Jackie Brown ★★★★

"Who's that?"
"That's Tarantino."
"Who's Tarantino?"
"A director I learned to love again."
"What'd he do?"
"He put himself in a position where he was going to have to do more of the same to please critics, that's what he did. And if you know Tarantino, you know ain't no god damn way he can do more of the same. And if you know that, then you know Tarantino's gonna do anything Tarantino can to keep from doing more of the same, including shooting a more steady and mature picture about love and growing old and finding your path. Now that, my friend, is a clear cut case of him or the critics. And you best believe it ain't gonna be the critics."

I was not prepared for this to be as great as it was. As an unabashed lover of Pulp Fiction, I doubt it will ever be able to take the top spot as my favorite Quentin Tarantino movie (and trying to think about whether I like it more than Reservoir Dogs is just getting Little Green Bag stuck in my head), but it's certainly got me questioning my assumptions about the director. I have a few minor personal problems with some of his eccentricities, but it's nothing a brilliant film like this can't overcome. He's one of the few directors pushing the boundary between style and substance (or between homage and plagiarism), and that's something I always love to see regardless of which side he ends up on.

But hands-down the best thing about any Quentin Tarantino movie is the dialogue. It's no secret that he loves his writing: whether you personally enjoy his idiosyncracies or not, his passion makes his screenplays stand out even when he's not directing them. But this love for the spoken word extends beyond the page to his presentation on screen. Whenever he gives his characters particularly great speeches or has them interact in significant ways, he lets the scene play out in full without any flashy edits or big camera moves (e.g. Ordell's confrontation with Beaumont is a single static long shot). And it's not that he's incapable of these stylistic maneuvers, he just knows that they'll distract from the writing and saves them for emotionally charged moments (e.g. Jackie's panicked walk through the mall accompanied by an intricate tracking shot that belongs alongside the best of PTA or Scorsese).

Combine this love of great dialogue with an irresistible cast (Keaton and De Niro are the best kind of supporting roles), graceful camera work (Del Toro's cinematographer brings his A-Game), and a more restrained screenplay than we've seen from Tarantino before or since (he should do more adaptations). I can't wait to watch this again with a better idea of what it's all about. QT is undeniably one of the kings of the 90's, a notoriously difficult time in American cinema during which he nonetheless managed to both find his voice and develop it into great works like Jackie Brown.

Decades Project: 3/9 of the 90's

Quentin Tarantino | The Rewatch List

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