Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood is structurally one of Tarantino’s most complex works ever while also appearing to be his single most happy-go-lucky project to date.
Quentin Tarantino has always strived to rewrite cinema genres and their relationship to our perception of reality through his work. He did it by levelling the classic “film noir” (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction), modernizing blaxploitation (Jackie Brown), changing the outcome of a war (Inglorious Bastards), revamping the potential narrative of martial arts (Kill Bill), reinventing the modern-day western (Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight) and reviving the B movie double feature (Death Proof).
In this sense, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood works well as a synthesis of his style but also stands as his most ambitious takes on our relationship with cinema itself. Based on real-life events that represent better than any other the end of the age of innocence of a specific idea of Hollywood (the death of Sharon Tate at the hands of the Charles Manson gang), Tarantino builds a story that speaks to fallen myths and cinema’s ability to preserve them.
Tarantino once again invites us to enter a world in which our expectations are blown out of the water and the power of fiction is honored to rewrite the darkest corners of our history, which are also that of our memory. It is, as was also Inglorious Bastards, a criticism of the implied and a declaration of love for the cinema, this projection of images that save us from reality and help us rebuild it, evade us from the world but also help us understand it.
Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood is structurally one of Tarantino’s most complex works ever while also appearing to be his single most happy-go-luckyproject to date. It is, in essence, the story of an actor who yearns for an opportunity to demonstrate his true talent and that of his friend and stunt double (a splendid performance from both DiCaprio and Pitt).
Our big screen duo struts the streets of Hollywood like a pair of characters from a novel in search of an author and as fate would have it, they cross paths with Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski and the Manson ‘Family’. The film turns out to be a masterful pulling back the curtain to glimpse inside the world of acting and an absolutely extraordinary exercise in a formal balancing-act. Only Tarantino can harmonize so many registers in one single story, which ranges from capturing everyday life to Hitchcockian suspense, from the comic to metalinguistic drama, all with silken ease.
Without giving too much away, suffice to say that by way of example, the last 15 minutes feature one of the most hilarious moments in Tarantino’s entire filmography and also one of the most emotional. And along the way he produces a few new cinema icons, beginning with Margot Robbie who will undoubtedly remain forever associated with Tate, in the same way that for many, Uma Thurman will always be Mia from Pulp Fiction.