The Talkies: On the Q.T.

Bowman, James

"The Talkies: On the Q.T." Why are filmmakers aping the awful Tarantino?...

...The spokesman for the audience is Eduardo (Bruce Ramsay), Gabriela's boyfriend, who is both attracted and repelled by the blood: "I like to read about it," he says as Gabriela leads him, with difficulty, to a crime scene, "but this is different...
...Big of the rackets in this little Minnesota town...
...E-mail him at 72o56.3zz6@compuserve.com...
...One, Paul Guell (William Baldwin), is a serial killer, which makes him relatively normal, at least among movie characters...
...The tale is an edifying one, especially if you are a merely social user of crack, but the more so as it becomes clear that the gutter you are headed for on greased skids is positively awash with Tarantinian toughs-the kind of people who philosophize about being "ruthless" and dare each other to cut off some poor slob's fingers because they were found in the till...
...The co-directors, Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, have wisely if rather daringly chosen to play them straight, as if this were the first time we were seeing them, instead of trying to be hip...
...I, for one, shall never be able to look at a PBS special in the same way again-just as I can't watch an oldtime film noir anymore without thinking of Tarantino...
...In her spare time she keeps a scrap...
...Nothing ages so fast as mere quirkiness...
...Or the old guy with Alzheimer's disease whom everyone calls Tom Dooley (though even his family is supposed not to know his real name) and who goes around painting everything in town institutional green...
...The most fun thing about Hexter's film is looking back on it after you have seen it and picking out the retrospective jokesthat is, the bits you weren't sure were jokes while you still thought it was an ordinary 44 He smokes crack, and finds himself in the gutter...
...This isn't no movie...
...All the cliches in Big Night are of a much hoarier vintage: the immigrant brothers trying to make it in America, old-world art and craftsmanship versus the American love of the cheap and gaudy, the temptation to sell out, to settle for second best, the importance of family ties...
...As they eat, each of the brothers in turn puts an arm around the shoulders of the other...
...JAMES BOWMAN, our movie critic, is American editor o f the Times Literary Supplement...
...Like Robert Rodriguez in Desperado, he does not appeal to a fascination with blood (though a lot of people bleed), nor even to the romance of violence, but to the romance of movie violence...
...Above all, if I hear that Quentin Tarantino discovered the young director of the film at a small independent festival and enabled him to make his first feature, which is the case with Curdled, my own blood will curdle before I'll go and see the thing...
...This is a movie about three sick people...
...But such cliches do not so readily lend themselves to trivialization...
...He self-consciously compares his story to "a dime novel"-pulp fiction, in fact-and the cheap pleasures associated with various tough-guy cliches...
...and if he is thanked by the director or producer, or recommends people to see it, I shall recommend that they not see it...
...The result is a delightful picture that also makes the mouth water...
...And so the standard is lowered further...
...Ian Holm plays Pascal, the restaurateur down the street who has succeeded by virtue of what Primo calls "culinary rape," and who tries to befriend the brothers...
...I highly recommend Dadetown as the latest and best of postmodern films, one which, characteristically of the genre, engages the head but not the heart...
...Our attention is divided between suspense as to whether Louis Prima will come, a detailed portrayal of the preparation of what those who come to the party agree is probably the best meal they will ever eat, and the complicated relationships between the brothers, between the brothers and Pascal, and between the brothers and the women in their lives...
...In a single take of what must be five minutes, Secondo makes an omelette for Primo and their one employee in complete silence, and then the three of them eat it...
...Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken are the main tough guys here, and both of them are ironic, postmodern tough guys: tough by James Bowman guys who know they are playing at being tough guys...
...Readers with long memories will recall that two years ago I praised Pulp Fiction...
...So you're really the same as Gabriela, who is the same as everyone else, really: that is, a "gore hound," in the felicitous phrase of her boss (Barry Corbin...
...There have to be ever-new frontiers when it comes to the exploitation of cliche, and one of the few recent directors to have found one is Russ Hexter, a young filmmaker not long out of NYU film school who, shortly after making Dadetown, dropped dead of an aortic aneurysm...
...I doubt if gore hounds are really so common as that, even among such Tarantino fans as Walter Hill, whose Last Man Standing purports to be Kurosawa's Yojimbo transplanted to Prohibition-era Texas...
...Primo is the creative and rather temperamental genius in the kitchen, Secondo is the manager, waiter, bartender, and accountant who sees how bad things are for the business but doesn't want to tell his brother...
...If Quentin Tarantino sneaks into the credits as a grip or a cameraman or a boom operator or an animal wrangler, I shall walk out...
...What we really come for, as with Desperado, is the inescapably cinematic dance of death by the many nattily-suited and Fedora-hatted thugs on the wrong end of Willis's large-caliber handguns...
...It takes wit and an 72 November r 9 9 6 The American Spectator extraordinarily light touch to make a film like this work, and Mr...
...It is an ambition which points up the fact that this movie is meant to be a kind of trailer-park Godfather, complete with corrupt police and grand betrayals, deadly gunplay, revenge, and murder, all in the comic vein first mined by Mr...
...We have seen all the tricks...
...And we are supposed to believe that Freddy's only wish is to go to Las Vegas to be a showgirl, and so join the postmodern pantheon of cliches along with all the cheap tarts, brassy dames, and ironic tough guys...
...Tucci) trying without much success to run a restaurant...
...The tale is an edifying one, especially if you are merely a social user...
...But for the Movie of the Month, I have to fall back on a film that is strangely, almost preternaturally untainted by the use of po-mo cliches...
...He makes extravagant expressions of friendship with lots of heart-warming and salty old world wisdom ("Bite your teeth into the ass of life...
...But it comes across as simply preposterous and condescending...
...Red is the Mr...
...73 The American Spectator November 19 9 6...
...The best joke of all comes when one of the resentful locals appears to assault the filmmaker: "The problem is your cameras," he says...
...The cliches he exploits to such good effect are those of the serious television documentary-about a town in upstate New York divided between its indigenous, blue-collar population, largely associated with a dying smokestack industry, and newly arrived yuppies who work for a computer firm...
...You don't just like to read about it, but to see it-at least on film...
...Or the yuppie couple showing off their new jacuzzi to the interviewer and talking about putting a waterfall in their basement...
...A compendium of these cliches is to be found in Feeling Minnesota by Steven Baigelman, which suffers from Robert Altman's disease, or the hipness unto death...
...There is an implicit challenge to the audience in a movie like this: If you think this stuff is so bad, why are you watching it...
...But he really wants them to come to work for him and will not lend the money to help them out of the hole they are in...
...Are you going to be so wimpy...
...THE TALK I E S On the Q.T...
...I take it back...
...book of newspaper clippings about gory murders and watches horror films on TV...
...Hill may have got his story from the great Japanese director, but he got his style from QT...
...11 documentary-like the children's park in Dadetown named for Ed Savoka, "a famous computer programmer who died in a drug related incident" (later vandalized by the locals...
...Pascal offers another kind of help: he will recommend the brothers' restaurant to his good friend, the band-leader and singer Louis Prima, who will come for dinner and put them on the map...
...Baigelman hasn't got it...
...The second, Gabriela (Angela Jones), is a young Colombian woman who is so fascinated by murder that she quits her job in a bakery in Miami to sign on with the "Post-Forensic Cleaning Service," which cleans up the blood at crime scenes...
...The ending is not neat and not very happy, but it is an audacious one...
...this is a nice, quiet little place...
...My resolution may not last, but at least so long as I was watching Curdled by Reb Braddock (and maybe for some days afterwards), I was determined never, never, never, never, never again to watch a movie that is written, directed, acted in, or executive-produced by Quentin Tarantino...
...James Bowman welcomes comments and queries about his reviews...
...The rest of the film records the preparations for and finally the coming of this "Big Night" which, Secondo is convinced, will make or break them...
...That's not just a joke...
...Set in the mid-1950's in a New Jersey beach town, the story concerns two Italian brothers, Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Mr...
...Or are they...
...Perhaps no one does now that so many similar pictures have been made...
...Little by little, Angelo (Michael Imperioli) gets involved with crack cocaine, and soon finds himself in the gutter...
...The film is best seen cold, without any advance knowledge of the trick of it, but even if you are in on the secret you will find yourself being fooled by the pitch-perfect mockery of televisual solemnity and social concern...
...The extraordinarily beautiful Cameron Diaz plays this woman, called Freddy...
...which proves to be, like the rest of his facade, just more fakery...
...Keanu Reeves (who, having already experienced his own private Idaho, may find it easier to feel Minnesota than most of us do) is a small-time, small-town thief with the Tarantinian name of Jjaks who steals the wife of his thuggish brother, Sam (Vincent D'Onofrio) -whom she had only married in the first place because she was forced to by Red (Delroy Lindo...
...But the novelty of taking pleasure in these cliches is beginning to wear off, while the Tarantino style has given birth to a whole new set of cliches, pleasure in which, I fancy, it may never be easy to take...
...He thinks he has caught her stealing from him, and marrying her off to Sam is the worst punishment he can think of...
...The cliches are now filtering down even to a grim morality tale like Gary Winick's Sweet Nothing, a modern version of Dean Farrar's Eric, or Little by Little, the book that frightened many a Victorian schoolboy with the terrible if somewhat delayed consequences of a loss of self-control...
...The third sick person is you, if you voluntarily watch this dreck...
...Too good to be true...
...It reminds us that even love is a cliche...
...Clearly these things are over the top...
...Whatever that film's merits, there is a hidden corruption at the heart of it which has laid waste the cinematic product of a generation...

Vol. 29 • November 1996 • No. 11


 
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