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Tarantino in Morelia 2009

On October 3, 2009, a party was starting: the seventh edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) in the presence of many iconic figures such as Quentin Tarantino, who would later become a good friend of the festival visiting it several times. That night was Inglourious Basterds' (2009) premiere in México. One of the most vivid memories I have of that time is a hurried-paced walk on Francisco I Madero Avenue in downtown Morelia with Tarantino, Eli Roth, one of the protagonists —and director of Hostel and sequel, among others— and dear departed friend and colleague Joaquín Rodríguez, who was in charge of moderating the long-awaited press conference, one of the most successful and crowded ones.

Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth

Tarantino likely got the plot for his first film Reservoir Dogs (1992), from an unknown film by Ringo Lam (City on Fire1987). It focuses on a jewelry store heist with a cop infiltrated in a criminal gang and defended by one of its members. Moreover, the famous torture scene, where Michael Madsen cuts off the ear of a policeman he has taken hostage, is taken from a sequence from Django (dir. Sergio Corbucci, 1966) in which the General played by José Bódalo cuts off the ear of a preacher.

Plagiarism, remakes, tributes? Be that as it may, Tarantino managed to create in a short time a personal film code and a very recognizable fix, reworking sequences, plots, and elements from underrated and low-budget films while reusing musical themes from the sixties and seventies. He has done so in such a brilliant and surprising way that it seems he is reinventing genres rather than copying them. Thus, thrillers, crime and gangster films, spaghetti westerns, martial arts films, war films, gore films, blaxploitation stories, and more are transformed, through his style and amazing cinematography, into spectacular, acid, sarcastic, and ultra-violent plots that continue to fascinate audiences worldwide. 

Witty and abundant dialogues, delirious verbal exchanges, situations as anomalous as funny on the border between bloodthirsty and black humor, and unusual characters drawn from an aberrant everyday life. Through his work and his style, Tarantino has delved into the realms of brutality and excess, exploiting not only the subculture of the average American, particularly that of the slum from Los Angeles, exploring its myths, including the red note and the plots of hundreds of B-movies and foreign films to suit his tastes, his obsessions, and his highly entertaining manias.

One of the crucial films to understand the hyperviolent cinema of the nineties was the jewel titled Reservoir Dogs, a film that, without saying anything, became mythical to explain the culture of crime and violence in its most parodic and extremist sense. Later, with Pulp Fiction (1994), Tarantino exorcised the most ironic cinema noir of the forties and fifties and the so-called pulp literature, winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Screenplay. Jackie Brown (1997) was a tribute to black exploitation starring African American actors in the 1970s that showed a more mature filmmaker with a more refined narrative technique. So, while signing scripts such as those for True Romance or Natural Born Killers and writing and appearing in tapes such as Curdled and From Dusk Till Dawn, he was making his fourth film and first volume of two installments in 2003: Kill Bill, followed by Kill Bill 2 (2004) and Death Proof (2007).

Quentin Tarantino in the 7th FICM

Inglourious Basterds amazed Morelia with its chance on war films, not so much those represented by figures such as Raoul Walsh or John Ford, but by those B movies that were left behind in double features or matinee programs, with repulsive Nazis and losers ready to exterminate them. Starring Brad PittChristoph WaltzMelanie LaurentMichael Fassbender, and Eli Roth, among others, in Inglourious Basterds there was room for references to The GolemMax LinderCharles ChaplinThe Dirty Dozen (1967, dir. Robert Aldrich) and above all, to the Italian film of the same name The Inglourious Basterds (1978) by Enzo G. Castellari. Musical contributions by Elmer Bernstein and Ennio Morricone and a twisted plot of great epic and parodic hints, centered on an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in Nazi-occupied France and involving a young Jewish girl who runs a movie theater, a black projectionist, and a patrol of American soldiers of Jewish origin determined to scalp their victimizers or finish them off with a clean shot. An excess. A break with history. A complete delirium. All of this would be followed by DjangoThe Hateful EightOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood, and, coming soon, The Movie Critic.