Quentin Tarantino decided to hang up his boots on his directing career (again) last week. The ten-film limit is an announcement he has reiterated several times, including in 2014, two years after the release of Django Unchained. Reports have universally interpreted his retirement plans cynically, seeing it as a business move to preserve his status and to ensure his last film is given even more press coverage. This is unsurprising, considering Tarantino has not shied away from self-glorification throughout his career. In an interview with Vanity Fair last week, he challenged any other director to “match that shit” and stated that he wants to be remembered after his retirement as not just one of the greatest directors of all time, but a “great artist”.
“Tarantino’s undying bravado only adds to his appeal”
Whilst most other directors would baulk at such an obvious publicity stunt, especially as he disclosed in an interview with the BBC in 2014 that his plan was “not etched in stone”, Tarantino’s undying bravado only adds to his appeal. This provides a contrast with other blockbuster film-makers; despite his box-office success, Michael Bay has consistently had to defend his style of film-making, arguing that he makes films for teenage boys, not critics. Even Steven Spielberg remains humble about his directorial reputation, including admitting his sequels “aren’t as good as [his] originals” in a recent interview by the New York Times.
Tarantino instead sells himself as the bad-boy of directing, failing to mince his words in interviews, creating gory and violent visual spectacles on screen and getting hands-on with his work. He has always been at the centre of controversy, making no attempt to disguise its value as a marketing tool. This includes the decision to give Kurt Russell a real antique guitar from 1890 to smash to pieces in his latest film, The Hateful Eight, prompting the museum Tarantino loaned it from to refuse to ever let out exhibits for films again. Tarantino is also reported to have said on the Howard Stern Show that fellow director Spike Lee would have to “stand on a chair to kiss my ass”, after Lee criticised the use of racial epithets in Jackie Brown. As they say, all publicity is good publicity.
“his self-confidence has not always had a positive influence”
Tarantino’s talent for film-making is beyond question; his debut Reservoir Dogs regularly makes top-10 lists, his second film Pulp Fiction is a living legend, while the duo of Kill Bill films are often hailed as nerdy masterpieces. However, I feel that his self-confidence has not always had a positive influence. Tarantino’s cameo in the utterly unnecessary last half an hour of Django Unchained is pitiful, attempting an Australian accent which is neither accurate nor humorous. Inglorious Basterds and The Hateful Eight also suffered from excessive length, at 153 and 168 minutes respectively. Whilst making films of such an epic scale has become part of Tarantino’s reputation for full-blooded, intense cinema, it is a poor move from an artistic point of view.
Tarantino will no doubt be hailed as one of the great directors when he eventually decides to retire, whether that does turn out to be in two films time or not. But, that is not to say he is flawless. Whilst he enjoys being known for a disregard of critics, it will no doubt be a nagging concern in his mind that he has failed to win a single Oscar, BAFTA or, even Golden Globe for his direction. Perhaps this means Tarantino will be remembered as a director for the viewers, and not for the critics. I think he’s mostly a director for himself.