Remove expectation and run with it, because Tarantino has so much to say, perhaps more now than ever
It’s a wonderful cliché to suggest that anyone creative should only make art for themselves. Create a piece that “you” would want to watch; something “you’d” obsess over if someone else were to have planted it onto a canvas or a film reel. But it’s a cliché nonetheless, albeit based in some form of reality. Self love drives motivation and productivity, and projecting that in any form of creative notion can only bring about positive and enthralling art, as long as the knowledge of how to make it flow is instilled behind its superficial face.
Quentin Tarantino has, for a very long time, trusted his own judgement above all others, and that’s given him a unique sense of omniscience in modern cinema. Setting out his plans to make just ten films, each more revealing than the last, there’s an aura of genius about his direction style that films as violent as his simply never get the credit for when they are made by other people.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, his supposed penultimate outing, comes with moments as violent as anything he has made previously (it’s rated 18 for a reason), but these sequences are extremely rare. The violence is foreshadowed, and expected, throughout the entire piece, yet it contains no where near the quantity of films like The Hateful 8, but it absolutely hits with its quality. There’s a definite placement of security and distance in the set up across the rest of the piece, and with a dramatically long run time, and a huge emphasis on character development and understanding, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood arrives a long way from the body of every other Tarantino film.
Aiming all focus at the expectations that come with a Tarantino film will only land in a pool of disappointment, and that is absolutely not what the film is about, or a fair analysis of how good it actually is. It’s easy to forget that its cast come with their own enormous expectations, particularly Leonardo DiCaprio. His first acting role since receiving the long-awaited Academy Award for The Revenant, DiCaprio runs a prospect to his fans larger than even Tarantino.
Yet actors are given greater flexibility than a director from a general viewpoint. There’s a greater understanding that they will be different each time they work. Whether it’s because we see and relate to their faces rather than an often image-less filmmaker it doesn’t matter; it just happens to be the way feature film directors and the actors that star in their films are perceived (if anything, that’s a core theme of what Once Upon A Time In Hollywood wants to say). So with DiCaprio being as exquisitely brilliant as he is here, there’s a feeling of comfort about the film; it’s different, but it’s the right kind of different, in a safe pair of hands. Multiple pairs. For DiCaprio to perform as struggling actor Rick Dalton, starring in his own movies, perfectly, is simply the height of creative brilliance.
Pair that with Brad Pitt in a role better than any he has produced for a very long time, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood becomes an intricate character analysis of two men with infinite, timely, scope. Tarantino has reminded Hollywood that he isn’t just a violent minded filmmaker. From the continuous unpredictability of the script to the picture perfect direction, Tarantino more than ever before proves his worth in constructing a pure piece of cinema. The use of colour combined with Robert Richardson’s sun glazed cinematography shows how expansive his vision has become since the days of Reservoir Dogs. (He also still loves feet).
The sheer organisation, research, and planning behind the film say an incredible amount about what Tarantino wanted the film to be. This is an admiration of cinema, a proclamation of love for film and all that it encompasses. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is like no other feature because of its unique ability to have gained everyone involved’s trust. It’s the wrong mentality to have, but if it got DiCaprio on board it should have everyone else too.
Remove expectation and run with it, because Tarantino has so much to say, perhaps more now than ever, and he only has one film left to do it with after this.
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