Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ★★★★½

There’s a hard cut to black between two scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood, and for a brief moment the theater got very quiet. Suddenly, the room was filled with something I hadn’t experienced in a very long time: The sound of a film projector. Once so ubiquitous and so comforting, that steady rattle of celluloid shuttling through metal was so foreign in that moment it took me a couple of seconds to recognize it. It made me happy to hear that sound again — and it also made me sad to realize that this beautiful thing that was once a huge part of my life is now basically extinct.

That feeling of joy blended with melancholy for a bygone era never left me through the rest of Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood, although it was occasionally joined by other emotions including fear, shock, and giddy excitement. Tarantino once told an interviewer that all his movies are “achingly personal ... I may be talking about a bomb in a theater, but that’s not what I’m really talking about.” In this case, while Once Upon a Time is nominally about a couple of grizzled showbiz vets teetering on the edge of career obsolescence, Tarantino is really talking about film’s obsolescence, particularly in the literal sense of the word — like the kind fluttering through the projector at my press screening. But rather than mourn what’s been lost, Tarantino throws a rowdy, bawdy party celebrating everything this medium can achieve. If film is dead, then Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood is its Irish wake.

Full review at ScreenCrush.