Review – ‘qt8: the first eight’

Documentary filmmaker Tara Wood does an incredible job interweaving animation, digital stills and voice-overs, in conjunction with interviews and footage from the first eight films written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. He’s been called the powerhouse of creativity and the wunderkind of crime. Critically acclaimed filmmaker and two-time Oscar winner, Quentin Tarantino, is truly one of a kind; a natural born filmmaker. His films explore themes of honor, betrayal, relief, romance, redemption, feminism, power and loyalty. “Movies are my religion and God is my patron. When I make a movie, I want it to be everything to me; like I would die for it.” Said Quentin Tarantino, who recalls his obsession for films equivalent to someone’s devoutness to a religion. Quentin Tarantino is one of a kind because very few people like him watch movies everyday of their lives and possess the unfathomable amount of encyclopedic knowledge that is capable of holding every human beings hand and taking them to school on film history.

This documentary is set-up in five chapters, similar to the way Kill Bill (2003/2004) and Inglourious Basterds (2009) were. The documentary explores Quentin’s struggle to direct his first film, and the details that went into his directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs (1992) and how the legendary auteur gained his reputation at the Cannes Film festival in 1992 upon its screening. The interviews in Tara Wood’s QT8: The First Eight intertwine with clips from his films, as well as personal quotes by Tarantino himself, superimposed on the screen. In essence, Quentin Tarantino is a natural born writer, and it’s clearly justified since he’s been twice rewarded the Best Screenplay Oscar for Pulp Fiction (1994) and Django Unchained (2012). Tara Wood’s documentary explores how Tarantino was able to demystify the directing process that was always considered a mystical, shamanistic job to him.

The documentary does a great job of shedding light on certain facts that could go unnoticed to the casual Tarantino fan. Siting the nods and shout-outs Tarantino gives to his other films, suggesting that most of the characters all live in one universe. In Reservoir Dogs, crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) asks Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) “How’s ‘Bama?” To which Mr. White responds, “Alabama? I haven’t seen Alabama in a year and a half.” This suggests that Alabama Worley (Patricia Arquette) from Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993) – written by Tarantino – dated Mr. White, learned about the Jewel heist, but left him because she fell in love with Clarence (Christian Slater), thus linking those two films together in one universe. Quentin Tarantino has mentioned that the only film of his career where the characters aren’t a part of his universe is Kill Bill (203/2004) – suggesting that that’s the film Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) would go to the Drive-In Theater and see.

“You can’t write poetry on a computer. My pen is my antenna to God.” Said Quentin Tarantino, referring to long-handwriting as opposed to word processing on a laptop when it comes to the creation of his stories. The documentary discusses Tarantino’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch novel into a screenplay, directing his third film, Jackie Brown (1997). Samuel L. Jackson, who portrayed the character Ordell Robbie, claims that Jackie Brown is his favorite of the bunch. That a weighty statement, considering Samuel L. Jackson has collaborated with Quentin Tarantino more than any other actor, having worked together a record 6 out of 9 films.

QT8: The First Eight includes interviews with frequent collaborators, Michael Madsen, Eli Roth, Richard Gladstein, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Jamie Foxx, Kurt Russell, Robert Forster. Zoe Bell, who played herself in Death Proof (1997), delves deep into her stunt work for Uma Thurman’s The Bride character in Kill Bill. Lucy Liu talks about her role of O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill. The interviews discuss the fact that Tarantino never needed to advocate for women’s rights and empowering women in movies because he was the driving force and exemplified it within the industry. He never needed to discuss the way he placed women on a pedestal since it was so obvious. Jackie Brown, Kill Bill and Death Proof (2007) are all led by female characters. In addition, the documentary reveals that Quentin Tarantino initially had written the role of Vincent Vega for Michael Madsen, who had already committed to Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp (1994) with Kevin Costner. John Travolta’s portrayal of Vincent ended up being stellar, and shocking since he’d never been seen holding a gun in a movie. In Pulp Fiction (1994), suddenly Travolta’s Vega is a ruthless gun blazing criminal wearing a black suit with long-hair, revitalizing his movie career. “You make unknowns into stars. And you turn stars into legends.” Jamie Foxx said, referring to the power Tarantino has in casting an actor and escalating their careers to heights unimagined. Jamie Foxx talks about how Tarantino gave him direction on the set of Django Unchained (2012), where Foxx arrived in his Range Rover carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag and having to learn to leave that persona at home in order to dive deep into the character of a slave – someone who is strong on the inside but cannot show it on their exterior, because if they do, they’ll be killed.

The documentary does an outstanding job analyzing the evolvement of Tarantino’s filmmaking techniques through the progression of his first eight films. The choreography of The Hateful Eight (2015) is an aspect of Tarantino’s filmmaking that evolved and matured to a level of mastery, in comparison to his previous films. The cinematography and projection in 70mm Panavision film allowed for Quentin Tarantino to capture large widescreen shots and intimate close-ups like never before, getting under the skin of the characters by revealing to the audience a level of internal emotion otherwise incapable of conveying, had the film been shot on 35mm. There’s a portion of the documentary that also discusses Tarantino’s relationship with long-time collaborator Harvey Weinstein, and the controversy that ensued considering Weinstein was the executive producing force behind almost every Tarantino film. Ultimately, Tara Wood’s QT8: The First Eight is a profound documentary that submerges itself into the mind of Quentin Tarantino, without ever having him interviewed. Instead, the exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from his first eight films, intertwined with animation storytelling and footage from each of his first eight, result in a head-shaking, eye-opening and mind-boggling experience. The facts presented in this documentary may be relatable to some hardcore Tarantino fans, but foreign to many. Regardless of how much you think you may know about Tarantino, this documentary will make you realize that you’ve barely scratched the surface; what you know is the tip of the iceberg.

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