We’re nearly a year out since Quentin Tarantino released his last movie, namely his majestic, malevolent The Hateful Eight, easily his darkest film and one of his most politically substantial works as well. He has nothing to promote but he tends to poke his end out at the end of every year to give his thoughts on the year in cinema and he’s starting to rev up for his 2016 run. He’s also doing early work on a new project, which he’s been uncertain about as far as form goes. During recent comments that Deadline collected from Tarantino’s speech at the recent Lumiere Festival in Lyon, he suggested that he might be writing a book or producing a podcast or prepping a documentary. He also continues to tease taking a stab at a television series.
Whatever it is, as he says, it’s going to stem from research he’s been doing on the year 1970, the cinema of that era, and at least one great book: Mark Harris‘ Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies And The Birth of New Hollywood. It’s at once galvanizing and troubling to see Tarantino start getting fascinated by another specific time period, especially the revelations of New Hollywood. One of Tarantino’s issues as a filmmaker is that he tends to get obsessive about cultural artifacts, lingo, political moods, and wardrobe over almost everything else. His characters, as extraordinary and bombastic as they are, don’t have a very intimate or complicated inner life from what the director shows of them. They have warped plans and perilous histories, but they tend to be painted largely by their willingness and desire to shed blood for revenge or money. That’s not exactly what New Hollywood was about, at least in my view, but here’s what Tarantino had to say about the era in movies:
“New Hollywood was the Hollywood and anything that even smacked of Old Hollywood was dead on arrival…the more I started going to the library and looking up newspaper articles of what it was like, I realized New Hollywood had won the revolution but whether it would survive wasn’t clear. Cinema had changed so drastically that Hollywood had alienated the family audience.”
“Society demanded (the Hollywood new wave) but that doesn’t mean that they supported it as a business model and it made me realize that New Hollywood cinema from 1970-76 at the very least was actually more fragile than I thought it was. That experiment could have died in 1970,”
“That’s how I found the think pieces of the time. ‘What’s wrong with movies?’ ‘Movies have become scary,’ ‘Can Hollywood survive,’..There were a lot of promises made of possibilities of a new cinema. It was almost like, could Hollywood handle this kind of freedom? Could the public handle it? The freedom seemed limitless. Directors could adapt any book, could shoot anything. There were no restrictions and that was maybe untenable.”
It’s worth noting that Tarantino has made exactly one movie that feels as if it would have fit in with the New Hollywood crowd, and that’s Jackie Brown, which I would argue is still his best movie by quite a margin, ahead of Pulp Fiction. What would be most interesting is to see Tarantino make a movie about the filmmakers and critical establishment of the time in the same tone as Jackie Brown, allowing the director to both indulge all his era-specific peccadillos while also reflecting on a life devoted to making and talking about movies. Again, this might be asking too much of the occasionally juvenile Tarantino – he recently complained that Luke Cage should have been set in the 1970s – but once he steps away from the rupturing power of violence and curse words, it will be very interesting to see what the man behind “The Gimp” is capable of in a less adolescent state of anxiety and fury.