I’m not sure who the hot filmmaker that every fan boy wants to emulate is today, but a couple of years ago it was QT. Guy Ritchie, Donnie Darko you know the drill.
You have a bunch of obnoxious proto-hipsters who love these movies, quote these movies, dress like they’re in Reservoir Dogs. It was always a script with two twenty-something’s in black suits with black ties and guns pointed at each other quipping not very witty crap and saying “fuck” a lot for no better reason than to be maverick filmmakers. Between that and all the film school clichés it can be excruciating to try to try discover your own voice. For my own sanity, I hold his work and his public persona at arms length. I’m always on the look out for a way to disarm a QT fan boy.
The current darling of all aspiring filmmakers, and evidently Hollywood at large is Jason Reitman.
I like his movies, but it just appears as though he’s being lauded as the second coming of Orson Welles or something. I was listening to Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment and Jason was discussing being a director, and he is as humble as can be. One of the things he said that I often hear in my editing classes is what makes a director (or editor) good is if what they are doing does not get in front of the story. If the cuts of the movie are super cool, you are paying attention to the edit not the story. It takes you out of it. Jason echoed this, directing is a series of binary decisions, and if they put the director in front of the story the audience is taken out of it. Good advice from multiple sources.
I happened to find QT’s Treatment episode and I gave it a listen. That’s when it occurred to me. Tarantino isn’t a director at heart. He’s first and foremost a writer. He’s a PhD dissertation of film genre and technique. That guy is SUH-mart. But he’s not a director that gets in the way of the story he’s telling. See it clicked in when I remembered the episode of Alias where he played a spy that took over Sydney’s (Jennifer Garner’s) base. He was supposed to be this hyper-cool spy in the vein of Tarantino’s Madonna-Virgin speech. Problem was he didn’t write it, and he’s not a great actor. So the episode flubbed as far as I was concerned.
That’s when I realized that the parts of Tarantino’s movies where I feel like he’s getting the way of the story isn’t from his directing- it’s what he’s writing.
Specifically in Inglorious Bastards when Hans Landa is interviewing the French farmer, and he pulls this deus-ex-machina with the character’s language to bring the dialogue from subtitled French to English… it bugged the crap out of me. He literally reached out of the movie screen, tapped my chin, bopped me on the nose for looking down and then smiled smugly at how clever he was. He makes up for it by being a dialogue writer who is insanely creative and original. But the multitude of choices he made as a director… none of those distracted me from the story.
Yesterday I heard someone say that they wouldn’t watch the World of Warcraft Movie unless they got a good director like Quentin Tarantino to direct it. Well I realized that QT has gone up a couple of notches in my book but I’m not sure the world is ready for an Elven Mr. Pink, or a Dwarven Mr. White.
Do not get in the way of the story. Directing is a series of decisions that add up into the story you are telling. If you find yourself concentrating on putting your mark on the piece- you are not doing it right. You probably chose the piece for the wrong reason. It is a creatively fatal mistake.