By Guest Blogger Kate McAuley.
Kate is a filmmaker and recent college graduate from Northern Ireland. You can check out her work on youtube.
I recently made a film for my dissertation that was inspired by Quentin Tarantino. When I tell
people this, their initial response is something along the lines of “cool, there must’ve been a lot of violence in it”. I can’t argue with them because I, too, associate Tarantino’s films with violence. I also associate them with non-linear story-lines, gangsters, long monologues, brightly coloured sets, hybrid genres, and Samuel L. Jackson. In fact, because of his frequent usage of these elements, it’s fairly reasonable to say that he has his own style, and that when you’re watching a Tarantino film, you know you’re watching a Tarantino film. So that’s great, he’s an auteur then. And yet so much of Tarantino’s work is a combination of other films that he has recreated and placed into his own story. Whether it’s taking themes from the spaghetti western genre of film, or more specific instances, like creating the Bride/Black Mamba’s suit to closely resemble Bruce Lee’s suit in The Game of Death. This inspiration from previous work would then be considered postmodern.
So which is he: an auteur, or a postmodern director? Could he possibly be both? Does it even matter? I guess all of the above can be argued. I, myself, believe that he is a new hybrid of postmodern and auteur. A postmodern auteur, if you will. Yes, the two theories do contradict each other, because an auteur is meant to be someone so original that they have their own unique and distinguishable style, and a postmodern director is someone who is very clearly influenced by other films and directors. But Tarantino seems to use postmodernism as a way of being an auteur - taking inspiration from other films is his style.
This works because he uses these borrowed elements in a unique way. He uses juxtaposition. He mixes shocking violence with humour, depicted in the scene in Pulp Fiction when Vince accidentally shoots the guy in the back of the car. It’s a shock and it’s graphic, but the reactions from Vince and Jules are more comical than they are serious. He mixes together Japanese cinema (notably Lady Snowblood) with the spaghetti western in the Kill Bill films. Furthermore, the spaghetti western genre is present in a few of his films, including Inglourious Basterds, which is set in Germany during the second world war. Not necessarily something that would be expected, but Tarantino sees no reason why the two can’t mix.
When it comes to films, Tarantino knows what he is talking about and it’s clear when listening to him in interviews that he truly loves the medium of film. Therefore, it’s not surprising that his own films seem to act as an outlet for him to show his audience what he has admired in films and share with them certain scenes that he has been drawn to, or thought were effective. However, he doesn’t just do this to show audiences what he’s been liking these days, but rather he blends together pieces from here and there to better tell his own story.
To me, he’s the poster boy for this form of storytelling. To the point where, even if I notice others with a similar technique, I will most likely refer to it as ‘Tarantino-esque’. He’s the man who tells his stories by using other stories: a postmodern auteur.