Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

Regardless of how interesting you actually find the milieu of the Hollywood outskirts circa 1969, hard not to admire the film’s sheer, obsessive indulgence. The details of the story are centred on such a specific kind of trivial, outlying culture that it’s practically esoterica - it’s interesting to me how far Tarantino actually deviated from public interest and yet how seemingly successful the film was (unlike, say Death Proof). Similarly, the way the density of those details take precedence over commonly discernible plot/form I just find really unusually admirable for a film of this size and scope - I don’t find the film totally smooth-going but this is clearly the closest Tarantino has got to catching that elusive Rio Bravo template, even more so than in Jackie Brown. There’s a chronological trajectory towards Cielo Dr. and the spectral-like events of the looming Manson killings, but the film is mostly formless, more like a roadmap of L.A. in 1969 connected by his two fictional inserts. The politics are muddy but interesting - just as the film inevitably becomes about a bigger cultural shift, the broader symbolism of Cliff as an older functional America versus the Mansons as ‘the hippies’ in monolith is awkward, obviously so given the way the latter clearly represented a totally poisoned and perverted view of broader counterculture. Cliff is very much like the false idol of the Nixonian seventies - yet, if he and Rick really existed and the Manson crimes never occurred, maybe the seventies would have been different. And for all the awkwardness inherent in the understated old-time American hero crushing the agents of subversion, gotta say that the way the Mansons are disempowered from the perceived majesty of their crimes is amazing. As I said, muddled but interesting (the acid cigarette is an amusing irony). Unlike in the similar historical revisionism of Inglourious Basterds, Rick and Cliff’s infusion into preexisting Hollywood fiction seems to draw more attention to their absence which changes the final impression of how medicinal fiction and fantasy really are.

“Uhhh… can I help you?”

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