[Media Studies] Tarantino

Battling boring, fucked up bourgeois cinema was how Tarantino described French films before Melville’s genre reconstruction changed cinema. When Tarantino uses the term ‘genre reconstruction’ he refers to resuscitating a genre by altering torn down or commonly used elements of a genre while simultaneously mirroring those same elements. Melville was able to combine American crime novels with similar plots in previous gangster films, ultimately reconstructing the genre and delivering it “completely in his own way” as Tarantino described it. In his films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown Tarantino reconstructs existing elements of gangster films by altering traditional narratives and implementing un=sequenced storylines. Tarantino alters the typical narratives seen in Blaxploitation, and French New Wave with his film Jackie Brown. Concepts such as postmodernism could be applied to Tarantino's films through the use of dialog revolving around pop culture, while other concepts such as pastiche could be applied by the way Tarantino cast's the actors in his movies.

Simply by considering Quentin Tarantino’s unconventional background, it could be concluded that films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown are a form of ‘genre reconstruction’. In this quote from Postmodern Hollywood, Keith Booker describes how Tarantino’s film training involved being “a former video-store clerk.” While other film makers went to film school, like Melville, Tarantino’s training was unconventional. The effect of this could be seen in all three of those movies, where through his use of asynchronous time lines Tarantino reconstructs one element of traditional gangster films. Although not concrete, perhaps, through Tarantino’s creativity not being obstructed by having attended traditional film school, he was able to reconstruct the gangster film genre.

In Quientin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, one element of Gangster films Tarantino reconstructs is the film’s narrative. After the encounter with the rapist brothers:

Yeah man, we're cool. One thing I ask – two things I ask: Don't tell nobody about this. This shit's between me and you and the soon-to-be-livin'- the-rest-of-his-short-ass-life-in- agonizing-pain, Mr. Rapist here. It ain't nobody else's business. Two: leave town. Tonight. Right now. And when you're gone, stay gone. You've lost your Los Angeles privileges. Deal?

Typically gangster movies are black and white and the narrative is driven by a central collection of ideals ie. there’s a good guy and he succeeds at the end. However, by allowing accidents to dominate the plot, those set of ideals are eroded and replaced with chance. This allows for unpredictability and it could be seen by how the film concludes with an amoral character like Butch succeeding.

In Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino delivers a twist on one element frequently seen in the Blaxploitation genre. In the closing scenes of the film:

JACKIE

Come over here.

Max does.

They give each other a long, tender kiss.

She breaks it.

Unlike a lot of films before it, the Blaxploitation genre films typically couple young black male leads and a happy ending. Tarantino digs into another level of genre reconstruction by instead featuring an older, working-class African American woman. By doing that Tarantino modifies an element within a particular narrative that’s commonly featured in the Blaxploitation genre.

In Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino applies postmodernism through dialog revolving around pop culture. Mr. Orange describes how the song True Blue “was about … a girl who meets a nice guy.” Through this dialogue, Tarantino is able to melt the dividing line between different types of art within Reservoir Dogs and achieve postmodernism.

Another concept Tarantino manages to apply is pastiche. He delivers pastiche through the way he casts his movies. In this quote from Postmodern Hollywood, Lipman describes how the characters in Tarantino’s films are ‘‘playing warped versions of characters for which they are known’’. Through casting the same characters and having them play similar roles to what they’ve played in the past, Tarantino is able to imitate styles from other works of arts.

In conclusion, when Tarantino uses the term ‘genre reconstruction’ he refers to resuscitating a genre by altering torn down or commonly used elements of a genre but still while mirroring those same elements. In his films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown Tarantino reconstructs existing elements of gangster films by altering traditional narratives and unsequenced story lines. Tarantino alters the typical narratives seen in Blaxploitation, and French New Wave with his film Jackie Brown. Concepts such as postmodernism could be applied to Tarantino's films through the use of dialog revolving around pop culture, while other concepts such as pastiche could be applied by the way Tarantino cast's the actors in his movies.