Quentin Tarantino

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Quentin Tarantino 1963–

(Full name Quentin Jerome Tarantino) American director and screenplay writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Tarantino's career through 1998.

Among the most successful American filmmakers to emerge in the 1990s, Quentin Tarantino is best known for his off-beat, darkly satiric gangster films Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Jackie Brown (1997). Earning large box office receipts and cult adoration as a new renegade force in Hollywood, Tarantino is distinguished for his signature aesthetic (including a penchant for extraordinary, but sometimes humorously rendered) violence, long sequences of dialogue in which characters examine subjects such as cheeseburgers and pop songs in exhaustive detail, and a glorification of popular culture in general and B-movies in particular. Aside from the qualities of his movies themselves, Tarantino is noted for the fact that he achieved success outside of the Hollywood mainstream as a video store clerkcum-independent filmmaker who cobbled together $1.5 million to make his first picture. As such he has offered an example to other aspiring cineasts, and his enormous financial and critical success—Pulp Fiction won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, an Academy Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and other awards—has gained the attention of Hollywood. Thus Tarantino has emerged, as he observed somewhat derisively in a 1997 interview with New York Times Magazine, as "an adjective": "Every third script out there," he said, "is described as 'Tarantino-esque.'"

Biographical Information

Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1963, and was reportedly named after a Burt Reynolds character on television. In 1965, when he was two years old, his mother Connie left his father and moved to California, bringing Tarantino with her. Still a teenager, Connie, who later became a corporate executive, settled in Harbor City, a middle-class neighborhood that bordered on rougher areas. Among the latter was the town of Carson, which included a theatre where Tarantino regularly attended movies. Though he was a bright child, he suffered from hyperactivity, and did poorly in school. Finally, having failed several grades, he dropped out of the ninth grade when he was fifteen or sixteen years old. He went to work as an usher at a pornographic movie theatre and studied acting, but except for a bit part as an Elvis impersonator on the television show "Golden Girls" in 1990, achieved little success as an actor. At age twenty-two, he went to work at Video Archives, which he has referred to as "the best video store in the Los Angeles area." The job, which he held for five years, gave him important exposure to a wide variety of films, and he and coworker Roger Avary—another future filmmaker—would often see four movies a day. In 1990, Tarantino and Avary went to work with producer John Langley, a regular video store customer, and moved to Hollywood. There they began developing the all-important contacts, most notably with producer Lawrence Bender, necessary in the world of filmmaking, and raised $1.5 million. In film terms, it was a shoestring budget at best; but it was enough to make Reservoir Dogs, which grossed many times that sum. With the release of the film two years later, and the resulting critical attention, Tarantino was propelled to stardom on a level seldom enjoyed by the people behind the camera. Though he has acted in a number of movies, most of these are roles either in his own films, or cameos in those of others. Director Tony Scott bought one of Tarantino's early screenplays, which became True Romance (1993), and a story by Tarantino became the basis for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994). Tarantino and Stone disagreed over the latter picture, however, and Tarantino disclaimed all involvement in the resulting film, even delaying release of Pulp Fiction until later that year in order to further establish his distance from it. As for

(The entire section is 1,811 words.)