What is it that makes director Quentin Tarantino unique? Is it his snappy dialogue, his memorable characters, or is it his liberal, even playful use of violence? Sure, all of these things set him apart from his contemporaries, but there's something else that makes his films so iconic: he steals.
In this video essay from Insider, we'll take a look at how Tarantino uses movie references in his own work through his own version of "stealing"
"Stealing" in a Good Way
Okay, before anyone gets in a tizzy, let's quickly go over what we're talking about when we refer to "stealing".
No, I nor the video assumes Tarantino straight-up takes ideas from other filmmakers and claims them as his own. You might be thinking, "Oh, well...I guess he just likes to pay homage to his favorite films." Again, no.
The video references a 1994 interview Tarantino gave Empire Magazine in which the director calls what he does "stealing," saying, "Great artists steal."
But wait...stealing is bad, right? Not necessarily in the way Tarantino does it. In the same year, Tarantino was interviewed by Positif Magazine at the Cannes Film Festival and describes his method:
I don’t consider myself just as a director, but as a movie man who has the whole treasure of the movies to choose from and can take whatever gems I like, twist them around, give them new form, bring things together that have never been matched up before.
Tarantino is one of the most recognizable postmodern filmmakers, constantly bucking modernist cinematic sensibility in his films. His films are self-referential, pay little attention to the "truth" or "accurate" retellings of history, and constantly draw attention to their plots or how their stories are being told.
But Tarantino's vehicle for his postmodern approach to filmmaking, I think, is his adept ability to "steal".
He has pastiche in film an art form.
That's why watching a Tarantino movie feels like film school rather than a felony. He "steals" so expertly that the...I don't know...the montage of film references he uses becomes more than a mere mashup of movies he likes, but a reference guide on not only the history of cinema but the very heart of each film used.
Tarantino steals, but he does so to bring new life to films that have either lost their audiences or never really had one to begin with.
He's not a thief. He's the Robin Hood of forgotten cinema.