Quentin Tarantino - Adventures in Postmodern Cinema

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Quentin Tarantino:
Adventures in Postmodern Cinema

Elias Soh

Quentin Tarantino: Adventures in Contemporary Postmodern Cinema

0700173H
T03
Ms. Ng Kwee Hoon
Film Theory & Criticism

Quentin Tarantino: Adventures in Contemporary Postmodern Cinema

Introduction
Abstract
FILMS written and directed by Quentin Tarantino between 1991 and 2004 have been variously admired for their styles, visual and verbal wit, three-dimensional characterization and character development and unique narrative structure. What can be described as a “cleverly interwoven tapestry of filmic elements” (Page, 2005), his ability to skillfully involve postmodern elements, unique characterization and non-linear narrative structures in comprehensive, original and effective ways is a mark of his adeptness as both a writer and director. He has been credited with popularizing non-linear narrative patterns by effectively applying it to Reservoir Dogs (1992) and more famously in Pulp Fiction (1994). His films have also been the subject of extensive revile as much as they have been lauded, most prominently for its intense displays of violence. However, to disregard his films solely on the basis of excessive violence is to overlook the artistry within the complex films that, on different levels, show as much as they tell, in a clever implicit fashion. However, an example of Tarantino’s adeptness in engaging viewers can be found in the subject of debating his “excessive displays of violence”. For example, despite controversy surrounding the scene in Reservoir Dogs where Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) severs the ear of a uniformed police officer, in truth, never once is the act of slicing shown on camera. What can be observed here is Tarantino’s canny understanding of audience reaction, as he acknowledges and utilizes the power of the mind’s eye, allowing viewers to envisage their own blood-soaked scenes, to the point of controversy, despite not even showing the act of violence onscreen. Thesis Statement:

This paper explores Tarantino as both a writer and director, by indentifying and analyzing his various approaches to filmmaking, by focusing on Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, and conclude that its qualities lie in its postmodern elements.

Quentin Tarantino: Adventures in Contemporary Postmodern Cinema

1.

Identifying the Postmodern

AN important aspect of films written by Tarantino is the heavy use of postmodern elements to construct a majority of what makes his films stand out today. The concept of postmodernism in art refers to cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, interconnectedness and self-reflexivity (Frey, 2006), in a way that is often indistinguishable from a parody of itself. Postmodernist film disregards mainstream conventions of narrative structure (such as Tarantino’s predisposition towards non-linear structures) and characterization (Tarantino’s approach to characterization is explored in a later section of this paper).

Postmodern filmmakers often attempt to toy with audience’s suspension of disbelief to create a work in which a less-recognizable internal logic forms the film’s means of expression. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are celebrated example of the contemporary direction postmodern cinema. In these films, we see various instances of self-reflexivity, a blurring of morality, stereotype-defying characterizations, fragmented narratives, a lack of distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art techniques, and a disregard for ‘grand narratives’. In Kill Bill, we can observe its ignorance of an underlying reality, as everything is “merely constructed of signifiers with nothing real actually being signified”. (Page, 2005)

The concept of self-reflexivity, which Edwin Page (2005) defined as the “drawing [of] attention to [the film] itself, reminding audiences that it is only a...
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