Cinemusic: Tarantino - Director As Collector

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Chris Morley orders a Royale With Cheese...


Perhaps uniquely among connoisseurs of cinema, Quentin Tarantino draws the soundtracks to his films from a very personal source - his own record collection!



The connection between music & image starts from the earliest stage of the process for him, as he wrote in The Tarantino Connection's liner notes,
"One of the things I do when I am starting a movie, when I’m writing a movie or when I have an idea for a film is, I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie. Then, ‘boom,’ eventually I’ll hit one, two or three songs, or one song in particular, ‘Oh, this will be a great opening credit song.'"


Such moments of inspiration have yielded the inclusion of Stealer's Wheel in Reservoir Dogs & Dick Dale in Pulp Fiction.



Even the order in which Tarantino uses his musical sources has a resonance for him.
“[It's] just about as cinematic a thing as you can do. You are really doing what movies do better than any other art form; it really works in this visceral, emotional, cinematic way that’s just really special.”
Which in turn helps him to...
"...find the personality of the piece through the music that is going to be in it... It is the rhythm of the film. Once I know I want to do something, then it is a simple matter of me diving into my record collection and finding the songs that give me the rhythm of my movie."


How he finds the rhythm is our next consideration. Some clue could be gleaned from his Kill Bill collaborator The RZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan.
"I think I was more of somebody that kept it in the guidelines of what he wanted.

He was like, here go the eggs, the milk, the cake, the sugar, everything, and I’m going to stir it up. Put this in the oven, watch it, take it out in forty-five minutes.

Now, am I going to take it out in forty five minutes or am I going to fall asleep? I made sure it got out and if I saw something wrong with it, I fixed it. So when he saw it, he was like, this is cake."
The favour would be returned as the Wu Tang man moved behind the camera.
"When I met Quentin Tarantino, I kind of met my, as we say in martial arts, my Sifu. (the Chinese word for master) I asked him if I could become a student of his."
From a musical standpoint his mixing of bits & pieces of pre-existing film score, pop & rock to create the sound of that film would suggest the first fruits of a certain aptitude for sampling, the worlds of hip hop & the big screen colliding thanks to the pair & their sense of kinship. The cherrypicking would continue from then on in, Death Proof offering more of the same.



A look through his most sampled list indicates a fondness for Ennio Morricone, whose work on the spaghetti western we'll take a look at in our next examination of the music of the movies. Not entirely without coincidence Tarantino's next film, Django Unchained would lean heavily on that particular genre.



In an even better twist the man himself would emerge to score The Hateful Eight, and in doing so provide the first fully original score to one of its director's films......



The process cemented an artistic bond. Quentin once said,
"I started really collecting soundtracks, next thing I knew I had a huge Ennio Morricone collection. He thought I hadn't started shooting yet and actually, so he was talking to me and I was like 'no I'm done shooting and I need the score in a month'."
His hero had previously savaged Tarantino's approach to soundtracking, just to complicate matters!
“He places music in his films without coherence."
The level of violence on screen was also initially a problem for Morricone prior to a change of heart. When it came to the appropriation of his music something of a reversal was also apparent - after initially decrying it his tune swiftly changed.
"I have been impressed and even shocked by the violence of some of his sequences... but after giving a second thought to that I realised that yes, we are shocked by the horror of this violence but, if we think of the victims of this violence we realise that Tarantino's position is always on the side of the underclass."
One thumb up for the visuals then. On the sound he added...
"The fact that my music, which had been written for other films, could be adapted to the poetry of Quentin Tarantino's film-making was a great gift for me."
Inevitably a link back to his earlier work with Sergio Leone would be made. And quickly quashed, as he told the LA Times.
"Many people mistakenly describe 'The Hateful Eight' as a western movie. In my opinion, it's not a western movie, but an adventure movie set in a particular moment in American history that is after the war of secession.

And [more than 30 years] after my last western score, I didn't want to repeat myself, to resemble what I had done for Sergio Leone or the other western movies."
Freedom from the obligation of that most likely helped, as he told the Guardian.
“[It was] perfect ... because he gave me no cues, no guidelines. I wrote the score without Quentin Tarantino knowing anything about it, then he came to Prague when I recorded it and was very pleased. So the collaboration was based on trust and a great freedom for me.”
Molto bene, or "very good" for those who know not the joys of Italian!

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