone could win against the champion of the ring that he had to face. So “when he gets the upper hand in the fight, it was like an orgasm for viewers who hadn’t seen a happy ending in a long time
“, he analyzes. And this is how the “happy endings” have made their comeback, according to him.Tarantino is also fascinating when he looks at the so-called Movie Brats (Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg etc), these directors of New Hollywood, “first generation to come out of film schools“, made up of young cinephiles whose goal was to make stimulating and popular films. In his eyes, Brian De Palma (with John Cassavetes) is the godfather (no pun intended) of this small group of “sexy motherfuckers
” with whom he says he grew up.
His love for Brian De Palma and 35mm“Brian de Palma was my favorite. He made the most controversial films, he was challenged for his violence and for his bloody side, in addition to being accused of plundering Hitchcock. So obviously, he was my guy, and I was going to argue with everyone to defend him. “And to share the memory of his first meeting with the master, shortly after the release of Reservoir Dogsin 1992, the opportunity to make us giggle once again with a story, stars in our eyes, of what was “one of the best days “of his life in the face ofWizard of Oz
who received him in safari attire.Finally, it is impossible not to discuss with him his obsession with film: owner since 2007 of a room in Los Angeles, the New Beverly, of which he personally ensures the programming, Tarantino has banned the digital format from his cinema. “I have my reasons he explains, and the most tangible is that film is something special. It’s unique. (…) I’m very romantic about it. (…)The DVD played on a computer has no history. A 35 mm, he lived“, he gets carried away under the acclamations, “it’s something that almost lives and breathes. We can kill him!
“. The conversation ends, and after a break, Tarantino will return to read excerpts from his book. Only regret, the subjects which could not be approached, in particular that concerning Blaxploitation, dispatched in less than one minute in favor of less relevant questions. We would also have liked to hear him talk about the person who inspired himDjango Unchained
, as he recounts in the last chapter of his book. So we admit it, we didn’t learn much in this conversation (everything is in his book, three times cheaper than the entrance to the Grand Rex), but we curled up well. In any case, we came out of this almost alone-on-stage thinking that after cinema and writing, Quentin Tarantino now seems ripe for a career in stand-up…
NOTA BENE : smartphones being prohibited in the room, the comments of Quentin Tarantino reported here are the result of taking notes at high speed. Unable to completely exclude misunderstandings in the face of his bewildering verbal flow, we do not guarantee 100% that he pronounced the words quoted. But the swear words were there.