Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino


Quentin Tarantino is arguably one of the most important figures in contemporary cinema. This book provides an introduction to the practical and creative elements of his work without descending into technicalities. It looks at the film culture out of which Tarantino's work emerges and which informs our ways of reading it. It also examines the connections between his work and the thoughts and ideas deeply implanted in American culture, what are so often called 'American Dreams'.

Highlighting different facets of Tarantino's achievements, this book will appeal to undergraduates studying modern cinema or American film.


[H]is dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to
grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere
back in that vast obscurity beyond the city.

(F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925), The Great Gatsby)

‘I did it for money, and for a woman’

(Walter Neff in Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944))

The excitement of approaching Tarantino is an emotion that comes of encountering something new. By this I do not mean to point towards any specific innovation – that would have to be argued and proved – but rather that the films offer an occasion for critical enquiry into something that has not been too thoroughly worked over, that might yet turn out to be gold or dross. In such cases, we have to start out only with the excitement we felt in the cinema, hoping that in interpreting the film we can find grounds to argue for the rightness of our instinct. In trying to turn excitement into an argument, what I have found is that Tarantino’s newness can best be understood if we try to see his work in relation to the past of the medium of American film and more broadly of American art. In that respect, I want to claim Tarantino as an American modernist, using the term in the sense defined by Stanley Cavell (1979, p.216), an ‘artist whose discoveries and declarations of his medium are to be understood as embodying his effort to maintain the continuity of his art with the art of his past’.

I think that Tarantino invites us, when we explore his contemporary settings, to grasp the continuity between them and the past worlds in which we believe that the values, or fantasies, that are implicit in statements like those quoted at the head of this chapter, could still be asserted. The connection is not a straightforward one: such assertions contain their own recognition of loss, of the impossibility of reconstituting a still earlier, imagined world. Trying to think about these continuities involves . . .

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