Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino - review by Christopher Silvester

Christopher Silvester

Natural Born Thrillers

Cinema Speculation


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 400pp £25

Unlike the French film director and arch-cinephile François Truffaut, who was a critic for Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s, Quentin Tarantino has never been a professional critic. Instead of attending film school he spent five years in a clerking job at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, California. However, this collection of eighteen critical essays shows that he could have been a superb critic for a countercultural publication. His book is the equivalent of Truffaut’s wonderful The Films in My Life.

Tarantino traces the source of his cinematic education to the Tiffany Theater on Sunset Boulevard, where, from the age of seven onwards, he accompanied his mother and musician stepfather to watch adult movies – not porn, that is, but definitely not family films either. Imagine seeing Carnal Knowledge at the age of nine or a double bill of The Wild Bunch and Deliverance at the age of eleven. In the car ride home, he was allowed to ask questions, but not during the screenings themselves.

Later, after his mother split from his stepfather and started dating a professional footballer named Reggie, Quentin would accompany Reggie to the movies, to see mainly Blaxploitation flicks. Later still, he would go to grindhouse films with Floyd Ray Wilson, a black vagabond who lived in his mother’s house. He remembers how, watching Eaten Alive for the first time, they dissolved into a fit of giggles together over the film’s opening line: ‘My name’s Buck, and I’m here to fuck.’ This is an important aspect of Tarantino’s critical sensibility. Films should be fun. They are a serious art form but shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

For Tarantino, the two worst decades in 20th-century film were the 1950s and the 1980s, the former because the United States was uptight and conformist as a result of the Cold War, the latter because of self-censorship, artistic pusillanimity and tedious moralising. No character in the average 1980s

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