Tarantino and the Art of Homage

Tarantino is one film director that you either love, hate to love, or just hate. He has received a lot of flack for “recycling” from other genres, and specifically from other directors in his films. But through this process he has created his own unique style of filmmaking that no one can argue isn’t creative, thought provoking, and vehemently defended by Tarantino himself. So, when I came across this article discussing whether or not Tarantino should cease and desist “homaging,”  I wondered what would happen to a director whose films are as recognizable as he is.

The short answer, I think, is that Tarantino would cease to exist. Part of the charm of a Tarantino film isn’t really the gratuitous, yet often artfully choreographed violence and unbelievable wordsmithery, it’s how Tarantino weaves together commonly understood characteristics of genre films into a wholly new idea. It’s almost like putting together a puzzle; one minute it looks like it might be one thing, but the more pieces you add, the more transformative the puzzle as a whole becomes.

I also find Tarantino’s homaging to be a less underhanded way of rehashing the past. I consider his style the “new wave” of sequels and adaptations. Instead of doing something that has already been done, and done well enough the first time (like for god sakes, how many times can you remake Jane Eyre?), why not borrow iconic characteristics from genre films and incorporate them into an original story. Would I rather have something that reminds me of a film I’ve seen before, or something I know I’ve seen before (i.e. The Hangover 2)? Tarantino takes the original material and elevates it to something that is relevant and meaningful to modern audiences.

I also applaud Tarantino for making westerns at least somewhat palatable for me personally. I’ve never liked the genre, but I can appreciate when certain aspects of western films are handled well in Tarantino films. I’m reminded of the opening scene in Inglorious Basterds when it seems to take Christoph Waltz and his men a ridiculously long time to get to the Frenchman’s cottage. It’s just that one shot of them arriving down a long dirt road. And as much as that shot was almost a little too long for me to bear, Tarantino manages to make it as suspenseful as possible (although his real magic with suspense comes during his scenes of heavy dialogue). It also makes me vaguely interested in westerns (vaguely), and may inspire other film enthusiasts to explore popular genre films from the past. What’s wrong with that, right?

I fall into the category of someone who hates to love Tarantino-maybe it’s because I’m jealous of a talented director who can seamlessly weave together a tapestry of homages and it never once feels derivative or hokey. So what do I say? Leave the man alone and go after the filmmakers who insist on giving us “(Generic Movie Title) 2, 3, 4, 5…..”

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