Before introducing one of his favorite movies at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, Quentin Tarantino had this instruction for the audience.
“If you want to scream at a shotgun blast, scream at a shotgun blast,” he said, imploring the viewers to be as “un-French” as possible in their reactions. “Let’s bring a little bit of American grindhouse here at Cannes!”
That’s how he set up the 1977 revenge flick “Rolling Thunder” — a movie so foundational to Tarantino, with its third act of cathartic, gun-blast violence, that it’s rumored he will restage it in some fashion for his forthcoming final film, “The Movie Critic.” At least, that’s according to a co-writer of “Rolling Thunder,” Paul Schrader, who revealed that tantalizing tidbit in a recent interview with IndieWire. Though Tarantino himself has said very little about “The Movie Critic,” his film selection on Thursday may have confirmed Schrader’s tease.
In the hourlong chat that followed the screening, Tarantino, 60, mostly discussed titles mentioned in his recent book of essays, “Cinema Speculation.” (He was at the festival to give a talk but wanted to present a film as well.)
He began with an extended riff on “Rolling Thunder,” which stars William Devane as a Vietnam veteran pursuing the criminals who killed his family: Tarantino noted that though he loves the film, Schrader felt it departed too much from his original script.
“He doesn’t recognize the movie any more than I recognize Oliver Stone’s version of ‘Natural Born Killers,’” Tarantino said, citing one of the few films he wrote but didn’t direct. Tarantino has disavowed Stone’s take on his material, but he said that Johnny Cash once told him that he was a big fan of the 1994 film, which starred Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis.
“I didn’t tell him he was wrong,” Tarantino said.
What is it about films like “Rolling Thunder” that he responds to? “Look, I like violent movies,” Tarantino said. “Some people like musicals, some people like slapstick comedy, I like violent movies. I think it’s a very cinematic thing to do.”
Asked if he had ever watched a film where the violence wasn’t justified, Tarantino at first appeared so stumped that the audience chuckled. Eventually, he cited “Patriot Games,” the 1992 Harrison Ford thriller. Tarantino initially found the villain’s motivations so relatable, he said, that he rebelled when the character took a late swerve into psychopathic violence: “Just the fact that the villain was this much understandable, that was too much as far as the filmmakers were concerned. So they had to make him crazy. That’s what I got morally offended by.”
When it comes to depictions of violence, Tarantino said there was only one line he wasn’t willing to cross. “I have this big thing about killing animals in movies,” he said to applause. “But I mean insects, too! Unless I’m paying to see some weird bizarro documentary, I’m not paying to see real death. Part of the way this all works is that it’s make-believe — that’s why I can stand by the violent scenes.”
Tarantino has said his forthcoming 10th film will be his last (owing to his belief that directors have a finite amount of good films in them and ought to quit while they’re ahead), and that he hopes that more books like “Cinema Speculation” will follow once he hangs up his director’s cap. Is that why he has made a movie critic the title character of his final feature?
“Well, that’s a long story,” he said at the end of his chat. “I can’t tell you guys until you see the movie!”
Still, he offered a tease: “I’m tempted to do some of the character’s monologues right now,” he said. “You guys would get a kick out of it. Maybe if there was less video cameras.”