Quentin Tarantino is arguably one of the most renowned filmmakers of his generation. Upturning the proverbial apple cart as he did, the director arrived not with a certified education in the art of directing but as an avid movie-watcher and lover. Sitting in the cinemas and watching films is where Tarantino got his education and, invariably, the films he was watching were Brian De Palma’s.
De Palma made his name as one of the most visceral filmmakers the 20th century had ever seen when he began making movies. Alongside notable films like Carrie (1976) and Body Double (1984) there was De Palma’s seminal work Scarface (1983), all three of which are underpinned by a dramatic use of violence, blood and gore. It makes sense then that the two would connect to talk about the subject.
At the time of the meeting, Tarantino was heavily under fire for his new film Reservoir Dogs. The young upstart had somehow managed to breeze past the rigmarole of becoming a Hollywood director and gone straight into filmmaking. It was likely a career path many people thought was too short and so routinely cut his movies down to size. One easy and attainable way to do so was to reach for the buzzword of ‘violence’ and Tarantino’s use of it.
It was a use of visceral visuals that he learned from De Palma, citing one of his films as one of his personal favourites. De Palma’s Blow Out which Quentin described as “some of Brian De Palma’s finest film,” with the utmost admiration, before adding: “Which means it’s one of the greatest films ever made because as we all know Brian De Palma is one of the finest directors of his generation.”
Another part of Tarantino’s influential journey up until the point in the clip below was De Palma’s iconic film, Carrie. Another film regularly cited as his favourite, he even mimics the storyline for his own blood-splattered blonde in Kill Bill. It means that when he got to meet De Palma so early on in his career he must’ve been beside himself with anticipation.
With Reservoir Dogs being routinely devoured by audiences and the iconic scene featuring Mr Blonde a razor blade and a missing ear still fresh in people’s minds, the only real subject of conversation was the violence in film. “I was going through my scrapbook,” begins Tarantino in the clip below realising how their careers have mirrored each other, “Brian’s been dealing with violence for the last 15 years.”
“As a filmmaker, when you deal in violence, you’re actually penalised for doing a good job,” says Tarantino, paraphrasing a quote from his idol. “Absolutely,” De Palma replies, knowingly bowing to the new kid on the block.
De Palma succinctly wraps up the conversation with a simple yet effective line, “Cinema is, as we’ve said a thousand times, is a visual medium and we’re interested in terrific visual sequences and many of them happen to be violent.” It’s something Tarantino clearly agrees with.
“I know people who could’ve seen Reservoir Dogs and could’ve been fine with it,” says Tarantino. “But when they hear ‘violence, violence, violence’… they talked about Reservoir Dogs as the most violent movie ever made. Now, someday, I may make the most violent movie ever made and I wouldn’t mind people saying it. But I didn’t.”
So early on in Tarantino’s career, he may well be genuinely concerned with his longevity considering the damning verdict on the violence in his first picture but he approaches it with a joke at the end of the clip which is well worth waiting for. For now, sit back and watch two iconic filmmakers meet to talk about their favourite thing in film: violence.