Watching Old Tarantino Movies: True Romance and Jackie Brown

I was mystified that Inglourious Basterds did not win more Oscars.  Tarantino remains truly original (and, Nazis melt.  What more could you want?).  Ironic, because he does refer to, and use, tropes from film history a lot, but he does it in a way no one else would think of in, if not in a million years, at least in several lifetimes.  I understand that he is not to some people’s taste because of the gore.  That’s fine.  But his characters are rounder than a basketball (including some of the most intelligent and powerful women you’ll find anywhere), and you just never know quite what any of them is going to say next.  Recently, Darren and Ginsberg and I watched these two old movies of Tarantino’s.  Darren and I hadn’t seen them in a long time, and Ginsberg is getting her Autodidact’s Ph.D. in film history.  The things I most remembered about True Romance (Tony Scott directed it, but Tarantino wrote it) were 1) when Patricia Arquette is nearly killed by all the glass in the bathtub, but she still fights back, and 2) when the horrible gangsters woefully underestimate the powers of  Christian Slater, and he slaughters them.   (Oh, and I had forgotten Dennis Hopper standing up to Christopher Walken!  Mighty and brilliant!)  These admittedly fantastical scenes of ordinary people refusing to give in show us why it’s called True Romance. Because it isn’t about the fighting; it’s about the love, baby.  Even though the two meet stupidly, and even though there is no way in the world their relationship should work out (even their names, Clarence and Alabama, are a hilarious foreshadowing that this couldn’t possibly go anywhere), they are meant for each other and they will prevail.  What a beautiful sentiment.  And not only do they fight and survive.  They end up on a beach with their child, playing in the surf, a cliché turned on its head by what we have just seen.  I had less vivid memories of Jackie Brown.  The primary image was of Pam Grier driving, looking into the camera, and singing along with “Across 110th Street” by the brilliant Bobby Womack.  Like many actresses Tarantino casts, Pam Grier has not received the acclaim she deserves.  This whole little scene of her driving and singing along to a yearningly beautiful song requires her to show everything that is going on in her head without a line of dialogue, and she does it.  On watching the movie again, I relished Tarantino’s usual quirky dialogue, extraordinary performances by the two greatest living actors, Robert de Niro and Samuel Jackson, Bridget Fonda as a useless moll who nonetheless plays against expectations, and Johnny Cash’s “Tennessee Stud” playing on a car radio from out of nowhere.  Robert Forster is also a pleasure to watch in an understated role that depicts a man falling in love, knowing he can’t have the woman, (you want him to, you long for them to end up together, but it just isn’t going to happen) but giving her his all anyway, making it possible for her not only to survive, but to start her life over.  In other words, true love.


About hipstersmother

Writer, Teacher, Observer, Amateur Therapist, Killer of All Things Grown in Pots, Living Room Comedian
This entry was posted in Something is Boring Me But I Don't Know What (Entertainment), Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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