The term “auteur” gets tossed around a lot these days, but there is no denying that Quentin Tarantino is a picture-perfect example. The general idea is that a moviegoer should be able to identify an auteur’s work by style alone, and that’s actually very easy to do when it comes to Tarantino’s features, as he has a laundry list of director trademarks he’s been employing since the very start of his career. It started in the early 1990s when people were making surprising and very specific connections between RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION, and it’s a tradition most definitely expected to continue with the upcoming ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
With tickets now on sale for the ninth Quentin Tarantino film, which will be showing in AMC theatres nationwide later this month, it's the perfect time to celebrate his contribution to cinema over the last 27 years — and what better way to do that than highlight the hallmarks of his craft? These are the elements that immediately tell you that you’re watching a Tarantino movie, and it starts with a special angle that has been featured in his cinematography from the beginning.
The Trunk Shot
Quentin Tarantino didn’t invent the trunk shot, but he definitely had a huge hand in popularizing it, and it’s also a reliable staple of his work. The writer/director has frequently included shots that offer perspective from the trunk of a car, sometimes representing the perspective of a person trapped in the space. It was first used in RESERVOIR DOGS when Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) showed off a kidnapped police officer, and it has been utilized in the majority of Tarantino’s work since then.
Long Takes and Monologues
There is a deep love for characters that emanates out of every Quentin Tarantino film, and that’s a part of his style that is reflected in his scripts’ dialogue. Similar to the work of Aaron Sorkin or Joel and Ethan Coen, there is a hyper-real quality to the way people talk to each other in Tarantino films, and that includes protracted conversations and standout monologues, which have a direct influence on his style as well. Tarantino loves a nice long take, particularly if it maintains the flow of a sharp back-and-forth.
Red Apple Cigarettes
When implemented improperly, product placement can take an audience right out of the cinematic experience, but that’s not really an issue for Quentin Tarantino movies. Why? Because he has a tendency to make his own products. He has created brands like Big Kahuna Burger, Teriyaki Donut and Jack Rabbit Slims — all of which have appeared in multiple movies — but far and away the most ubiquitous is the presence of Red Apple Cigarettes. Not only is it the preferred brand of most Tarantino characters, but it’s also regularly advertised in the background of scenes, such as in DJANGO UNCHAINED and KILL BILL: VOL. 1.
God’s Eye Perspective
In addition to the trunk shot, Quentin Tarantino has made frequent use of what’s called the god’s eye shot, which is an angle where the camera is positioned in the air looking straight down at the action. The filmmaker also commonly combines this shot with his propensity for long takes, as he doesn’t often just keep the camera in one place and instead uses it to track a character from one room into another.
There are a lot of different extreme close-ups featured in Quentin Tarantino’s movies, with various objects and body parts brought strictly into focus. But the filmmaker has been recognized for frequently featuring bare feet as the subject of these shots. This began with Uma Thurman’s shoeless Mia Wallace going on her ill-fated date with John Travolta’s Vincent Vega in PULP FICTION and has been a trademark found in films since, including JACKIE BROWN, both KILL BILL: VOL. 1 and VOL. 2, and GRINDHOUSE.
Not only do Quentin Tarantino movies frequently feature gunplay, they have also been known to regularly feature the setup known as the Mexican standoff. These scenarios are generated when threats are coming from multiple angles, and everybody has a firearm. And few can milk tension out of such a moment quite like Tarantino. Right at the start of his career, he crafted one of the most iconic examples in modern cinema, but he has kept it going through the decades, in everything from INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS to THE HATEFUL EIGHT.
There are many filmmakers who have been known to team up with a composer and have them create scores for all of their features, but that’s never been the approach taken by Quentin Tarantino. In fact, his movies don’t really have scores at all. Instead, the majority of his movies are outfitted with eclectic, sometimes anachronistic songs that come from a wide array of genres and eras — all specifically selected by the writer/director. Tarantino’s most recent film, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, broke with this tradition, as the project offered an opportunity for the filmmaker to collaborate with the legendary Ennio Morricone. But his special brand of mixtape will be back with ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.
The new Quentin Tarantino film, which stars Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis and more, will be in theatres on July 26. Tickets are on sale now at AMC.