Article

Quentin Tarantino

Lisa Coulthard

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online August 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0126
Quentin Tarantino

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Bursting on the scene with the controversial Reservoir Dogs (1992), Quentin Tarantino has become known for a particular brand of film violence and postmodern pastiche that has won him both accolades and censure. Studying acting and working as a video store clerk, Tarantino had long been interested in cinema and in writing screenplays. Although Tarantino had written and directed My Best Friend’s Birthday in 1987, it was not released, and Reservoir Dogs marks the start of Tarantino’s career as a writer and director. This violent heist film cleverly reworks the genre to focus on the aftereffects of action rather than on action, and its premiere at Sundance in 1992 made Tarantino’s career. Although offending many and almost entirely snubbed by critics, the film received enough positive attention to make the former video store clerk an overnight sensation in high demand by Hollywood. But it was the sensation of Tarantino’s second film, Pulp Fiction (1994), that truly caught the attention of audiences and critics alike. Winning multiple major awards and setting box-office records, Pulp Fiction solidified Tarantino’s directorial career and won him the designation of auteur; it became nothing short of a film phenomena, as Dana Polan notes (see Polan 2000, cited under Pulp Fiction [1994]). With seven feature films, one omnibus film, two filmed screenplays, and two television series episodes (CSI and ER), as well as guest directorial and acting appearances, Tarantino has lived up to the auteur hype that began brewing after the major success of Pulp Fiction. Although the calls for auteur status prompted by Pulp Fiction might have seemed premature at the time, given this was only his second film, it is clear that Tarantino’s films are marked by stylistic and thematic unities that are pronounced and identifiable. Most books and articles on his films tend to focus on these stylistic signatures, such as numerous cinematic, musical, and pop cultural references; lengthy segments of banter and witty dialogue; extreme violence; self-reflexivity; pastiche; and complicated narrative timelines. And yet there are very few scholarly studies of Tarantino that take his films seriously in terms of film history, style, or theory; rather, the literature is dominated by informal and popular criticism and biography and heavily theorized or highly specific analyses.

Article.  8021 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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