Will 'Bill' Kill Tarantino's Career? at Age 40, Director May Face Crossroad

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

Will 'Bill' Kill Tarantino's Career? at Age 40, Director May Face Crossroad


Byline: Gary Arnold, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Six years is a long time to go between new pictures, even if you achieve the august rank of a Charlie Chaplin by the end of the 1920s or a Stanley Kubrick by the end of the 1960s. Quentin Tarantino doesn't merit that sort of deference. He does arouse curiosity this weekend about the sort of belated encore that becomes an aging enfant terrible. "Kill Bill - Volume One," the first installment in a Tarantino revenge spectacle to be completed with a second "volume" in February, is poised to put lingering admirers to the test by piling up scenes of grandiose and whimsical carnage.

Mr. Tarantino was 34 when he completed "Jackie Brown" in 1997, demonstrating admirable fidelity to an Elmore Leonard novel ("The Switch") and showcasing Pam Grier and Robert Forster in appealing comeback roles. Now he is 40, a decade removed from the fashionably brazen combination punch of "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" which made him the toast of the business, lionized as the most distinctive and uninhibited young mercenary in the cinematic marketplace.

It's forgotten that Mr. Tarantino already has a group fiasco on his record: "Four Rooms," a 1995 compilation film with three other emerging directors as accomplices. A pair of characteristic Tarantino crime fantasies were directed by other people: Tony Scott with "True Romance" and Oliver Stone with "Natural Born Killers."

Mr. Tarantino boasts that "Kill Bill," an elaborate collection of murder scenes shot for the most part in China on a budget that kept escalating impressively ("$55 million plus" is the estimate reported in Premiere magazine), is "the greatest action movie ever made."

A large claim for a filmmaker with four solo directing credits to his name.

If the director has started to believe his own press, he wouldn't be the first over-praised and over-indulged young Hollywood director to succumb to delusions of grandeur.

The success of "The French Connection" and then "The Exorcist" made William Friedkin look like a foolproof sensationalist in the early 1970s. Then he remade Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspense classic, "The Wages of Fear," as a wayward enigma titled "Sorcerer" and emerged with sodden feet of clay.

Peter Bogdanovich kept pace with Mr. Friedkin in the early 1970s, reinforcing "The Last Picture Show," somber and heartfelt, with "What's Up, Doc?," artificial, but crowd-pleasing. Two years later, in "At Long Last Love," he presumed to cast musical neophytes - his consort Cybill Shepherd and Burt Reynolds - in the leads of a musical comedy. He never regained his footing.

Francis Ford Coppola's Oscar-winning prestige after "The Godfather, Part II" led directly to the prolonged and murky ordeal of "Apocalypse Now," a project relinquished by George Lucas and screenwriter John Milius.

Kenneth Branagh had enviable momentum after "Henry V," "Dead Again" and "Much Ado About Nothing. …

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