' ' Cinema Romantico: Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

Quentin Tarantino, it goes without saying, though it still needs to be said for context, loves movies. His original Big Kahuna Burger, “Reservoir Dogs”, lifted its Mr. Black/Mr. White/Mr. Pink nomenclature bit from “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1974). And “Pulp Fiction” was just sort of one rolling movie-themed carnival, with a part-cinema wax museum, of sorts, where you could order a Douglas Sirk steak, never mind an all-important, never-explained briefcase that might’ve been pilfered from the set of “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955). In the morning after Butch has gone rogue, even, while Fabienne brushes her teeth, she’s got a motorcyle movie playing in the background, a detail I always loved because in Q.T. land, even when you’re on the run and in danger of being killed, people still watch movies. “Inglorious Basterds”, meanwhile was set in the midst of WWII’s European Theatre but it may as well have been on a movie backlot, with the movie industry itself playing a crucial part and a glorious old Parisian movie theater earning a starring role. Heck, “Django Unchained” and “Kill Bill” just are Blaxploitation and Chop Socky, respectively, duplicated and then expanded into A Band Apart Pictures (taken from a movie!!!) bouillabaisse. And Q.T.’s latest, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, as the title implies, seems more of the same.

For all his references and outright homages to movies, however, the one thing that Tarantino does not serve up in his movies so frequently is the act of going to the movies. I mean, yes, people go to the movies in “Inglorious Basterds”, memorably, allowing for Q.T. to imagine the movie-going experience as something like the savior of the free world, which is a pretty righteous ode to the cinema, though that’s much more heightened than what I’m talking about. I’m talking more about the scene in “True Romance”, which was directed by Tony Scott but written by Tarantino and so just as much his joint, where Clarence goes to a triple kung-fu feature on his birthday and then is joined by Alabama and where, despite her being paid to be there, him and his love for the movies and the movies themselves lifts her higher. Even that, though, is pitched at a more romantic frequency than what I’m seeking in this here post about I’m about to unfold.

One of my favorite lines in Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” is bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) announcing his intention to go catch a movie leading his second-in-command, Winston (Tiny Lister), to ask what he’s going to see. “Something that starts soon,” Max replies, “and looks good.” And I love that line for two reasons. I love that line because it flashes me back to another time, one when you’d just watch wander down to the movie theater and, well, as he says, see what starts soon and looks good. You didn’t check Fandango on your phone; you just looked at a few posters and made a decision. Primitive, perhaps, but thrilling in its own low-key way, putting your fate in the hands of the movie gods. And I love that line because it evokes this man, Max Cherry, who’s his own boss and if he wants, in the middle of the day, can up and go catch a movie. Damn, ain’t that the dream.

That moment, however, comes later in the movie, and Max is saying it as something of an alibi for what he is actually about to go and do – that is, help the eponymous airline stewardess swindle $500,000. Tarantino, however, has set up Max’s ersatz solo movie date with a real solo movie date much earlier, one that we see just as it concludes, beginning with a shot just outside of the movie theater, its door still closed.

But then, the door flies open accompanied by a rush of music, presumably from the closing credits of the unseen movie, and this smiling couple, in the throes of post-movie enjoyment, which is key.

And after that couple passes by, and then another couple patrons, Max exits.

And he walks past a poster for “The American President”-

-and “Wolf”, pinpointing the time.

And...that’s it. We see him leave the movie. This is all set-up so he can run into Jackie Brown at the mall where the movie theater is located, but it’s this brief instant, this leaving the theater that nevertheless stays with me.

“Jackie Brown”, after all, is a movie about motion. It begins with Jackie aboard an airplane walkway, just standing there and letting it take her where she needs to go as the opening credits unspool. Over and over Tarantino just watches people walk, whether it’s Ordell and Beaumont walking and talking or Max following the money or Jackie in a burst of faux-commotion hurrying through the mall or Louis and Melanie haplessly wandering through the parking lot looking for his car or even a brief shot of Ray Nicolette sauntering into the office with his motorcycle helmet tucked under his arm. But none of these walks compare to Max’s. There’s that Bloodstone song dug up for the soundtrack by Tarantino, “Natural High,” “I’ll take to the sky on a natural high”, and what is the post-movie walk but that exactly that.

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