Tarantino says latest film not a rose-colored look at Hollywood's past
A July 11, 2019, photo provided by Sony Pictures of acclaimed American director Quentin Tarantino during the presentation in Beverly Hills, California, of his new film "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood." EPA-EFE/Eric Charbonneau/Sony Pictures
By David Villafranca
Los Angeles, Aug 10 (efe-epa).- Nostalgic, melancholic and moving are some of the adjectives not typically associated with Quentin Tarantino that critics have used to describe his latest film, "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood."
But while the acclaimed American director acknowledged that his latest work is very personal in nature, he told a small group of media, including EFE, that his picture is a warts-and-all remembrance of the film industry in late-1960s Los Angeles.
"It's not all rose-colored glasses. It shows an industry in flux. It shows an industry that can be forgetful and can make harsh judgments," Tarantino said.
"And it shows a town also - the town and the industry working side by side. And it shows a town that sounds like a great town I'd love to live in, but then you have people like the Manson Family that you have no idea," he added.
In a film market saturated with superhero movies, sequels and remakes, very few directors can presume that their latest world premiere will be a global happening.
Tarantino is one of them.
Debuting with much fanfare at this year's Cannes Film Festival and featuring a star-studded cast headed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" is a sentimental journey back to the origins of Tarantino's passion for cinema, a trip based on his childhood memories in Los Angeles.
The director has described the film on several occasions as his personal "Roma," a reference to the Oscar-winning 2018 picture by Alfonso Cuaron that looks back at the Mexican director's childhood in Mexico City's Colonia Roma neighborhood.
"I've used that as an example from time to time because Cuaron really emphasized how it was a memory piece, a memory from his childhood. And that's the best way to describe this because I lived in LA county at that time," Tarantino said.
He stressed, however, that memories can be unreliable.
"A memory piece is not exactly a historical record. It's your perceptions - you think it was a year and it could have been three years."
The story of two outsiders - a former star of a Western television series whose career is in decline (DiCaprio) and his former stunt double (Pitt) - serves as a gateway for exploring a vibrant Los Angeles with exhilarating changes around every corner.
"Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" examines the decline of the American film industry's old studio system and the consolidation of the more free-wheeling, director-led New Hollywood movement.
The picture also provides a glimpse at Los Angeles streets where the counter-cultural dreams of hippies existed alongside the diabolical schemes of Charles Manson and his followers, while also capturing society's bewilderment at the city's transformation.
"I've seen people recreate this era before. But I thought it was an interesting idea to really try to take on an era and create the era but (doing so with) two lead characters who are not of this culture," Tarantino said.
"They're outside of it, and they're looking inside. I'm not coming from their perspective and I'm not coming from the hippie perspective either, I'm kind of just putting them together and seeing how they deal with each other."
The film features several humorous and affectionate cameos meant to appeal to cinephiles, with Mike Moh playing the part of martial arts legend Bruce Lee and Damian Lewis doing a brief turn as 1960s film star Steve McQueen.
But Tarantino pays special homage to actress and model Sharon Tate (Robbie), who was murdered 50 years ago - on Aug. 9, 1969 - by members of the Manson Family cult.
"Maybe because she's kind of frozen in time, because of the tragedy of her ending, she's kind of been this overall representative of an it-girl of that era. She's kind of locked in time as far as the dresses she wore, the looks that she had ... you can't almost separate her from the era. And then also all the people that she knew and the life she lived," Tarantino said.
"But what was important to me was, for a lack of a better way of saying it, bringing her back to life again, basically. The more I learned about her, the more distressed I felt about the fact that she's a woman who's become defined by her tragic ending."
"Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," while still containing the trademark snappy dialogue, blending of genre and graphic violence that made the "Pulp Fiction" director a moviemaking icon, reveals a more tender side of Tarantino.
Even so, he pushed back on the notion that the picture is his most personal project to date.
"It kind of is, but I'd say that all my movies are really personal. I just bury it inside a genre so it's not obvious," he said.
"But the fact that I'm basing it off of my childhood hometown, and memories of childhood and everything, it does makes it personal."
"I couldn't have made the movie the way I made it unless I had memories of driving around LA. I can recreate Washington DC in 1963 by looking at photos, but I wouldn't have more knowledge than anybody else. With this, I know what TV was like back then. I know how the radio sounded," Tarantino said. EFE-EPA