Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

- So few of Tarantino's trademarks here: No chapter headings, no non-diegetic needle drops, no show-offy dialogue. It's even absent QT's childlike adoration of cinema art (or cinema trash). Here, filmmaking is something spartan and cold and anxiety-inducing. He shoots scenes of live film sets such that there don't even seem to be cameras or equipment present. It's like Rick and his fellows are acting for no one. No one but us, the audience they can have no connection to. Contrast this with the scene of Sharon going to see her own movie, and tenderly smiling at how much the audience loves her performance. There is joy in having made, and nothing but pain in the making. It's the latter idea that's new to QT's work, and that I found so fascinating in its cynicism. Hollowed-out old film sets are occupied by killer cultists. Movies are dead.

- The discourse's interpretation of the Bruce Lee scene has been so stupid, and in such bad faith. It's so plain to me that this is entirely in Cliff's imagination, his bullshitted version of how he got kicked off that set. "Oh yeah, I tussled with Bruce Lee once. We were pretty much evenly matched, and I almost got the upper hand before the director broke us up." The point of the scene is to tell us that that's the kind of guy Cliff is. We also know it's fictional because it follows the framework laid out by the Pacino character early on: Bring in a legendary old-school heavy hitter to face your new hero, so that the new hero can win and look much cooler by comparison. It's a setup introduced as something filmmakers do to manipulate your perception of a character! And people just fully bought into it anyway!! Drives me fucking crazy.

- I was so moved by the final scene of Sharon speaking over the intercom. It reminded me of the ending of His Motorbike, Her Island, my favorite film. In both films, the directors allow us the joy of the fairy tale ending, while still forcing us to contend with the weight of the alternate tragedy, whether potential in HMHI or historical in OUATIH. We don't see Sharon's face for the rest of the film. She lived, but she's still a ghost. The finale feels like...I don't want to call it more mature than the climax of Basterds? It's the same sort of brutally violent revenge fantasy. But here the catharsis is tinged with melancholy and regret. Cinema can't bring Sharon Tate back, and QT knows it. But maybe, for a moment, it can preserve her.

- It's a great fucking movie. I fully did not expect to come out thinking that. After the laughably overcooked garbage of The Hateful Eight, it's so cool to see Tarantino make something this genuinely rich and understated. I did not think he had it in him.

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