Not to put too fine a point on it, but I really dislike you. More specifically, I should say that I don’t enjoy your movies, since I haven’t met you. For all I know you could be an extremely nice guy, although to be honest I kind of doubt that. In the spring of 1994, I went with my boyfriend at the time to a drive-in (remember those?) to see the new movie everyone was raving about: Pulp Fiction. I squirmed when Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta shot all those guys. I dug the dance scene at the restaurant, but cringed when Uma Thurman got that gigantic needle slammed into her sternum. And then, you lost me.
You know that scene where somebody (Travolta?) accidentally shoots the guy in the back of the car? And then thinks it’s funny? Right there is where I signed off. It’s not that I made a declaration to never see one of your movies again, per se, but that’s pretty much how it’s ended up. I’ve seen a few movies you were in; some were fun (Desperado) and some were really, really stupid (From Dusk ‘Til Dawn). But I haven’t really watched anything else that you’ve directed. It wasn’t that it was gross. I’m willing to admit that overall, the movie is very well put together. Everything about that scene, though, just turned me off. A shoot-em-up film is one thing, but it was the “accidental” nature of that particular example that gets to me. A human being’s life was ended, and because the characters involved (much like our society) were so desensitized to death and violence, they thought it was funny, and were merely concerned with getting the blood stains out of their car.
Please understand: I don’t have a huge problem with violence in movies. If it is realistic or necessary to the narrative, I am fine with it. If it’s campy throughout (back to Desperado, which is hilarious), it can indeed be entertaining. My issue is with your particular brand of violence. When utilized as a part of a whole, I can agree that blood and death can be humorous, but not simply on their own merit. Violence for the sake of violence is not funny. The shock value associated with, say, cutting someone’s ear off is something that should, in my opinion, be used sparingly. Death should be treated with at least a modicum of respect; I mean, it’s DEATH. Again, I think it’s the suggestion of a desensitized audience that bugs me. Oh, just some guy with his brains blown out, nothing to see here. But instead of having something to say about the horror or sadness or justice of the situation, you just seem to revel in the blood, Mr. Tarantino. I might go so far as to say you get off on it. I have definitely been known to have a sick and/or inappropriate sense of humor, but something about your sense of humor and mine, well, they just don’t jive.
In the past few years, as I come to a “study” of seeing more movies and generally trying to delve into the medium, my feelings about you have become a bit more complicated. You are seen by many as an “auteur,” and I don’t disagree that you have had an impact on movie-making. As I try to broaden my movie-viewing horizons, I quite often bump up against cult classics like Reservoir Dogs, or films starring people I greatly enjoy, like Inglorious Basterds, or Best Picture nominees like Django Unchained. But I’m just not interested. Perhaps you, as a student of film, would think that my interest is shallow, or that I lack in true taste. Maybe I do. But ultimately, we watch movies because we want to be entertained, and that’s the crux of the matter, here, sir. You don’t entertain me. I think that, if you were at all inclined to do something different, I might be more interested. Most directors aren’t notable for their range in terms of genre, and I respect that. Movie-making is serious and all-encompassing work, so it makes sense that one wouldn’t go bouncing around. But, since you only seem to do things more or less one way, I’m going to have to pass. There will just be one school of cinema that I will remain ignorant of.
I don’t agree at all with the people who think that the seemingly random acts of violence that occur in our society today have been influenced by media or entertainment. Plenty of people have watched a movie where someone gets shot without taking it into their heads to go out and shoot people themselves. But I do think that movies like yours are at least symptomatic of the problem. Again, most of us (yes, myself included) are highly desensitized to violence these days. So perhaps it takes more outre (or just more) violence to get through to us. At the risk of getting way too philosophical, though, I think that we lose a little bit of our humanity when we “enjoy” violence, or when we don’t respond to it with discomfort or sorrow. I believe that art, of any kind, is part of what elevates us beyond mere “animal” status, but when our art appeals to our baser nature, what do we accomplish? Are we moving forward, or back?
Oy, it got all pretentious there for a minute. Sorry about that. I guess I’ll just wrap up by saying that just because I don’t like your vision doesn’t mean that I don’t get that lots of other people like it. Obviously you’ve done quite well for yourself, and I’m sure that my opinion, posted here, will not lose you 5 seconds of sleep tonight. You might say that because I am still mulling over that scene in Pulp Fiction, nearly 20 years after the fact, you’ve accomplished something. Maybe so. If I must, I will thank you for giving me something to think about. I’d thank you more if you’d consider toning it down a little, though. No? Well, can’t say I didn’t try.