Jackie Brown

BY ANDREW MOODY

According to most biographies of legendary auteur Quentin Tarantino, he lost his virginity late, in his mid-twenties, and didn’t have his first girlfriend until pre-production of his indie classic Reservoir Dogs.

This (presumably unbearable) sexual frustration, coupled with his intense academic approach to pop culture, goes part of the way in explaining the typically bodacious violence that characterises his body of work. Indeed, Reservoir Dogs was even banned temporarily in the UK, despite its relative tameness compared with the wave of torture porn that erupted as a reaction to the Second Gulf War.

Tarantino’s sophomore effort, Pulp Fiction, grossed over 100 million dollars, was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, and won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. When it was released in 1994, UK film magazine voted it The Greatest Movie Ever Made.

By 1998, Quentin was so iconic that the hype surrounding him would have collapsed almost anybody. Despite the pressure, he wrote and directed his most enduring and best film, seventies Blaxploitation homage Jackie Brown, starring one of his personal 70’s heroes, Pam Grier. Grier recalled she was hesitant about taking the role, especially when she was invited into Tarantino’s swanky office adorned with posters of some of her classic Grindhouse roles.

“You put them up to impress me?” Grier asked, to which Tarantino replied: “No, when I heard you were coming, I was going to take them down…”

Jackie Brown was the first 15 I ever saw in the cinema and features the first genuine hip-hop track I’d ever heard, on a soundtrack I bought the next day: Holy Matrimony (Letter to the Firm) by then rap superstar Foxy Brown.

Many of the audience were disappointed with the film, but even then I could see the genius and originality in Tarantino’s cinematic vision. Being impossible to top the low budget  grunge cool of Dogs and Pulp, he had carefully undercut both with a surprisingly subtle and moving Blaxploitation thriller adapted from Elmore Leonard’s cult novel Rum Punch.

After Jackie Brown, despite writing and directing increasingly ambitious and novelistic movies, the seemingly effortless way Tarantino captured the pulse of the culture with his first three epics waned gradually, despite the enormity of his ego. His Oscar win for the middling Django Unchained was possibly down to his close relationship with Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein (who was quoted as saying Tarantino was “like a son”) and explains the pretentious and bloated nature of the remainder of his pictures after Jackie Brown.

Follow Andrew Moody on Twitter @VoguishFiction

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