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The best of the Tarantino cinematic universe

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The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sun, September 4, 2016  /  10:21 am
The best of the Tarantino cinematic universe

Uma Thurman and John Travolta dancing in "Pulp Fiction." (Miramax/File)

After years of speculation regarding the existence of a cinematic universe connecting all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, the acclaimed movie director has finally revealed the truth

“There are actually two separate universes. There is the realer than real universe, alright, and all the characters inhabit that one. But then there’s this movie universe. So From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, they all take place in this special movie universe. So when all the characters of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, when they go to the movies, Kill Bill is what they go to see. From Dusk Till Dawn is what they see," Tarantino said.

With this in mind, maybe it is a good time to rediscover some of the masterpieces from the mad genius. 

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Six thieves named different colors and dressed like the Blues Brothers are involved in the bloody aftermath of a stickup turned disaster. It is the bloody debut piece of Tarantino as a director. 

It is quite amazing that a film taking place in a warehouse with people bleeding to death can be so great, but the structure of Reservoir Dogs is only one manifestation of the filmmaker's cleverness. He plays with time, showing moments from before, during and after the crime, as each passage acts as a clue in solving the movie's puzzle. 

As for solving a greater puzzle in Tarantino's movie universe, here is a clue: Mr. Blonde happens to be Vic Vega, the brother of Vincent Vega. Ring a bell?

Pulp Fiction (1994) 

To be clear, this movie is politically incorrect. Film critic Pauline Kael calls it “getting drunk on movies” as nothing is predictable. The story, set in Los Angeles, progresses in jumps back-and-forth through time and is amazingly fun, even if we are still in Tarantino’s landscape of danger. 

He ties events together through a cocaine-fueled girl, hit men and unexpected moments of laughter. A long-take camera style and three interconnected stories are in the body of this ultra-violent and provocatively obscene movie. Tarantino’s intent to bother people is achieved fairly well. 

Another clue to the big puzzle: Mia Wallace refers to a TV pilot about five secret female agents that she took part in. She was the blonde leader, the deadliest woman in the world and she wielded a certain kind of sword. I hope there is a “ding-ding-ding” moment of realization here. If not, it is essential to watch Tarantino's movies.

(Read also: Five must-see French movies)

Kill Bill (2003 and 2004)

A blonde, pregnant woman gets married, a bunch of killers come, then everybody dies. Kill Bill is a story of revenge. However, it is far more brutal, bloody and amazing than you would ever imagine. In addition, there are innumerable pop culture references, such as to yakuza dramas, or with the film's famous yellow jumpsuit, an allusion to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death. Kill Bill is not simply a martial arts movie, but one giant homage to cinema. 

Sonny Chiba, a veteran Japanese action star, is a legendary sword-craftsman in this movie. Tarantino also brings in the 19-year-old schoolgirl killer from Fukasaku’s Battle Royale. With all this mixed in, one has the perfect combination to submerge into the world of Asian martial arts. All action films are overwhelming to a degree -- even more when it comes to Kill Bill's Bride who fights mano a mano with her enemies.

Continuing our puzzle: Look at the name in graveyard, Paula Schultz. A certain former dentist who helps the protagonist and his wife in another film holds the same family name.

Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained is another revenge piece, but also a Western partly inspired by previous cult 1960s westerns starring Franco Nero. Django, a slave who is transported through Texas during winter, encounters a mysterious German dentist who believes in freedom over slavery. The two team up to try and rescue Django's women who is held at a plantation in Mississippi. A kind of house of horrors image comes to mind when thinking of slaves at a plantation.

Even if the odyssey structure of Django Unchained is familiar, the film is full of unexpected turns, as well as numerous comedic elements -- Tarantino’s style reborn, again. 

Time for a clue: OK, so this one is way more complicated than the others. Pay attention because it is very subtle. Captain Koons from Pulp Fiction (from the famous scene in which the older veteran hands down his watch) is descended from a wanted gang member in Django Unchained

Jackie Brown (1997) 

This film is kind of a confirmation of what everybody was wondering after Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Tarantino is not only a one style guy. Though not rooted in Tarantino's particular universe, this film is instead immersed in Elmore Leonard’s one (he made the crime novel a sociological comedy). 

Jackie Brown. based on Leonard's novel Rum Punch (1992), tells the story of Jackie, a flight attendant on perhaps the worst airline in North America, in her quest to supplement money she smuggles from Mexico to Los Angeles for a gun dealer. Though it does have violence, it is quieter and deeper in both its story and its characters. This one is worth watching. (tif/kes)

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