Book Review: Tarantino – A Retrospective

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Publisher: Insight Editions

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1963, Quentin Tarantino spent many Saturday evenings during his childhood accompanying his mother to the movies, nourishing a love of film that was, over the course of his life, to become all-consuming. It is just as well, because he would grow up to be one of American cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers. Known for his highly cinematic visual style, out-of-sequence storytelling, and grandiose violence, Tarantino’s films have provoked both praise and criticism over the course of his career. They’ve also won him a host of awards—including Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA awards—usually for his original screenplays. His oeuvre includes the cult classic Pulp Fiction, bloody revenge saga Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and historical epics Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight. This stunning retrospective catalogs each of Quentin Tarantino’s movies in detail, from My Best Friend’s Birthday to The Hateful Eight. The book is a tribute to a unique directing and writing talent, celebrating an uncompromising, passionate director’s enthralling career at the heart of cult filmmaking.

Make no mistake about this, Tarantino: A Retrospective isn’t merely coffee-table fluff with a lot of great photographs and artwork (although, there are plenty of great photos to be found throughout the book). This is an informative examination of the director’s career! Tom Shone’s text is a seamless mixture of career biography, retrospective appreciation, and film criticism. Surprisingly, there aren’t many essential books available about the director. This makes Shone’s text all the more essential for fans of the director, but it almost seems a bit premature when one considers the fact that Tarantino has consistently insisted that he will only make ten films before he retires from making movies. With eight films under his belt, one wonders why Shone didn’t wait a few years to release the book so that it could include those two new projects. We can’t answer this question with any authority, but we can say with absolute certainty that fans will be very happy that they didn’t have to wait!

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Book Review: Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece

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Publisher: Voyageur Press

Release Date: November 11, 2013

Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece by Jason Bailey is an extremely engaging work about what is probably Tarantino’s most popular film. The cover states that the book features “film stills and behind-the-scenes photos from the archives of Miramax and Quentin Tarantino.” While these photos are forthcoming, the book is instead mostly made up of Pulp Fiction inspired pop art. One shouldn’t consider this a flaw. On the contrary, the fan art contained in these pages is a testimony to the film’s impact upon pop culture. Since Tarantino’s film was heavily influenced by pop culture, the cycle seems to be complete.

What is even more pleasing is Bailey’s lucid text, which is comprehensive and enlightening without becoming mere dry commentary. Pretension is kept to a bare minimum as he discusses the creation of this influential film, and the impact that it has had upon contemporary cinema. In addition to Bailey’s text, there are a number of essays contained in this volume that cover everything from the history of Pulp literature (“Putting the Pulp in Pulp” by Adam Rosen, the film’s structure (“Pulp Fiction’s Modern Classical Structure” by Kevin Howley), the film’s eclectic music (“Pulp Music” by Gary Graff), the history of the F-bomb (“Pulp Fiction and the F-Word” by Mark Peters), and Tarantino’s blaxploitation influences (“Pulp Fiction and the Black Cool” by Alisha Harris). There is even a chart that puts each scene in chronological order! Tarantino fans should certainly clear a place for this book on their shelves. However, cinemaphiles should be aware that the book is extremely difficult to put down!

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Review by: Devon Powell

Book Review: Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work

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Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Release Date: March 15, 2007

J.J. Murphy’s Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work is a study of the screenplay structure used in twelve successful independent films (Stranger than Paradise, Safe, Fargo, Trust, Gas Food Lodging, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Reservoir Dogs, Elephant, Memento, Mulholland Drive, Gummo, and Slacker). Murphy compares the structure of these films to the ‘traditional’ three act paradigm that is taught in the manuals. Syd Field, Linda Seger, Robert McKee, and other notable manual writers are discussed and quoted at length. Murphy often does this in order to compare the structure of these independent films to traditional structure that is taught by screenwriting manuals. These quotes are often associated with the films discussed in the book, but while the manuals tend to explain why these diversions from typical structural paradigms are a mistake, Murphy argues that these diversions are actually responsible for the success of the film. Murphy claims that these unusual diversions from the structure taught in manuals subvert audience expectations in original ways (and actually add resonance to the themes covered in these films).

While this book isn’t a screenwriting manual, it has the potential to serve future scriptwriters by validating the desire to digress from traditional paradigms. It makes a nice companion to the more rigid manuals on the market. This text will also be of interest to fans of the various films discussed in these pages. Before reading Murphy’s book, this reviewer had only seen seven of the twelve films discussed. It created a strong desire to watch the other five films, and managed to raise my appreciation for the seven films that I had previously seen.

Review by: Devon Powell