Is Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, his best ever? Quite possibly. Suffused with an impassioned love for 1960s Hollywood and the iconography of the time period, Tarantino’s film is a celebration of the industry’s golden age as well as a nostalgic, melancholy curtain call on an era long forgotten.
Ditching his recent thematic devotion to tales of slaughter and revenge for a more controlled, personal account of a television star and his stunt double during the 1960s, Tarantino’s story is bizarrely yet totally coherently entwined with the tale of the infamous Manson family murders. It all culminates in a climatic bombshell, crafting a fairy-tale turmoil of terror under the setting sun of Hollywood’s golden age.
Speaking to the film’s cinematographer Robert Richardson, Quentin Tarantino noted, “I want it to feel retro but I want it to be contemporary,” a tone the director masterfully achieves thanks to the lead performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.
Having set up the film’s narrative with a looming sense of impending doom, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s final act sees DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Pitt’s Cliff Booth part ways after years of collaboration. “When you come to the end of the line with a buddy, who’s more than a brother and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say, farewell,” Dalton speaks before the sound of The Rolling Stones song ‘Out of Time’ rings out.
Punctuating the following scene, we hear the song underline the impending doom of 1960s Hollywood with the presence of the Manson murders poses a looming shadow on proceedings. Accompanying scenes of LA’s bright neon lights and joyous citizens, we hear Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sing “baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time” repeatedly, creating a genuinely haunting tone.
This powerful scene is a favourite of There Will be Blood, Boogie Nights and Licorice Pizza filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, who stated his love for the fateful moment in a podcast with Quentin Tarantino. “Quentin took care of the neon signs, you stopped a minute to even to take care of that when the sun’s just going down, the lights come on and the Stone’s ‘Out of Time’ is playing,” he said.
Continuing, he adds, “It breaks my heart because you feel that inevitable coming and that song’s playing, it’s such a beautiful moment when that happens”.
Paul Thomas Anderson listed Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Grindhouse as two of his favourite films of all time, with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood no doubt also among his top picks.
Take a look at the scene in question from Quentin Tarantino’s modern classic, below.