How Quentin Tarantino Steals from Other Movies: A Video Essay

“Good artists copy, great artists steal,” goes a line we often attribute to Pablo Picas­so — even those of us who know lit­tle of Picas­so’s work and noth­ing of the work from which he may or may not have stolen. Quentin Taran­ti­no’s ver­sion of the line adds anoth­er obser­va­tion about great artists: “They don’t do homages.” The direc­tor of Reser­voir Dogs, Pulp Fic­tion, and Jack­ie Brown may well have spo­ken those words in frus­tra­tion, the frus­tra­tion of hav­ing his every pic­ture described as an “homage” to some ele­ment or oth­er of cin­e­ma his­to­ry. He puts it more blunt­ly: “I steal from every sin­gle movie ever made.” A bold claim, to be sure, but if any­one is like­ly to have seen every film ever made, sure­ly it’s him.

“How Quentin Taran­ti­no Steals from Oth­er Movies,” the INSIDER video essay above, sur­veys the range of his cin­e­mat­ic sources, from The Searchers to The War­riorsBand of Out­siders to City on FireMetrop­o­lis to The Flint­stones.

In each of his ten fea­tures so far, Taran­ti­no has bun­dled all this mate­r­i­al into pack­ages describ­able most suc­cinct­ly with the adjec­tive Taran­ti­noesque, which the Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary defines as “char­ac­ter­ized by graph­ic and styl­ized vio­lence, non-lin­ear sto­ry­lines, cinelit­er­ate ref­er­ences, satir­i­cal themes, and sharp dia­logue.” Taran­ti­no’s lat­est film Once Upon a Time… in Hol­ly­wood (sub­ject of its own INSIDER video essay) exhibits all those qual­i­ties, and both crit­i­cal and audi­ence response so far sug­gests that we have yet to tire of the Taran­ti­noesque.

How has Taran­ti­no’s cin­e­mat­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty, prac­ti­cal­ly text­book in its post­mod­ernism, worn so well? As this video’s nar­ra­tor puts it, Taran­ti­no “nev­er steals from one source. He rather steals from mul­ti­ple sources span­ning decades, and then stitch­es them togeth­er to cre­ate some­thing new,” for­ti­fy­ing the process with his strong under­stand­ing of the source mate­r­i­al (honed dur­ing his pre-fame days as a video-store clerk) and his “unique vision and writ­ing.” Roger Ebert once wrote of Lars Von Tri­er, anoth­er notable film­mak­er of Taran­ti­no’s gen­er­a­tion, that “he takes chances, and that’s rare in a world where most films seem to have been banged togeth­er out of oth­er films.” But Taran­ti­no takes his chances pre­cise­ly by mak­ing films out of oth­er films, and as even his detrac­tors have to admit, it’s paid off so far.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Films of Quentin Taran­ti­no: Watch Video Essays on Pulp Fic­tion, Reser­voir Dogs, Kill Bill & More

Quentin Taran­ti­no Tells You About The Actors & Direc­tors Who Pro­vid­ed the Inspi­ra­tion for “Reser­voir Dogs”

Does Quentin Tarantino’s First Film, Reser­voir Dogs, Hold Up 25 Years Lat­er?: A Video Essay

How Famous Paint­ings Inspired Cin­e­mat­ic Shots in the Films of Taran­ti­no, Gilliam, Hitch­cock & More: A Big Super­cut

“Lynchi­an,” “Kubrick­ian,” “Taran­ti­noesque” and 100+ Film Words Have Been Added to the Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

by | Permalink | Comments (3) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (3)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.