Quantcast
Connect with us

Cannes 2019, Day 9: Hollywood glows in Tarantino’s B-movie redemptions

Published

on

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give us the bromance of the festival in “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood”, Quentin Tarantino’s ode to Tinseltown at the time of the Manson murders.

There was an after-party drowsiness about the Croisette this morning, a sense of an ending, compounded by the clatter of suitcases rolling to the train station. What a contrast after last night’s frenzy. The pushing, shoving and shrieking, bodies writhing in expectation. We knew all along that the festival would peak last night with Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood”. And it duly did, with a glittering red carpet for the ages and an exhilarating journey into the source of Tarantino’s dreams and obsessions (though the following film, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite”, was actually superior).

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s no secret that Cannes loves Tarantino as much as Tarantino loves Cannes. As festival director Thierry Frémaux put it, the iconic director is a “real, loyal and punctual child of Cannes”. Never mind the insufferable critics and the rotten timing for the all-important Oscar race; Tarantino will only ever premiere in Cannes, the bastion of arthouse cinema. And the festival will always bend over backwards to give him pride of place, however late he files (this movie was submitted well past the 11th hour). The result is a carefully choreographed gala premiere, coming 25 years to the day since Tarantino brought his “Pulp Fiction” to the Croisette and redefined the possibilities of cinema.

While no revolution, “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood” makes for engrossing and outrageously provocative entertainment, its 161 minutes whizzing by with such brio and gusto it felt shorter than many films half its length. Like “Pulp Fiction”, it is only loosely interested in narrative, offering instead a riveting catalogue of set pieces and figures from a movie landscape. It could have gone on forever, were it not for an explosive finale Tarantino has understandably begged the press not to spoil. “I didn’t ask for the whole story,” quips the 8-year-old co-star of one of the film’s many movies-within-the-movie. Just give us the gist of it.

The thrilling – and unprecedented – duo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt take the lead parts in the most star-studded cast Tarantino has ever assembled, respectively playing jaded TV cowboy Rick Dalton and his longtime stunt-double Cliff Booth. Struggling to shift from television to the big screen, Rick is in the boozy twilight of his career – though, in a wry dig at the Hollywood he loves, Tarantino notes that he’s already outlasted most female stars in this mercilessly macho industry. Rick’s decline means Cliff’s career has taken a hit too, though he more than makes up for it by filling in as driver, handyman and best pal.

Far bigger film stars make brief appearances, including Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis), Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). And there are delicious cameos for Kurt Russell as a stuntman coordinator and Al Pacino as the agent who wants Rick to revive his career by doing spaghetti westerns in Rome – because Hollywood will only cast him as the baddie in small-budget movies and it doesn’t look good when he invariably gets busted at the end.

ADVERTISEMENT

But there’s a sinister backdrop to the on-screen fun, set at the time of the Charles Manson murders. Cliff has a closer encounter with the Manson cult when he is lured to their farm by an outrageously flirtatious hippie girl, and the scene that follows has all the gripping suspense of the finest westerns. Rick’s hillside mansion, meanwhile, is right next to the home of Polanski and Sharon Tate, meaning he is steps away from one of Tinseltown’s power couples of the time and the site of one of the most gruesome events in Hollywood history.

Tate’s horrific murder – aged 26 and eight-and-half months pregnant – has been restaged often enough for some to speak of “Tatesploitation”. Without spoiling the movie, one can only say that Tarantino is too enamoured and respectful of cinema to give this particular event an exploitative treatment in what is otherwise pure exploitation film. Margot Robbie gives a sweetly moving turn as Tate, her standout scene showing her revel in the experience of movie-going – and of seeing people watch her on the big screen – as she wanders into a cinema for a screening of “The Wrecking Crew”.

ADVERTISEMENT

Billboards and cinema marquees are ubiquitous features in what is an extraordinarily rich recreation of 1969 Hollywood, with the director giving himself ample – perhaps too much – scope for a display of his unique eye for pop culture detail (and his foot fetishism too). This is a showpiece for the B-movies, television shows, spaghetti westerns and musical genres that have had such a formative influence on Tarantino. Martial arts get an amusing tribute in a punch-up between Cliff and Bruce Lee – introduced with the glorious line, “My hands are registered as lethal weapons”. And there’s an interesting take on hippie culture going both mainstream (right up to the “hippyish” costumes Rick wears in his westerns) and dangerously deviant (culminating in the Manson cult).

For all its vintage sophistication, I thought “Once Upon a Time…” was most appealing as the story of a bromance, with DiCaprio and Pitt delivering both wonderful chemistry and two of their finest performances (in Pitt’s case, perhaps his finest ever). DiCaprio gives us a convincing and moving portrayal of a deflated, sobbing macho yearning for another shot at fame. But you sense Tarantino is getting his biggest kick from filming Cliff’s character. Pitt is outstanding as the impassive, rough-and-tumble guy you better not cross. He’s now 55 and has never looked sexier and cooler.

Minutes before the press screening, a Cannes official read a statement from the director asking journalists not to give away any spoilers (he was greeted with a smattering of boos from a minority of critics, who generally don’t like being told what to do). Bong Joon-ho, the Korean director whose film was shown shortly after, made much the same plea in a note left in the press lockers. There are indeed extraordinary twists and turns in his brilliant “Parasite”, which instantly made him a strong contender for this year’s Palme d’Or – or, at the very least, the Best Screenplay award.

ADVERTISEMENT

A Seoul-set, family-based tragicomedy about the growing divide between rich and poor, “Parasite” revolves around an impoverished family’s cunning scheme to improve their lot. Bong, whose Netflix-produced “Okja” caused a kerfuffle in Cannes two years ago, has a history of blending genres and defying categorization, and his latest film is perhaps his most hybrid yet. It mixes social-realism, comedy and thriller, with more than a splash of horror. The director has suggested it may be “too Korean” for international audiences. But I was on the edge of my seat throughout this absorbing drama, a beautifully-shot work as hilarious as it is harrowing. What a day in Cannes.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

‘Alarming gibberish’: Trump dragged through gauntlet of mockery for raging impotently against Fed chair and China

Published

on

President Donald Trump attacked his own Federal Reserve chairman as an "enemy" of the United States amid his escalating trade war with China -- and other social media users were flabbergasted.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell refused to budge on interest rates, despite heavy pressure by the president in the face of a looming recession, and China retaliated against the tariffs Trump imposed with a new round of their own.

Trump lashed out at Powell, whose name he misspelled, and compared him unfavorably to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Continue Reading

Facebook

A look inside the Koch brothers’ secret plan to manipulate politicians — and how it fueled the rise of the radical right

Published

on

Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend about $1 billion getting their 2016 nominee elected. There’s a third group that will spend almost as much. It’s not a political party, and it doesn’t have any candidates. It’s the right-wing political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, expected to spend nearly $900 million in 2016. The Kochs’ 2016 plans come as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. The story of the Koch brothers and an allied group of billionaire donors is told in a new book by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda.

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

New video emerges of Trump blurting out anti-Semitic slurs

Published

on

President Donald Trump this week said that the majority of American Jews were "disloyal" to Israel because they support the Democratic Party -- but that's far from the first time that the president has made controversial statements that deploy anti-Semitic tropes.

The Washington Post has obtained a video clip from 2011 that shows Trump boasting about how great one of his golf courses is before saying that "even these spoiled, rich Jewish guys, they can’t believe how good this [course] is."

The clip was originally aired on the Golf Channel for the show "Donald J. Trump's Fabulous World of Golf."

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image