Tarantino: ‘Cinema Is My Religion and France Is the Vatican’

Helmer's "family" pays him tribute at Lumiere Award

Quentin Tarantino, Lumiere Festival

LYON – Harvey Weinstein, Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth rolled into Lyon on Friday joining Uma Thurman, already in town, to pay tribute to this year’s Lumiere Award winner Quentin Tarantino.

Tarantino follows in the footsteps of Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Gerard Depardieu and Ken Loach at an award ceremony that Lumiere Festival director Thierry Fremaux hopes will attain the status of a Nobel Prize for Cinema.

Certainly, taking place in a steep-backed 3,000-seat modern amphitheatre at Lyon’s Convention Center, designed by Pompidou Center architect Renzo Piano, and emceed by Fremaux, Tarantino’s Lumiere Award played out like a rock concert with its solo performers, fronting Tarantino, grappling for the ideal riff to express their admiration for one of the world’s best-known movie directors.

First up, cussing comically in English and French as he hit centerstage, was Tim Roth. The gastronomic detail of his anecdote may have been lost on his French audience. Its major thrust was not.

“I went to America in search of employment. Not even in search of fame, just basic employment. I had a table and a phone and a really bad TV, a saucepan and some baked beans – and a chair. This is true. I had a stack of scripts, not even that fat a stack.”

“Then a script came through the door, it was ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ and even before I got to the Orange character, I was reaching to the phone to call my agent saying: ‘I’ve got to do this movie.’”

“In the U.S., Miramax, my first company, was the house that Quentin built; The Weinstein Co. was the house that Quentin saved,” Weinstein joked – or semi-joked – to laughter. He also delivered a human perspective on Tarantino: “He might make movies that are tough-minded and tough but he’s really compassionate.”

While Roth prowled around the stage set, Harvey Keitel moved like a cat burglar on creeking floorboards, then stopped speaking as he groped for words and grappled to contain his emotion paying tribute to Institut Lumiere president Bertrand Tavernier, who cast him in 1980’s “Death Watch,” his first film with a European director.

“Oh damn, I’m not going to make it,” he exclaimed.

“The thing about reading his script [of “Reservoir Dogs”], it’s like reading a great novel, somehow the dynamic inside you is changed, and you know it’s changed – and I’m getting chills as I say it – but you have to follow that work,” he said to a hushed amphitheater.

Regal in her gait, a gown with an ethnic print, braided hair and dangling earrings, Thurman delivered a written speech inspired by Thierry Fremaux’s not idle ambition of turning the Lumiere Award into the Nobel Prize for a Filmmaker.

Tarantino’s films “All have in them aspirations for justice, for freedom from oppression, for courage, and, most of all, for love and passion. These are all dished out with a twisted, vengeful sense of humor that never lets the audience see a predictable ending or gives the characters an easy way out of a hard time.”

She added, to applause: “So, Quentin, you invented your own dynamite, your cinemite, and may your legacy be your fearlessness, and the flicker of light projected through the dark night of the movie house forever be your fuse.”

Running a flying-past two hours, the Lumiere Award was laced by Tarantino standards and crowd clap-alongs – “You Never Can Tell,” “Stuck in the Middle With You,” Shivaree’s “Goodnight Moon” as Thurman made her way to the stage. There were also film clip medleys and a poetic video love letter to cinema from Michael Madsen. “Inglourious Basterds” co-star Melanie Laurent chose to deliver her tribute in song, crooning “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” in a velvety voice. Tarantino producer Lawrence Bender declared, like Tim Roth, that working with Tarantino had changed his life.

Tarantino, who was made a chevalier des Arts et des lettres by French culture minister Aurelie Filippeti after the ceremony, had already won over Lyon programming his own sidebar for the Lumiere Festival, A Personal Journey Through Cinema by Quentin Tarantino. He presented every film at screenings.

His selections ranged from Tony Scott’s “True Romance” to Sergio Corbucci’s “Minnesota Clay” to “Le Voyou” by Claude Lelouch, who was also in Lyon.

Picking up on many speakers’ comments, Tavernier insisted on Tarantino’s infectious admiration for cinema, past and present. “He has energized the festival,” Tavernier said.

Tarantino also energized the award ceremony finale, finally joining his friends on stage. He also bared his heart.

“I’ve always considered myself a lone wolf, a Silver Surfer. I’ve never really had a family. The people here on stage are my family. Their affection and respect is all I want,” he said, his voice breaking.

He was “overwhelmed” by his receiving the award “in the town where cinema was invented. I don’t know what I would be if the Lumiere brothers’ mother and father had never met. “I’d probably be selling royales with cheese at McDonalds.”

“Cinema is my religion and France is the Vatican,” he added. Tarantino dedicated the award to “all (those) who love cinema more than life itself. ”

He ended the ceremony shouting his famed mantra: “Viva le cinema!”