The interview, by the Fortnight’s artistic director, Julien Rejl, followed a screening of a surprise film that turned out to be John Flynn’s “Rolling Thunder” (1977) on a suitably worn 35-millimeter print. The talk largely focused on Tarantino’s new book, Cinema Speculation. The director didn’t break much news, but it was fun to see his rapid-fire, profanity-laden insights instantly translated into French by a heroic interpreter.
Tarantino credited “Rolling Thunder” with being the movie that got him to think about himself seriously as a sort of film critic, even though he wasn’t writing his thoughts down. He discussed the differences between the finished film and the original screenplay that Paul Schrader had written. “He doesn’t recognize that movie any more than I recognize Oliver Stone’s version of ‘Natural Born Killers,’ for many of the same reasons,” Tarantino said, to applause, adding that, even though he loves “Rolling Thunder,” he gets why Schrader doesn’t. He said that hardly any of Schrader’s dialogue survived.
When Rejl asked about Tarantino’s ostensible need to fix reality with revenge movies, Tarantino said it wasn’t quite a need. Killing Hitler in “Inglourious Basterds” wasn’t an idea he had from the beginning of the writing process, he said, but he made “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” expressly “to save Sharon.”
It was also interesting to hear that, after having made extremely critical remarks about John Ford at the time of “Django Unchained,” Tarantino has somewhat come around on “The Searchers.”
“I had never understood the high pedestal that John Milius and Spielberg and Scorsese and Schrader have always put that movie up to,” he said. But when writing Cinema Speculation, Tarantino figured he should watch the film again. “And lo and behold, this time I liked it,” he said. “This time, I kinda got it. I’m still not as into it as these guys are, all right? But I see a little bit more where Scorsese’s talking about, especially his breakdown of Ethan Edwards.”
And why has Tarantino chosen to have a critic as the main character of his next feature? “That’s a long story,” he said. “I can’t tell you guys until you see the movie. I’m feeling pretty good with this microphone in my hand—I’m tempted to do some of the character’s monologues right here, right now—but I’m not going to. But I’m tempted.”