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March 1995, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 8 Mar 1995 19:41:22 CST
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I think QT is all the rage today for a GOOD reason -- though most of his fans
probably couldn't really tell you why. Most I think are simply intoxicated by
his ear for modern dialogue and conversation. Particularly the extraordinary
permeation of our daily conversation by 30 years of middlebrow post-TV
culture. Though he's certainly not the first to do this, he certainly is good
at it.
Violence is at the core of QT's real contribution. His depiction of it,
especially in "Reservoir Dogs," is extremely un-glorified. It is clearly a
sickness, an addiction, a hideous, inextricable component to warped,
self-destructing lives. A violence-racked society needs movies about violence
-- Movies that provocatively place that violence in a cultural context that
makes us question are assumptions -- the assumptions that allow us to
continue to tolerate it -- the assumptions that let us enjoy it. QT
interweaves this sickening violence tightly into the fabric of that post-TV
middlebrow conversation. We can now longer enjoy, voyeuristically, the
violence of those "others," the bad guys that aren't like us. He doesn't give
us an easy-to-identify-with good guy who uses violence in a righteous way. We
can no longer revile the bad "other" and then in self-satisfaction cheer on
"good," righteous violence. There is no righteous violence in QT. It is
always vengeful and/or pointless, and it is perpetrated by characters who
talk just like us -- jaded and virtually unshockable.
For me, QT's films occur as part of a discourse that is immediately preceded
by "The Unforgiven" -- another film that turns the violent hero formula on
its head. Gaining entry through use of familiar cinema iconography and then
stabbing us with our own violent sickness.
Those other films with partial Tarantino credits ("True Romance" and "Natural
Born Killers") I don't see as part of this discourse. For me, they are
blatantly violence-exploiting, titillation, and pornography.