Quentin Tarantino is responsible for some of modern cinema’s greatest movie scenes, from the table dancing scene in 1994s Pulp Fiction to the discovery of the Manson cult in Once Upon a Time in America. Steeped in cinematic influence, each of his films takes a certain amount of creative licence from the history of cinema, a fact Tarantino has openly discussed and has justified, making his own original art from the inspiration of others. It differs little from the approach of some of Hollywood’s greatest minds.
Major influences of the director include Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Luc Godard and, perhaps most significantly, Sergio Leone who Tarantino claims to be a lifelong fan. The director even wrote a heartfelt letter to Leone, where he stated: “For my money, I think he is the greatest of all Italy’s filmmakers…I would go even as far as to say that he is the greatest combination of a complete film stylist, where he creates his own world, and storyteller”.
Speaking to Empire magazine, when asked about some of his favourite shots in film history, the director responded: “That’s easy,” and proceeded to break down the genius of Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The director stated, “During the three-way bullring showdown at the end, the music builds to the giant orchestra crescendo, and when it gets to the first big explosion of the theme there’s a wide shot of the bullring”.
Continuing, Tarantino notes, “After you’ve seen all the little shots of the guys getting into position, you suddenly see the whole wideness of the bullring and all the graves around them. It’s my favourite shot in the movie, but I’ll even say it’s my favourite cut in the history of movies”.
Praise indeed from one of cinema’s modern masters whose career has been undeniably warped by the filmography of Leone, having an effect on the very way he introduces characters. As Tarantino jokes, “I’ve suffered forever from Sergio Leone-itus, where I can’t introduce a character unless I’ve spent 15 minutes doing it and making it a huge operatic aria”. Such can be most vividly illustrated in Quentin Tarantino’s quiet 2015 western The Hateful Eight, which spends a large majority of the first act setting up characters and key motives.
It also seems that Tarantino took great inspiration from how violence was portrayed in old Italian cinema, using over the top effects to achieve a surreal, violent effect. As a contemporary lover of gore, Tarantino notes, “They don’t seem that violent now, but they seemed very violent then, because they didn’t take it that seriously: Italians laugh at violence, that special type of gallows humour. And there was the youth and energy”.
From Leone’s use of violence to his carefully constructed character introductions, it seems as though the classic spaghetti western director’s influence on a young Quentin Tarantino was monumental. The scene the director picked out as his very favourite is one poised with tension, style and violence, well representing all that Tarantino executes with aplomb.