Quentin Tarantino might just be the greatest director of his generation. He certainly is one of the most remarkable and revolutionary talents in the history of cinema, one with a career beyond criticism that finally finds a first, concrete and well-deserved celebration in QT8: The First Eight.
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QT8: The First Eight retraces the most important steps in the director’s career, from his job at the video rental store to the first screenplays he wrote that have been transposed on film – Natural Born Killers and True Romance, not forgetting his directorial debut with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction‘s success at Cannes and the definitive consecration of his career that followed. As the film takes us through the highs and lows of his career, some of his most well-known, loyal collaborators sit down to tell us about Tarantino’s approach on set and passion for genre films and strong female characters. There are references to his uncomfortable relationship with longtime producer Harvey Wenstein, and to his affectionate relationship with editor Sally Manke, who passed away a few years ago. QT8: The First Eight tells us about Tarantino’s “first” eight films (ending with The Hateful Eight) through tales and interviews that help elevate the man who has become a true Hollywood legend.
The choice to divide QT8: The First Eight into chapters might be a little predictable but it’s also quite pleasant, after all: it’s a documentary on Tarantino, and if anyone can appreciate a stylistic homage, it’s the “Maestro” himself. There is still an ongoing, heated debate between his fans and those who consider him to be an “Arsenio Lupin” of cinema – one who “borrows” what he needs from other people’s work in order to integrate it in his own. But what Tarantino really is, is a great narrator who can create stories and, most of all, characters who are strong enough to pass the test of time and become icons, and not just cinematic ones.
One of the strongest and most recurring aspects the film discusses is Tarantino’s ability to “narrate”. In one of the introductory scenes of QT8: The First Eight, producer Stacey Sher (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight) states that “Quentin basically writes novels”, and anyone who has ever happened to read one of his screenplays can’t help but agree with that. Often forced to cut or shorten entire scenes, Tarantino writes screenplays that are so detailed and peculiar that they could certainly pass as novels. “Five minutes [after he’s started writing], he’s got dialogues that would take some people an entire life time to write”, declares friend and colleague Eli Roth (Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds). Tarantino has a gift for “magnetising” attention with words, even in dialogues with an apparently inconsistent content. Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained) remembers being struck by a scene in Death Proof where the leading characters are in the car, talking among themselves: even though the scene was very long and its dialogues futile, Waltz couldn’t keep his eyes off the screen. There are many “great Tarantino dialogues” that we will never get to see at the cinema, including a very long scene that didn’t make the cut in Inglorious Basterds, featuring “basterds” Donowitz and Ulmer, sitting at the cinema and waiting to be blown up, improvising a conversation in a fake Americanized Italian so as not to expose their true identity. It’s an hilarious sequence that is also uniquely complex in terms of its dialogues, and it’s a pity not to have been able to see it at the cinema (though it would have been very demanding in terms of its acting performance), but, luckily, we can still enjoy it on paper.
QT8: The First Eight uses the interesting device of reconstructing entire “slices” of Tarantino’s life with small animated clips – an effective choice that entertains while also creating dynamism and variety, so as to keep the audience’s attention high while providing visual accounts for exhilarating tales of life on set.
It’s a peculiar documentary, one that has been devised “ad hoc” for its subject and whose rhythm keeps increasing, also thanks to the variety of the interviews we see. Though the film is a little bit too long and its first part initially struggles to take off, QT8: The First Eight is still recommended to all cinema lovers, and not to be missed by the director’s fans.
QT8: The First Eight will be released in Cinemas, on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD in the U.K. from 13th December, 2019.