Friday 5 April 2013

Kubrick and Tarantino or: Why I love movies

My last post, the one about Nirvana, was in my original intentions supposed to be a simple post that showed why I held Nirvana up as my favorite band, yet it spiraled out of control as I wrote it, turning into a sort-of "history of nirvana" type post, and lord knows the internet has enough of them (and still every music site jumps at the chance to write a new one whenever even the smallest bit of Nirvana news slips through). But on the brighter side it's given me the idea of writing an intro for the four main categories on this site by writing a post about my favorite artists in each medium; and when it comes to film - a medium I hope one day to work in - I can think of no two more inspiring figures for me personally than Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino. I'll try not to turn this post into a biography of these two artists, and instead I'll use it to write about how both of them show what I think is great about film.

For anyone who doesn't know (and shame on you if you don't) Stanley Kubrick is regarded by many as one of the greatest directors ever, and even if you don't like his movies his influence on other films is undeniable. Starting out as a photographer, before making his directorial debut in the 50s, Kubrick went on to make a number classics including the hugely important "2001: A Space Odyssey" which redefined special effects when it first came out, and the controversial "A Clockwork Orange", not to mention my personal favorite Kubrick film in "The Shining".

Kubrick is so highly thought of for a number of reasons. He did a perfect balancing act between commercial filmmaking and arty experiments (Could any other filmmaker get stars as big as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman into such an un-commercial film as "Eyes Wide Shut") and because deep down he was a very brave director, he made the sort of movies most other filmmakers simply didn't have the guts to make: the reason why many of his films, including now-certified classics such as The Shining and 2001, were released to terrible reviews (and even a few Razzie nominations).

Yet for all the technical wizardry people praise him for, Kubrick's main strength was simplicity. He had a great skill with the camera, probably the reason why you won't find any weird swooping shots or odd angles in his films, he shot in very logical ways, but when he needed to he could create some truly wonderful camera work. Just think about the bathroom scene in The Shining wherein Jack Nicholson talks to Grady the ghost (hallucination?) and Kubrick breaks the 180 rule of cinematography by switching back and forth from behind and in front of the two men, who are arched so that there is aways one facing the camera at any given time. Why do I choose to praise this shot over the many out there that are said to be more dazzling or "technically impressive" whatever that means; well really its because thats what I find interesting in film, yes a good story and great visuals are important, as is the latest statistical achievement that a filmmaker has reached, yet its really the things that go on behind the scenes that interest me, the way that the film is put together, each little bit becoming the seamless whole you see on the screen. If you too are interested in films in this way then I'd argue there is no better filmmaker in this respect than Kubrick.

Tarantino on the other hand couldn't be a more different filmmaker. I'll admit that I had one of those moments, ones that some film fans talk about as the moment when they suddenly realized that film was like their new religion, and mine came when I watched "Pulp Fiction". Since then I've been through Tarantino's whole cataloge (except Django Unchained, which I'll be getting the day it comes out on DVD). His first film "Resevoir Dogs" is what instantly made him synonymous with film violence, and his second film Pulp Fiction (a gunner for my favorite film ever) turned him into a celebrity, and turned the release of each of his subsequent features into a big "event".

His CV does have a big 6 year gap in the middle of it (although thats still nothing on Kubrick) but since coming back he's changed into a more comical, over the top filmmaker. It's still up to debate which side of Tarantino is better, but despite the factor that so many fans feel the need to choose one over the other, I'm happy to rank films like "Kill Bill" and "Inglorious Basterds" up there with his earlier works.

Tarantino's direction has clearly been influenced a lot by French New Wave filmmakers. He hasn't adopted the quick cutting style of most modern filmmakers, instead his direction comes across as being very specific and confident, making him share a lot of stylistic choices with another new wave-influenced filmmaker: Wes Anderson (another one of my favorite filmmakers). I'd say Jean-Luc Godard has had the most influence on Tarantino (Tarantino even named his production Company "A Band Apart" after one of Godards films) and if you want to see some of the early roots of where Tarantino's style has grew from, I'd recommend you go and watch some of Godards early 60s films such as Breathless and Alphaville.

Yet while Tarantino's direction is good - it's at the least very noticeable, filled with directional trademarks and references to other films, and featuring a trope of actors he loves to re-cast - it's his writing that is his strong-point. As you should probably know by now if your even remotely into film, his dialogue has became famous (and endlessly quoted) It has very conversational style, theres no obvious exposition or dialogue with the sole intention to get us to the next part in the film, his dialogue allows us to get to know the characters and their personalities, and allows us to find out the details of the story without being hit over the head with obvious explanation. It's the thing that has set him apart from other modern filmmakers, and is why he's one of my favorites.

... and me 

Please don't see that heading as some sort of arrogance on my part, trying to compare myself with the masters when I'm really not, what I am saying though is that I want to work in the film industry and while I hope that everytime I watch a movie or read a bit of criticism I learn something new, it's really the two above that got me into films in the first place, and it's them who I'd hope to try and emulate, as stupid a goal as some people might think it is.

I remember a few years ago when I first got into film, and I'm sure I'm not the first to get the feeling like I had just been dropped into the ocean with no guide on where to go, I simply didn't know where to begin. But two of my favorite films at that point (and still today) were Inglorious Basterds and The Shining, so I went with my instincts and bought the whole box-sets of these two directors. So after a summer holiday (I think it was 2010 when my ambition to being a filmmaker begun) filled with films by these two, I felt like I knew a thing or two about movies. No, I don't pretend to know everything, or even a small fraction of everything for that matter, but these two filmmakers definitely gave me a map and told me exactly which direction to head in.

Yet both of these directors are polar opposites in some cases. Kubrick was called a recluse by many people (although trying to not let the media intrude on your life shouldn't be called being a "recluse") while Tarantino has always been one to blab his mouth about his own movies (and everybody else's it seems). As well as this I'm sure many would praise Kubrick for his originality, yes he did take ideas and build on the filmmaking of those who came before him, but overall he came up with things that no-one else had thought of and all of his films are experiences that are unique to Kubrick and no-one else. On the other hand Tarantino's films could be described as pastiches, films that throw together an orgy of different films and ideas from a variety of filmmakers and styles. To me this makes him no less as good a filmmaker, and when you look at Tarantino and Kubrick as opposite sides on a huge spectrum it makes me happy to see just how far one can go in any direction they want when it comes to art, as long as they feel passionate about it.

Lets just pretend this is a picture of Jules shooting
HAL, for convenience 
So what now? Well I can't see myself becoming a regular reviewer of new releases, surely one of the pluses of being a blogger is the ability to review what I want, so expect some reviews and some looks back on my favorite films, that is if I can think of something insightful to say about them. I'll also be doing so director retrospectives and some listings (although I hope these will amount to more than generic favorites movies lists) so if you are already reading the blog at this early stage, thanks for reading and I hope you stay up to date with the blog and join in the discussion.


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