Director's cut

Quentin Tarantino, the master of haemo-porn, says goodbye

The maverick American filmmaker is going to direct two more films and then retire. So what can we expect to see?

Quentin Tarantino, the master of haemo-porn, has announced that he’s going to retire after two more films – his ninth and tenth.

If you don’t know what haemo-porn is, don’t worry, I just invented the term a couple of minutes ago, inspired by the term gastro-porn. Haemo is the Greek word for blood, and if gastro-porn refers to images of food created to titillate the senses, haemo-porn refers to the kind of bloody violence Tarantino creates to titillate his audience’s senses. Like pornography, it’s fun to watch, but it also leaves you feeling guilty afterwards.

Tarantino has always been completely obsessed by the films he makes – so obsessed, in fact, that he says never married because it would interfere with his work. And now, at age 53, he’s going to make two final films, which means - given his average of one film every three years – that by age 59 he will call his final “Cut!” and walk away forever.

One reason Tarantino gives for this early retirement is that he wants to leave his audiences wanting more. But more likely, Tarantino is concerned about his cinematic legacy. As he once reflected, filmmakers typically lose their touch as they grow older – so, before that happens to him, he wants to create a definitive filmography of 10 films, each one of which will stand up to the scrutiny of future critics, thereby establishing him firmly as one of the greatest film-makers of all time.

Or, in Tarantino’s own inimitable words: “Drop the mic. Boom. Tell everybody, ‘Match that shit.’”

Play
‘Reservoir Dogs’.

Tarantino’s career is one of the most fascinating of anyone since Peter Bogdanovich quit being a film scholar to direct his own movies. It began when, as a teenager, Tarantino lied about his age to get a job as an usher at a porn cinema, thus first learning the grammar of cinema by watching hundreds of hours of porn. This was followed by various other jobs, including a stint as “one of the greatest video store clerks ever”, during which he parlayed his by now encyclopedic cinematic knowledge into creating a taste for good cinema among his clientele.

It was at this time that he happened to bump into film producer Lawrence Bender at a party, and Bender, impressed by Tarantino’s potential, invited him to write a film script. Tarantino never looked back. By the time he directed his first film, Reservoir Dogs, he already had the reputation of being a scriptwriter to watch out for.

Pulp Fiction was his second film, and it’s still considered to be his finest, with its stunning Mobius strip-like post-modern script. It won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for seven Oscars, ultimately winning for Best Screenplay. With Pulp Fiction, Tarantino also established his signature style, characterised by his eclectic cinematic in-jokes, knowingness of pop culture, and inspired choice of music tracks (who else would have thought of using Misirlou by Dick Dale and his Del-Tones for the title sequence of Pulp Fiction?)

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‘Pulp Fiction’.

But, above all, Tarantino’s style is characterised by his lovingly choreographed haemo-porn. As he himself once put it, “Violence is just one of many things you can do in movies. People ask me, ‘Where does all this violence come from in your movies?’ I say, ‘Where does all this dancing come from in Stanley Donen movies?’…. In movies, violence is cool. I like it.”

Tarantino’s violence probably reached its apogee in Kill Bill – his gory, if eclectic, salute to Japanese samurai movies, Chinese martial arts movies, Italian spaghetti westerns and C-grade American slasher flicks. The film has many wonderfully haemo-pornographic sequences, like the one where where Elle taunts Beatrix – who coolly responds by plucking out her one remaining eye, leaving her blind, and screaming, in the trailer with a black mamba on the loose. Or the final samurai sword duel in the Japanese zen garden, where Beatrix delicately slices open O-Ren’s brain to the haunting strains of Zamfir’s pan flute.

Play
‘Kill Bill Volume 1’.

But the one sequence that eclipses everything else is the yakuza battle sequence in the restaurant, with Beatrix vs Half the Population of Tokyo. Tarantino intended it to be “one of the greatest, most exciting sequences in the history of cinema” (for “most exciting”, simply construe “most violent”). That one sequence was supposed to take two weeks to shoot, but it ended up taking two months, eschewing computer graphics and doing it instead, in Tarantino’s own words, like “little kids making a movie in our back yard”.

It inspired the New York Times film critic, AO Scott, to rapturise that “the undeniable passion that drives Kill Bill is fascinating, even, strange to say it, endearing … and the sincerity of (Tarantino’s) enthusiasm gives this messy, uneven spectacle an odd, feverish integrity”.

So what happens next?

So now Tarantino has officially announced that he will make two more films and then fold away his director’s chair for good. And the Big Question, of course, is: what will those two films will be?

We don’t know yet, but there are various clues Tarantino has given us.

One possibility is Kill Bill 3, which he has long talked about – probably taking the cycle of retribution to a whole new generation, featuring daughters who avenge their mothers’ respective deaths (or disfigurements).

Then there are at least six other possibilities Tarantino has talked about:

A “really, really scary horror film”, perhaps picking up where The Exorcist left off.

A Godzilla-style monster movie – “what society is like when a big fucking green lizard rules”.

A sequel to Inglourious Basterds, in which a platoon of runaway court-martialed black troops join up with the Basterds to wreak mayhem upon against the Nazis.

An adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Forty Lashes Less One, which would be a kind of sequel to Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.

A car movie, “something contemporary, where I can have a character who gets in a car, turns on the radio so I can have a cool driving montage” – sort of like a Death Proof Returns.

A period film set in the Hollywood of the 1930s (or the ’50s).

A sci-fi film, perhaps picking up where Ridley Scott’s Alien left off.

Maybe even a rom-com (Why not? Remember Tarantino’s delightfully amoral script for True Romance?)

But the most likely possibility seems to be a ’30s-style gangster movie, like Bonnie & Clyde. As Tarantino reflected recently, “There’s not a genre left where I have the same burning desire that I had to do a World War II movie (Inglourious Basterds) or a martial-arts movie (Kill Bill). I think maybe the one genre left might be a 1930s gangster movie… with the tommy guns and that kind of thing. That’s something I haven’t done and that would be cool.”

Play
‘Django Unchained’.

Yes, and it would be particularly cool because Bonny & Clyde was considered shockingly violent for its time, so it would be interesting to see how Tarantino pushes the bloody envelope further, just as he took the World War II bang-bang film Where Eagles Dare and turned it into the haemo-pornographic Inglourious Basterds, with its gory scalpings and baseball bat beatings.

However, there is the thought-provoking theory that Tarantino always makes his movies in sets of three. First, for example, came his “heist” trilogy (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown). Then came his “Female Revenge” trilogy (Kill Bill 1, Kill Bill 2, Death Proof). And then came his “Period Piece” trilogy (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight).

Tarantino admits that the theory makes sense, but insists that it wasn’t intentional. So how might the theory affect his plan to make just two more films? Nobody quite knows yet – perhaps not even Tarantino.

And, of course, lots of blood

Regardless of what Tarantino’s two final films will eventually be, we can be sure that they’re going to contain at least some of his trademark cinematic motifs, as listed below:

A camera angle from the inside of a car trunk (in seven films), or from the point of view of the corpse (in seven films).

Men in black and white suits (in seven films).

A shot of a pack of fictitious Red Apple cigarettes (in seven films).

A sensuous, fetishistic shot of a woman’s foot (in six films).

A restaurant/bar sequence (in six films).

A case containing something of vital importance (in five films)

A torture scene (in five films).

A character named MacGraw (in five films).

A Mexican standoff scene,in which more than two opponents confront each other with guns, thereby causing a standoff, a la Sergio Leone’s The Good The Bad and The Ugly (in four films).

A reference to Elvis Presley (in four films), or to 1970s Blaxploitation actress Pam Grier (in four films).

And, of course, blood. Lots of blood.

After all, you can’t do haemo-porn without that.

A point-of-view shot in ‘Inglorious Basterds’.
A point-of-view shot in ‘Inglorious Basterds’.
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