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Quentin Tarantino’s Last Movie

Director Quentin Tarantino at the premiere of his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in Berlin, Germany, August 1, 2019. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

I tend to react skeptically when highly imaginative artists announce their retirements; Stephen King has published about 903 books since he said he was retiring in 2002 (and, before that, in 1998). Nevertheless, Quentin Tarantino has been saying for a few years that he intends to make only ten films before he hangs it up, citing the disappointing late-period efforts of some of his favorite filmmakers. He doesn’t want his work to trickle off in quality as he goes into his sixties. He’s now 58.

In his highly engaging three-hour interview with Joe Rogan on the Spotify podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, Tarantino reiterates that he intends to retire after his tenth film, this time adding specifics to his life plan. That means — gulp — there will be only one more Tarantino film. (The Kill Bill diptych counts as one.)

Tarantino says he wanted to go out with a bang, and he considers Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to be a suitable closing number, to be followed only by a film he says will be more of an “epilogue.” He’d like to remake his first film Reservoir Dogs using the skills he has picked up along the way (and, presumably, a bigger budget), but he doesn’t think that would be a suitable final effort. He does envision doing stage versions of Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight. He also says he will write an original play and seems to have several books in mind, including books on film. But at the moment, he says he has no idea what his final film will be about.

Tarantino addresses observers who noted that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a right-wing film and allows that his protagonist, Rick, is a right-winger (so is Cliff, obviously), but that we are not to draw any inferences from that. Rogan didn’t draw him out on his politics, but as far as I can tell, Tarantino’s main political leaning is opposition to political correctness, which he thinks began destroying Hollywood as far back as the Eighties. He has an unusual take on this: He says he preferred Chevy Chase films over Bill Murray comedies because Chase’s character remains a jerk throughout the film whereas (he says) Murray’s characters always redeemed themselves by becoming lovable in the third act. He cites Stripes and Scrooged as examples; I think he is probably also referring to Meatballs.

Interesting! But I don’t think that’s political correctness at work. I think it’s simple formula screenwriting. A third-act redemption livens up the movie and certainly makes it more commercial. Yet these aren’t really redemptions in the classic sense, except in Scrooged, which is a pre-existing template. True, Murray learns to care enough to try to win in the end, but he does so by reforming the stodgy institutions (camp, the Army) so that they’re more Bill Murray-like. At worst, he meets conventionality halfway. He’s not a sellout.

UPDATE: Dan McLaughlin and others point out that Groundhog Day is a classic redemption story. True, but is that political correctness or just a great third act? Does Tarantino walk out of Groundhog Day saying, “It would have been better if Phil had remained a jerk”? If so, he’s wrong.

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