Book Review:  Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino: Part One

I have recently returned from a two-week trip to Los Angeles. (This first part of the review was written in February.) However, this was not a holiday venture during which I spent my time wining and dining and touring places of interest. I went specifically to help one of my sons and his wife take care of their first child and my first grandson, a bright, exuberant, wonderful nine-and-a-half-month-old named Charlie. (Now he’s over a year.) My son has just got a new remote job, so both parents are working full time. I came to help with Charlie while my son navigates his first couple of weeks at work. I was sometimes intensely busy, but in brief moments of respite I would pull Tarantino’s book off the shelf (my son is a film buff and picked it up as soon as it was released) and read as much as I could. By the end of my visit I had managed to finish half of it; that’s why this review is broken up into two parts. I have reserved the book at the Seattle Public Library (there are many people ahead of me) and will review the second half when I get a chance.

Anyway, on to the book itself. I was immediately drawn in by Tarantino’s voice. He writes like he speaks at interviews, with lots of expletives and fervent expostulations. He traces the roots of his movie fascination and addiction from when he was a young child going to films with his mother and her boyfriends. He was exposed to sexy and violent movies long before he was really able to understand what was going on, but during these years he began to form visceral opinions about the nature of cinema and how it affects audiences. As he grew up, he continued to haunt theaters in the Los Angeles area, attending double and triple features of all sorts of films. His reminiscences reminded me of how I grew up with books. I was an avid reader from as far back as I can remember. Early on it was stories about heroic dogs and horses, then fantasy and science fiction, then Jack London’s adventure stories, then fictional memoirs such as those by Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller. To progress from reading to writing was a natural step. In like manner it was a natural step for Tarantino to progress from fascination with movies to creating his own.

After a section on how he grew up with movies, Tarantino moves on to essays about specific films from the sixties and seventies such as Bullitt, The Getaway, The Outsiders, Deliverance, and others. It is clear from these essays that Tarantino has an intimate knowledge of the films and their actors, directors, cinematographers, and the other personnel that brought these films to life. He is able to trace their lineages from idea to execution and reveal fascinating tidbits about studio politics, celebrity motivations, and creative considerations along the way.

No one but Tarantino could have written this book. If you appreciate his movies, you will have a great time reading his thoughts about cinema. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, just as there are some scenes in his films that I think are ill-conceived. I watch them nevertheless because overall they are extremely well crafted and wildly entertaining. I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to read the second half of Cinema Speculation.

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