cover image Cinema Speculation

Cinema Speculation

Quentin Tarantino. Harper, $35 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-311258-2

Filmmaker Tarantino (Once upon a Time in Hollywood) serves up a brilliant and passionate take on the 1960s and ’70s films that shaped him. The essays speculate about why Ali MacGraw was miscast in The Getaway (the complex answer has to do with meddling costar Steve McQueen), why the main characters in Deliverance follow Burt Reynolds’s Lewis despite knowing he’s a phony (they want to believe his persona is real), and what Taxi Driver would have looked like if it were directed by Brian De Palma (closer to Paul Schrader’s original script). Tarantino’s joy, generosity, and singular point of view bolster his arguments, and even when he’s taking down his heroes, it’s out of love, as when he offers a blistering critique of the second half of Schrader’s 1979 film Hardcore for succumbing to plot contrivances (“When filmmaker Schrader makes these absurd decisions, you wonder where film critic Schrader went”). Additionally, his contention that John Flynn’s 1977 film Rolling Thunder is, despite its over-the-top plot, more authentic in its portrayal of the Vietnam War’s damaging effects on veterans than Hal Ashby’s “contrite” 1978 Oscar bait Coming Home will convince even fans of the latter. Whip-smart and obsessive, Tarantino is great fun and tough to beat. (Nov.)