3 Things That Make Quentin Tarantino The Quintessential Indie Filmmaker - Raindance
Transgressive. Controversial. Original. These are the characteristics which instantly spring to mind when analysing this auteur, his ability to change the norm and tackle the shackles of studio cinema enable him to still be THE inspiration to upcoming independent filmmakers. Transgressive filmmaking was inherently coined by experimental filmmaker Nick Zedd; “it has to be threatening the status quo by doing something surprising, by going beyond all limits set or prescribed by taste, morality, or any other traditional value system shackling the minds of men.” This is Quentin Tarantino in a nutshell, using cinema as a means to break down the “traditional” Hollywood cinema system and do something cinematically innovative. Pulp Fiction, which premiered in the UK at Raindance 1995 was a flagship example in showing the power that cinema has in turning traditions and cliches on their heads and creating something unique, personal and original.  The traditional crime thriller narrative becomes non-linear, reversing the traditional villain and creating something entirely refreshing. Tarantino has made and secured his name through transforming a multitude of genres in a dangerous and risqué way; “Quentin Tarantino, the troublemaker, the connoisseur of badassery, the Billy the Kid of modern film-making .” (John Walsh)


Within Pulp Fiction; Samuel L. Jackson’s iconic portrayal of Jules Winffield could be a mob hitman not out of place in any crime thriller, yet Tarantino wants to give his character something more. A moral dilemma, a sense of understanding which gives this persona a new level of depth; allowing the viewers to become unsure where the good and evil lines lie. Within a particularly violent scene Jules has to murder two men who have been bad-mouthing their crime boss Marcellus Wallace. The villain powerfully delivers a long religious sermon about finding the right path; “Ezekiel 25:17.
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”
Tarantino’s decision to give his character a biblical passage to recite gives the traditional “evil” a depth which is so unique. The culmination of religion and murder, evil and philosophical ponderings is transgressive, independent cinema at its purest – breaking the norms, the regulations, the expectations and paring characteristics and personas from contrasting areas. For the viewer Tarantino’s arrogance as a filmmaker to have no shame in combining God and murder is all to push his transgression into becoming both shocking and inspiring at exactly the same time. Tarantino – “transforms that gut element with something higher, better, more daring. His films challenge taboos in our society in the most direct possible way, and at the same time add an element of parody or satire”.
Tarantino makes the characters his own and pushes them to the absolute extreme; Jules is the finest transgressive character with his arc from traditional murderous gangster into a philosophical and heroic protagonist being one of the great cinematic developments. Right at the end of the film, he has the choice to murder Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, the store burglars and save the shop customers. However this isn’t enough for Tarantino, merely to turn a characters natural decision around and commit murder to save the innocents; he has to to save the evil as well. He makes Jules give Pumpkin and Honeybunny everything, – “he takes an unnecessary risk in order to save someone whom he doesn’t know and who doesn’t want to be saved because it’s morally right. Can you think of a more straightforward definition of Heroism?” Making the villain the final hero, by saving a new wave of villains is a complete shift in Tarantino’s protagonist. However the transgressive characteristics don’t stop here, in the style of the film, through the non-linear, disjointed narrative, its location within the filmic plot is not the location within the story. This is showing how Tarantino as an auteur is making a new plot spin off in an unresolved direction, the endless spiral of good and evil changing and evolving out of all traditional, recognizable sense is true original cinema. However even after all Jules’s philosophical  ponderings Tarantino makes the decision for his last act to place his gun back into the belt of his shorts leaving it up to the audience to decide whether he is truly redeemed from evil or will continue as before.


Independent film comes in a variety of forms, yet for Tarantino his style and controversial cinema go hand in hand, his unique take on violence through pushing it to the limit almost relishing in the “over the top” has resulted in countless debates over the morality of showing such gross and horrific scenes. Yet that is part of the lifesupport which keeps him at the top of his game, he pushes the boundaries to the extreme, raises the bar so that fresh talent can follow in his footsteps – yet have a clear view as to where the limits lie.  More than not it is due to his style of putting violence on a pedestal, making it morbidly enjoyable to the viewer through shock which is where his controversy lies. The “Stuck in the middle with you” soundtrack of Reservoir Dogs before the torture scene, the admiration for a cold blooded murderer created in Pulp Fiction with religion and violence being culminated. It is not just gore that the viewer is bearing witness to, Tarantino is making it “cool”, an exciting soundtrack, great language, there is an undeniable art to his horrific scenes. –
“his is the name that most often comes up in debates about the aestheticisation of violence in mainstream film. He deals in violence as entertainment, excitement, energy, mixing it with humour, coolness and great soundtracks.”
The morality question here lies within the controversy, should he be allowed to create enjoyment in blood and gore? However Tarantino is aware of how within Cinema he is using his position and free range to push violence as far as possible.  “As an artist, violence is part of my talent. If I start thinking about society, or what one person is doing to someone else, then I have handcuffs on. ” “How far is too far” said Tarantino, “the whole first half of the movie {Reservoir Dogs} is building and then there’s the explosion in the middle. Them after the explosion it becomes a different movie with a different pace, different rhythm and different tension .” That is great filmmaking, the ability as an auteur to use the craft to play with the audience, push them, pull them, shock them and then take it in a completely different direction – always holding the viewer in total suspense yet always on the line of controversy


Exploring Tarantino’s originality is difficult to summarize in filmic terms as by the very core of cinema and art every piece of film is original in its own unique way, from the rushes on the editing room floor to the final edit. However in Tarantino terms his ability to drive forward traditional and give people fresh, unseen pieces of film carved from the generic narratives viewers have seen time and time again this is where his genius comes to the foreground. Tarantino chooses to focus on violent characters and actions, and seeks to regenerate genres such as the crime heist movie, the martial arts film and the multi-character, multi layered narrative. Tarantino’s originality comes in his quest to become an auteur, being a film student and studying film as an art he wants to be more than just a director but considered as a great cinema maker. Even naming his film production “A Band Apart” in reference to the great Jean Luc Godard’s film – “Bande a part ”. He wants to give the viewer something that clearly has his name on it, with his stamp to add to his body of work. The Tarantino effect is spreading across cinema, violence, twisting transgressive characters, controversial, over the top scenes – this is his originality. Within “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” through to his upcoming work “The Hateful Eight ” you can see how he is re-writing history to create his own films, yet in doing so he is evolving the past to create a new artistic future. This original filmmaking is flawless and powerful – pushing never before seen characters and situations. The success of Pulp Fiction was due to its originality and uniqueness this was perfectly summarized by Peter Biskind who stated –
“The reason Pulp Fiction broke the way it did is because you got a guy who is making a non-narrative piece, no real beginning, middle or end, a movie with Godard references, breaking all the rules… ’
Within Django Unchained, he saw a gap in the market for a western, set in the Deep South, yet making the protagonist with all the traditional characteristics of white, cowboy heroes such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood a black African American. The African American viewers have a hero with which they can relate to and understand, appreciate and become their pin up. Then within Kill Bill he makes the powerful woman the central focus, fighting her battles, training to kill, supporting herself, in a traditional sense the male would take this role, yet Tarantino wants to make it unique to him and so changes tradition to give this position to the unique Uma Thurman as “The Bride” – this new direction of on screen heroes is Tarantino’s originality in its finest sense.
When Ornella writes that ‘‘Tarantino does not make a secret of his enendeavor to break with norms, regulations, expectations, and social, cultural, and filmic conventions ’ she tapped into the style of his entire body of work but specifically Pulp Fiction. His ability as a filmmaker to use Transgression, Originality and Controversy to achieve these goals is always evolving.. His transgressive and controversial culmination of characters and situations, shock tactics and horrific scenes; yet at the same time all delivered with the skill and patience of a true auteur makes Quentin Tarantino the great filmmaker he is internationally renowned as. Permanently moving the goal posts and changing the destination of his films Tarantino manages to keep audiences engaged, sometimes desperately trying to look away yet at the same time, still coming back for more year on year.