I have loved Quentin Tarantino films for the majority of my life. There is a certain style of 'cool' that he has managed to dominate and manipulate for the length of a generation and more. Talking about the problem with Tarantino is going to take some objectivity, which I am not usually adept at.
Quentin Tarantino takes no responsibility. He made a movie featuring Roman Polanski and a child actor as characters. Talking about the dark side of Polanski would have necessarily meant talking about Tarantino's friend, Harvey Weinstein and the darker side of Hollywood. What Tarantino prefers to do is to make yet another historically revisionist revenge flick, in which the hippies get torched by the ghosts of Hollywood past.
Talking about this movie and its failures would be difficult without mentioning Tarantino's last dud, the Hateful Eight. This was a film that lived up its title. How long can this director keep replacing substance with quotable lines and murder? I hopefully will soon be able to wipe the memory of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood from my memory and replace it with considerations of the films of Jafar Panahi, which I was binge-ing upon before making the regrettable decision to stream Once Upon a Time...
Pulp Fiction is a timeless masterpiece, which Tarantino has signally failed to follow-up with anything resembling its brilliance since. Jackie Brown had a certain something, but it seems as though Quentin refused to follow its trains of thought with anything introspective, preferring to play to his audience constantly, in the assumption that the audience is a theatre full of thirteen-year-old Quentin Tarantinos.
For those who don't know, here is a fan's-eye view of the world of Tarantino movies. Tarantino films exist in a universe created by Tarantino, in which there is not precisely morality, but in which the biggest baddies from history got their come-uppance, brutally, deservingly so. In the Westerns, the slave-owning confederates get massacred, in the WW2 flick, the directors empties a machine gun into Hitler's face, blowing it to smithereens. There is so much catharsis, so much meaningless satisfaction. Tarantino films always culminate in an orgasm of violence, in which the darkest urges of the psyche get satisfied while the thinking mind has the consolation that it is villains getting offed.
Personally, I have to say I don't really see the difference now between this and the simplest, vilest kind of propaganda. Tarantino wants to live in a world in which everything that is cool is on his side, and everything that is nasty is in his cross-hairs. Tarantino wants to live in a world in which the 60s never happened, where American culture and political power is always dominant. The mystery that gets hinted at in Pulp Fiction, which makes it a masterpiece, is replaced by the shimmering veil of smoke and light in Inglourious Basterds, which gradually reveals itself not to be the revelation of God, but of murder as God.
The fact is that, as Slavoj Zizek has commented, we need to take responsibility for our dreams. I don't want to subject myself to any more of Quentin Tarantino's fantasies. There is enough darkness in life already. How long will we let apologia for brutality be conned into our consciousnesses under the thin veneer of cool.
I no longer trust Quentin Tarantino, and I do not think I have ever trusted Hollywood, as I believe he does. I don't want to get caught out believing in anything so monolithic. We have moved past the church as tyrant, we are moving past the state in the same role. Why would we believe that Hollywood is the hero, when it is so shamelessly unaware of its own flaws. What kind of hero can be that way? And yet,Tarantino thirsts for such a hero to exist, the eternal James Dean, Steve Macqueen, Brad Pitt.
To accept such a hero is to accept fascism. In a time like this, when fascism keeps threatening to make a resurgence, when appeals are being made to our most subservient and vile instincts, witness the cinema of the era, the look and feel, self-generated, self-engineered, of a society that sweeps its dirt perennially and perpetually under the carpet.
I think of the second-latest movie I watched, Jafar Panahi's Closed Curtain, the kind of film that deserves to be nominated for an Academy Award, and constantly isn't due to not being in the language of Hollywood. In that film, the ever-repressed, ever-buoyant Panahi is seen staring out of his window, considering the abyss, the mystery. What Tarantino does is he takes that darkness, that mystery, and he fills it with subtle evil, without, seemingly, ever wondering what the darkness has to teach him.