Sunday, January 12, 2014

Another Tarantino Western? Is that all ya got?

By Steve Evans

Coming on the heels of his financially successful D'Jango Unchained, Quentin Tarantino revealed this weekend the working title of his next film: The Hateful Eight. It's another western. Word is, this won't be a D'Jango sequel. The title actually suggests nothing so much as a variation of Inglourious Basterds, which was, like most of Tarantino's work, a mashup of elements from long-forgotten films.

Maybe the title is a riff on John Sturges' western classic, The Magnificent Seven (1960), itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's tremendous action film Seven Samurai (1954).

I've long since lost interest in Tarantino's reworked homages to mostly obscure genre films. Were it not for his gift of writing dialog, I would probably stop watching his stuff. His best films, now two decades behind him, delight the viewer with non-linear plotting and a narrative structure that coils around itself like a snail's shell. It's no coincidence that Tarantino's major industry awards come from his writing, not directing and certainly not his acting.

Considering that dialog and narrative structure are his strongest traits, D'Jango was a surprisingly straight-line revenge tale peppered with as much violence as the current R rating can withstand. Basterds was told in a similarly linear fashion, with none of the meandering whoop-de-doo that makes other Tarantino films more interesting to watch.

I write this not to bash the guy, but to put forward the modest wish that if he insists on stirring up another cinematic equivalent of Mulligan's Stew, that he at least write a more engaging and clever script -- always his strong suit -- to justify another Tarantino trip down movie-memory lane. You've seen a lot of movies, Quentin, but so have I. Your work of late has the whiff of familiarity.

Honor and revenge are the thematic foundations of all Tarantino films. Especially bloody revenge. I suppose someone could make a career out of payback fantasies, culling the best parts from old movies that a majority of your audience has never seen. Truth be told, that's exactly what Tarantino's been doing for 20 years, to curious acclaim and great financial reward. Well, bully for him. It's getting stale.

What else ya got?

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