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Quentin Tarantino: Hollywood’s Boy Wonder

Tarantino disciples will get a rush from this first full-length docu on the geek-made-good cult helmer, but non-believers are likely to wonder what all the fuss is about. This entry in the BBC's arts strand "Omnibus" is hardcore buff stuff.

With:
Interviewees: Quentin Tarantino, Brian De Palma, Allison Anders, Monte Hellman, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Samuel L. Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Sally Menke, Lawrence Bender, Stacey Sher, Richard N. Gladstein, Todd McCarthy and others.

Tarantino disciples will get a rush from this first full-length docu on the geek-made-good cult helmer, but non-believers are likely to wonder what all the fuss is about. This entry in the BBC’s arts strand “Omnibus” is hardcore buff stuff.

After an introductory pan round Tarantino’s West Hollywood apartment (a symphony of movie bric-a-brac, piled vidcassettes, and referential one-sheets), the first two interviewees hit the nail straight on the head. Monte Hellman:”Quentin’s life experience is cinema, so it’s natural he makes films about cinema.” Terry Gilliam:”For years he’s been building all these things up inside himself, and then just … whooompf!”

Brit documaker David Thompson, whose previous subjects include Jean Renoir, Michael Powell, Vittorio Storaro and Peter Greenaway, traces the kid from Knoxville, Tenn., who moved to L.A. at age 2, quit school at 15, studied to be an actor and ended up penning at least two major scripts (“True Romance, “”Natural Born Killers”) while still working at Manhattan Beach’s Video Archives store in the latter half of the 1980s.

The early years, up to and including the making of “Reservoir Dogs,” are sketched with a trove of detail. Even for aficionados, Thompson comes up with fresh material: a clip from Q.T.’s unfinished first pic, “My Best Friend’s Birthday,” which shows his trademark dialogue already in full armor; extracts from his Sundance tryout, with Steve Buscemi, of scenes from “Dogs” prior to the shoot proper; and Q.T. himself talking the viewer through scenes from favorite movies, like Jim McBride’s “Breathless,” Brian De Palma’s “Casualties of War,” and a formative movie, the 1948 “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”

A third of the docu’s time is taken up with “Dogs” alone, to the extent that there’s a feeling of rush in dealing with “Killers,””True Romance” and “Pulp Fiction.” (“Killers” was still unseen, even by Tarantino, when this program was taped in August.)

Thompson has done a good job of rounding up most of the major suspects, though notable absentees include Q.T.’s former partner Roger Avery, “Romance” director Tony Scott (busy on a movie), and Oliver Stone (unapproached).

Letterboxed, unbleeped clips from “Dogs” and “Pulp” are numerous and well tied to the interviews; reference clips from other movies, like Godard’s “Bande a part,” are frequently revelatory.

Quentin Tarantino: Hollywood's Boy Wonder

BBC1, U.K., Tues. Oct. 25, 10:25 p.m.

Production: Series editor, Nigel Williams; director, David Thompson.

Crew: Camera, Ira Brenner; editor, Catherine Arend; on-line editor, Ross Archer; graphic designer, Keith Haynes; sound (stereo), Michael Reilly, Glen Marullo, Caleb Mose , Andrew Sears; researchers, Lorraine Silberstein, Nigel Algar. Taped in Los Angeles, New York and London by BBC Television. Exec producer, Roger Thompson. 50 MIN.

Cast: Interviewees: Quentin Tarantino, Brian De Palma, Allison Anders, Monte Hellman, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Samuel L. Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Sally Menke, Lawrence Bender, Stacey Sher, Richard N. Gladstein, Todd McCarthy and others.

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