WHO is he?

Extremely influential video-store clerk turned filmmaker, writer and actor, who has made eight feature films in the past 20 years. Besides his own work, Tarantino is known for his vast knowledge of film history and his championing of smaller films from around the globe. He won the Palm D’Or at Cannes in 1994 for Pulp Fiction.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

The world that Tarantino’s films refer to is the world of movies itself. These films thus work on a number of archetypical themes — sin, redemption, crime and revenge — present in the movies that inspired Tarantino and the ones he pays tribute to. More importantly, these films are critiques — constructive or otherwise — of representation and perpetually play on popular tropes, conventions and genres, breaking many norms and creating a few of their own. One of the director’s major preoccupations has been with the notion of playacting within narratives.

Style

Tarantino’s movies typically possess an ensemble of first-rate actors who play out elaborately staged scenes (set within a non-linear narrative) with ornate, tangential dialogue that often have little logical relation to the drama being played out. The music in these films is a compilation of B-movie scores that have a thematic relationship to the narrative situation. The exacting camera work is marked by Steadicam shots and close-ups of inanimate objects and there’s a Hitchcockian tension to the confrontational scenes, which, however, almost always end with a violent catharsis.

WHY is he of interest?

Tarantino and his game-changing films have become rallying points for both his supporters, who find his thoroughly cinephilic, self-reflexive brand of cinema to be expressions of love for the medium, and his detractors, who find the decidedly gratuitous graphic violence and irreverence towards history to be symptoms of a cultural malaise. For better or worse, his cinema has inspired scores of young filmmakers, whose individual failures are frequently conflated with Tarantino’s influence.

WHERE to discover him?

Inglourious Basterds (2009) partly revolves around a group of American soldiers during World War 2 who plan to infiltrate Nazi Germany and kill Hitler. Tarantino’s exhilarating film symbiotically fuses world history with cinematic history, exploring how each of these two worlds feed into each other. A retroactive revenge saga on the surface but, really, a subversive critique about the banality of fascism, Basterds is nothing short of a watershed for 21st century cinema.