Saturday 17 August 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood [2019]

Quentin Tarantino’s 10th film (or 9th, depending on how one considers the delirious Kill Bill volumes), Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, had the maverick provocateur’s signature all over it – digressions, narrative pyrotechnics, gradual build-up to gleeful mayhem, and using cinema to explore myths and deconstruct history (something he started with the enormously entertaining Inglourious Basterds). And, it also formed a troika of sorts with the revisionist Django Unchained and the fabulous The Hateful Eight in his continued fascination with the Western framework. The film’s two central protagonists – Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a former Western star whose on a perceptible decline, and his stunt-double, odd-job man and buddy Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) – are increasingly moving towards obsolescence with the changing sociocultural order; their anachronism is also reflected in their casual disdain for the here-and-now – be it Spaghetti Westerns or the then bristling political climate. Meanwhile, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), upcoming actress and Roman Polanski’s wife, has moved in as Rick’s neighbour – and, as one would anticipate, the sprawling narrative, despite its incredibly broad canvas, ultimately builds to the notorious murders by the Manson Family… only that, things don’t turn out exactly the way history unfolded. While the intricate structure, meditative pacing, terrific chemistry between the film’s two heavy-duty stars, free-flowing metatextuality, and self-reflexive wit, made this a superb piece of craftsmanship, I was also disturbed by its political subtexts – the infectious portrayal of “Pussycat” (Margaret Qualley) apart, the muscular disparaging of the counterculture movement reeked of regressive conservatism. However, one could argue that this was a double subversion – a slap to neocon fantasy fulfilment reflective of the Old-New divide during the turbulent 60s – and that added to the text’s ambiguity.

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Genre: Drama/Social Satire/Showbiz Comedy/Ensemble Film
Language: English
Country: US

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