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Guns, testosterone and Cadillac… Quentin Tarantino’s lesson in cinema at Cannes

From our special correspondent on the Croisette – – The race for the Palme d’Or, which will be awarded on Saturday, ends at the Cannes Film Festival with the screening of films by Wim Wenders, Catherine Breillat, Alice Rohrwacher and Ken Loach, the latest feature films in the competition. At the same time, the Croisette welcomed superstar Quentin Tarantino, who came to deliver an extraordinary cinema lesson. France 24 was in the front row.

The Cannes Film Festival is entering the home stretch. While the countdown is launched before the presentation of the prestigious Palme d’Or on Saturday, this end of the festival is marked by the presence on the red carpet of two “regulars” of the Croisette, who have come to present their new films in competition.

German director Wim Wenders, who has already unveiled the experimental documentary “Anselm” this year in a special screening, received a warm welcome on Thursday May 25 at the preview of “Perfect Days”, a poetic fable centered on a public toilet worker in Tokyo.

The British Ken Loach, veteran of the festival who has two Palmes d’or to his credit, is also back with “The Old Oak”, in which a small town in the north of England sees its daily life turned upside down by the arrival of Syrian migrants.

Two women are also in the spotlight: the Frenchwoman Catherine Breillat with “Last summer”, a transgressive love story between a woman and her 17-year-old son-in-law, and Alice Rohrwacher whose film “La Chimera” follows a gang of petty art traffickers in Tuscany.

Finally, another event aroused great enthusiasm on the Croisette. The visit of the exuberant star director Quentin Tarantino, who has come to give his fans a lesson in cinema.

A meeting organized two months after the release of his book, “Cinema speculations”, in which the director retraces his early career as a cinephile. Quentin Tarentino, in full preparation for his tenth feature film, has also indicated that it could be the last.

Poster of Quentin Tarantino’s masterclass in Cannes, Thursday May 25, 2023. © David Rich

Tarantino and his masterclass

Thursday, in the middle of the afternoon, a long queue obstructs the passage, along the sidewalk, in front of the theater of the Croisette. Fans from around the world came to attend the masterclass of their great master of cinema, winner of the Palme d’or in 1994 with “Pulp fiction”.

Acclaimed for long minutes when he arrived on stage, the filmmaker launched the projection, in 35 mm, of a surprise film: “Rolling Thunder” (Légitime violence, 1977), action film by American director John Flynn, little known to the general public, but considered by Quentin Tarantino as “the best revenge film of all time”.

After seven years spent in Vietnamese jails, Major Charles Rane returns to his town in Texas. Welcomed as a true hero, he is offered a box full of money and a beautiful red Cadillac. Bad luck, these little gifts attract the greed of a band of crooks who murder his family and put his hand in the sanibroyeur. Now decked out with a plastic arm adorned with two hooks, the half-man, half-robot major embarks on a mission of revenge, which will end in a Mexican brothel under a rain of corpses.

Taste of kitsch and provocation

“How many of you have not seen this film?” asks the director at the end of the film. Most of the hands go up. “That’s a hell of a bunch of satisfied customers,” he laughs.

With this film, Quentin Tarantino took few risks, all his influences are there: ultraviolence, a taste for kitsch and provocation. The “Niakoués”, the “Jap”, the women… Everyone takes it for their rank.

Sometimes present in his films, this type of invective has also earned Quentin Tarantino some controversy. The director Spike Lee had criticized him for the frequent use of the word “nigger” in his scripts, while Morgan Freeman had on the contrary defended the director.

But we also find in “Rolling Thunder” the love of detail, the management of rhythm and the well-felt, funny reply that characterizes the cinema of Quentin Tarantino.

“Why do I always end up with weirdos?” wonders the beautiful blonde who accompanies the major on his journey, when she discovers the reason for this disastrous road-trip. “Because they’re the only ones left!” he replies tit for tat.

Quentin Tarantino during his masterclass.
Quentin Tarantino during his masterclass. © Guillaume Lutz / Hart

Violence to “electrify the audience”

This screening is an opportunity for the director to return to his conception of the representation of violence, decried in some of his films because of the bloodshed, which he particularly likes. In his book, he explains that his mother, a very cinephile, let him accompany her to the cinema from an early age and that he was often the only child in the room. For her, violence on screen was not a problem, including for her young son, as long as it was understood.

Tarantino, for his part, considers that morality should not dictate the aesthetics of a film. The most important thing is to “electrify the audience”, as the American director Don Siegel said, he explains. “The violence with which I have a problem is the one that is badly done, it is incompetence”, he specifies, explaining that if this “stirs him in the wrong direction” it is because for him, it harms the story of the film.

The director nevertheless claims, in this area, to have a moral limit that he cannot cross: “Killing animals for real in a film”, as “it has been done a lot in European and Asian films”. “Including insects” he specifies, arousing the laughter of the room won over to his cause.

“I don’t pay to see death for real. We’re here to pretend, that’s why I can take this violence. We’re just fooling around, we’re just kids playing, it’s not real blood and no one gets hurt,” he concludes.

Quentin Tarantino during his masterclass in Cannes.
Quentin Tarantino during his masterclass in Cannes. © Guillaume Lutz / Hart

A tenth film dedicated to the love of cinema

During this masterclass, the director also asserted his assumed preference for directors and works that are little noticed, or not considered at their fair value, like the choice of the film “Rolling Thunder”, the first film by a John Flynn unknown to the battalion. , who was then only an assistant director.

Similarly, in his book, he expresses his love for Brian de Palma, his favorite director of the 1980s. popular, not my style! Nobody would have fought to defend them while some people really didn’t like De Palma. Part of my love, beyond the fact that he was a great director, came from this possibility of getting confused defending him, sometimes on the verge of coming to blows”.

This overflowing passion for cinema, Quentin Tarantino also mentioned it by referring to his last film “Once upon a time… in Hollywood”, released in 2019. He said that his primary motivation for making this feature film was was to ‘aveven’ Sharon Tate, actress and wife of Roman Polanski who was brutally murdered by members of the “Manson family” in the 1970s, by imagining an alternative ending to this tragedy.

Quentin Tarantino during his masterclass in Cannes.
Quentin Tarantino during his masterclass in Cannes. © Delphine Pincet

Asked about his new film in preparation, a new ode to cinema whose main character will be a film critic, Quentin Tarantino was much less talkative: “I can’t tell you guys anything until you’ve seen the film”… Before titillating his audience, causing bursts of laughter in the room.

“I feel quite comfortable there with this microphone in my hands, I’m tempted to do some of the characters’ monologues for you right now… But I’m not going to, no, no. But I’m tempted… Maybe if there were fewer cameras”.

This tenth feature film is all the more awaited as the director has indicated on several occasions that it could be his very last. “Business to follow” he concluded.

Cannes film festival
Cannes film festival © Graphic studio France Media World

France 24-Trans

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