In light of the recently released film Django Unchained Charles McGrath sat down for a conversation with Mr. Tarantino published last Sunday in NYT as Quentin’s World.
I have been a longtime fan of Mr. Tarantino’s work but never really read up on his background or his oeuvre, other than the occasional review.
It was probably for that reason more than any other that a couple of facts/passages from the piece really stood out.
First, that Mr. Tarantino was a middle-school dropout who educated himself on films by working at a video store. He explains “In a weird way my working at the video store, a minimum-wage job with a bunch of other people working a minimum wage job, all of us around the same age, hanging out together — that’s kind of what you get when you go to college, along with the education“.
Then there was this nugget regarding his screen-writing process and the importance of music.
“I’ve got a huge record collection, and I have a record room off of my bedroom. It looks just like a used-record store, with record posters and bins of records broken down into genres. That’s a big part of my think tank. When I’m getting ready to write a new movie, or thinking of the story and starting to zero in on it, I’ll go in the record room and start trying to find music for the movie — other soundtracks, songs, whatever. When I do find a couple of pieces, that’s two or three steps closer to actually being a movie. Now who knows if those three songs will end up being in the finished movie? But it gets me a little further along.”
Finally in a discussion about the re-occurrence throughout his films of a singular theme, of performance, of the “idea of acting or performing” he notes “Probably the one recurring line in all my movies is when at some point somebody says to somebody else, ‘We gotta stay in character’.” This running theme is also I think at least one of the reasons why his films always feel like there is a breaking of the fourth-wall, a knowingness and sense of referentiality, whether to a certain genre or film history at large.
On a related note over at The Root (a daily online magazine that provides thought-provoking commentary on today’s news from a variety of black perspectives) Henry Louis Gates Jr. editor-in-chief, published a three part interview with Quentin Tarantino; PT 1, PT 2, PT 3 in which he labels the film “a postmodern, slave-narrative Western“. In the first part, Mr. Tarantino explains how Django Unchained was a reaction to or deconstruction of The Birth of a Nation. In the second, Mr. Tarantino responds to those who criticize his heavy use of the n-word, in Django Unchained and his other films. In the third, Tarantino explains Django’s character arc and why his film isn’t your typical “white savior” story.