It seems fitting Quentin Tarantino should be honored at a festival that celebrates classic film. Though the recipient of the Lumiere-Grand Lyon fest’s Lumiere Award is identified first and foremost as an auteur, Tarantino has done more to keep the tradition of exploitation, grindhouse and B-movie fare alive than the most diligent archivists.
Tarantino specializes in recycling. From his days behind the counter of Video Archives (where a mispronounced request for Louis Malle’s “Au Revoir les Enfants” inspired the title of his debut, “Reservoir Dogs”) to his current role as landlord at L.A.’s New Beverly rep house (He bought the building to save the business and even lends prints from his personal collection), the “Pulp Fiction” director possesses an insatiable appetite for red-blooded genre pics matched only by his encyclopedic memory for what makes each one special.
He has an uncanny ability to zero in on the unique merits of a movie that looks to others like pure junk, and incorporate details into his own pics: a look, a shot, a line, or the entire plot (the little-known Ken Norton starrer “Drum” inspired “Django Unchained”).
“I steal from every single movie ever made,” Tarantino once told Empire magazine. “If my work has anything, it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together.”
That attitude explains why his pics play like a greatest hits of B-movies. Bruce Lee’s tracksuit on “Kill Bill’s” Bride, playing chicken with “Vanishing Point’s” white 1970 Dodge Challenger in “Death Proof” and so on. His flair for recycling also shows up in casting. He spotted qualities in Pam Grier, John Travolta and Bruce Willis that launched comebacks.
As he put it: “Great artists steal; they don’t do homages.”