Time and again in interviews, Quentin Tarantino has straight-facedly declared that he will retire from filmmaking after his tenth feature. He may already have reached that number with 2019’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, depending on whether each part of Kill Bill counts as a separate film. If not, we have one more Tarantino picture to look forward to. His declaration of imminent retirement is unusual and even dispiriting given that he’s still in his late fifties, an age that has found many auteurs at the peak of their powers. What lies behind it is the subject of the short video above from Evan Puschak, better known as the Nerdwriter.
“I like the idea that there is an umbilical cord connected to my first film, all the way to my last, and that is my body of work,” says Tarantino in one of the interview clips included. “A bad film on the filmography affects good films.” Being known not just as a prominent director but an obsessive cinephile, Tarantino can surely name off the top of his head dozens of master filmmakers who allowed their own bodies of work to be blemished.
“Artists don’t always notice when their skills are flagging,” as Puschak puts it. “Tarantino is leaving early to prevent crossing that line unwittingly.” Though speculative, this notion has hardly been contradicted by the director’s own words.
Puschak writes about the power of the oeuvre — an artist’s body of work taken as a whole, even as an artwork in itself — in his new book Escape into Meaning. The content of this video reflects only the first section of that essay, a meditation on what it means to consider everything a creator has made as a piece of an interconnected whole. The techniques, references, themes, and obsessions that recur prominently in Tarantino’s movies make his filmography practically invite such an analysis, as well the question asked by Puschak: “Can a well-designed filmography bestow greater meaning onto the films that make it up?” No matter how many more works Tarantino will make, and whatever form they take, the whole of his existing oeuvre assures us that all of them will be thoroughly Tarantinian.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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 or on Facebook.