I tweeted the following last night during John Horn‘s on-stage interview with Quentin Tarantino at the Santa Barbara Film Festival: “On one level, the Horn-Tarantino discussion is somewhat interesting because it’s been almost entirely about QT’s writing process.” And, I would have added, because Tarantino’s answers were typically candid and amusing and occasionally profane.
I don’t want to under-convey my admiration for Tarantino’s standard schpiel. Give him a microphone and he’s a chuckling, rollicking one-man band.
“But on another level,” I tweeted, “hearing Tarantino go on and on about how smug and confident and cocksure he is about his creative process is quite boring.” After about a half-hour’s worth, I meant to say.
It was almost as if Tarantino had cut a deal with the Santa Barbara Film Festival when he agreed to make an appearance in place of Leonardo DiCaprio, who withdrew a week or so ago — a deal in which QT said “I’m happy to help you guys but all I want to talk about is my writing process…will you agree to ask me only about that?” And the festival said okay. I don’t know anything, mind. I’m just talking out of my ass. But last night’s chat certainly felt as if this one conversational topic had been pre-agreed upon.
It was either that or Horn is a very focused and cerebral fellow who doesn’t have much of an instinct for what makes a lively and engrossing on-stage interview. Because his QT encounter began to feel like a classroom experience that gradually sank under the weight of a single myopic thread.
Tarantino basically said the same thing over and over last night, which can be condensed as follows: “Not everything that I fart out can be spun into gold, but obviously a lot of my farts have been. By me. Because I’m fucking good. And because I know how to make them smell good in context. Because I’m bold as brass.
“Clearly I’m doing pretty well and here I am, sitting on a stage and being applauded by the locals and being interviewed by an L.A. Times guy, so basically…all right, I won’t say that all my farts smell sweet as lilacs. But mine are different because they’re Quentin farts and that makes all the difference. They make money and people love them and major actors want to work with me…”
In essence, Tarantino also said this (and in some instances I’m paraphrasing): “I have to write within the conventions of genre” — i.e., remakes of ’70s B flicks, martial-arts films with samurai swords, attitude-heavy gangster pics, spaghetti westerns, cheeseball Dirty Dozen films set in World War II — “because I’m devoted to and fully respect genre, and that devotion gives me discipline. Without genre conventions I would just write on and on and on with a resolution I don’t suffer from writer’s block. My problem is that I write and write and write.
“And yet one thing I’ve noticed is that when you watch your older films on cable, you never want them to go on longer. You wish they were shorter, but they are what they are. But fuck it…here I am.”
Audience questions weren’t permitted and Tarantino didn’t show up for the after-party, but if I’d been permitted to ask my Big Question — “If you were presented with a Lars Von Trier-styled filmmaking exercise in which you had to write a film that didn’t use flip, cynical, grindhouse-style, cartoon-panel violence — no handguns, machine guns, samurai swords, baseball bats, grenades, silver-nitrate infernos or violence of any kind, either naturalistic or ‘in quotes’ — what would your movie be about?” — he would have answered with the same riff about how he has to write within genre or his stories would just blather on without shape or resolution.