As a lover of auteurship, and having grown up during the 90s and 2000s, there is one man who I consider to be one of the greatest filmmakers of (potentially) all time. Or at least of our time. Quentin Tarantino.
Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that the art he creates is beyond anything that is currently in production. To many, he is known for his quirky off-beat temp, to the strong (often close to the bone) dialogue or comically over-the-top violence. But, those who study film will know him for his Shakespeare-esk borrowing and re-writing of topes, stories and scenes, his imaginative framing, ruthless actor sculpting and highly skilled one-take-camera .
He himself has an (almost unhealthy) love for films, filmmaking and storytelling.
This brings us on to the subject of this post: Quentin Tarantino’s new book, Cinema Speculation.
Spoiler alert: I have purposely not gone into too much detail – so there are no spoilers. A spoiler I need to share is that you can listen to the book for free if you sign up for audible. That is a spoiler I can get behind. Anway – to the review.
Although I know a little enough about films to hold a conversation, I am not nearly qualified enough to start to understand the depth and complexity of what Tarantino details in Cinema Speculation, so this review is purely based on how easy it is to read, to follow and the general subject matters. The purpose is to help you understand whether it is a book you’d like to read.
While the book does start with the story of the beginning of Tarantino’s love affair (more accurately obsession), Cinema Speculation is largely a collection of film criticism, which delves into the complex mechanics of movie making, production and the behind-the-scenes workings of what he considers the classics. The words on the page do more than give us a peek behind the curtains of Oz, but offers up the perspective of one of the most accomplished filmmakers of all time: he looks at classic films, offers his insight and at points does not hold back on what he feels could have gone differently. While you may be a fan of Tarantino films, his avid love and consumption of films are fairly intense.
If you have caught any interview with Tarantino, he is fairly one-track-minded. Lazor focused. Unconditionally brutal. Unwilling to play the game outside his own worldview. It has made him extremely successful as a filmmaker, and a marmite character.
What many find redeeming is his almost boyish passion for film. A full-blown film geek who accidentally fell out of his job at a video store and into the big leagues of Hollywood – almost overnight.
So, as you may expect, his book is often very analytical, and technical, and does not give space to a novice. If you love film and geek out about the business of the thing, then you’ll love the book. If you just appreciate his films for their entertainment value, then this one may fly over your head. Yet, you may still learn something.
Cinema Speculation takes a look at some of the most iconic films of our time: from Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese) to Deliverance, all the way to some niche loves that most people reading the book are unlikely to have ever heard of (but will watch for sure after reading the book). Other than seeming like a ranting frustration at what he sees as wrong, it is clear that these opinions have ultimately led to the masterpieces he himself has created.
His take on Taxi driver is enough to buy the book on its own. As a huge fan of Scorsese, and ranking Taxi Driver as one of my favourite films, his point of view was quite controversial, but I must say he has a point.
I have to say, at points, it was hard to get through. At points, it felt as though the book was jumping around too much, and unless you have a detailed understanding of the films used in examples, it is quite difficult to fully grasp the concept. Reading the book was almost exactly like listening to him speak. Slightly offbeat, at points furiously fast-paced and at others it feels as though I must have missed the memo (or joke).
Overall, I believe that anybody who spends any time listening, reading or exploring Tarantino as a creator, rather than a name on a billboard, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. There are moments when I sat back with a sense of bewilderment, but I was glad for it. It got me thinking.
It is easy to call somebody a genius, but Tarantino certainly is. He is on another planet, but that planet is something special.
If you want to pick up the book then check out Amazon UK for their current deals, or sign up to audible to listen to it for free.