Editorial: My Top Five Tarantino Scenes

5) A Wanted Man and Old Man Hatch A Deal

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Honestly, I could have put this whole chapter. It’s an exercise in Tarantino filtering Sergio Leone esque buildup through his unique and idiosyncratic ascetic; boiling tension caused by mundane actions combined with punchy and interesting dialogue. However, it’s too long to count as a full scene.

But within this section, the monologue and subsequent interaction between Jody Domergue and General Smithers are riveting. Domergue allows Smithers to live by being complicit and playing a part in a plan to free his sister from John Ruth. Featuring a persistent hissing fire, Channing Tatum’s testy performance and a subdued comedic edge; Tarantino creates a moment that shows a persona and scene being constructed, before our eyes.

4) Momentary Realisation

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Call me a contrarian or perhaps a Tarantino inspired expletive, but the character of Fredrick Zollar has always fascinated me the most when watching Inglorious Bastards. Initially set up as a nebbish romantic foil in the vein of Hugh Grant, the character turns out to be a war hero and star of “Pride of Nation”, a film depicting his massacre of allied soldiers, whilst being trapped in a bell tower for three days. In the same vein, his romance with Shoshanna is sweet and endearing, but filled with underlying hated.

The French cinema owner only sees the symbol and uniform of any German she encounters and refuses to see any humanity in them. Shoshanna and Fredrick’s final encounter is a contrast between their characters. Through seeing flickers of Zoller in the propaganda film, she comes to finally see humanity in a race of people that she has detested.

Whereas Fredrick is revealed as an entitled, proud and vain person whose nastiness encapsulates what the young woman has always seen in the Nazis. The scene is an emotive Mexican standoff that has a bitter irony. At the moment that Shoshanna is starting to empathise, she is punished for holding a view contrary to the one she has held for years.

3) A Tense Encounter with Squeaky

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Recency bias aside, this scene is an effective piece of tense filmmaking from Tarantino. While the director has already created a foreboding atmosphere with cursory mentions of Charles “Charlie” Manson and the hive-like innocence of the family, this scene impresses in its simplicity.

Originally starting out as with medium shot, the scene then becomes a duel of close-ups; Cliff Booth’s amiable concern clashing with Squeaky’s hardened sternness. The ambiguity of whether or not Booth killed his wife and his capacity for violence supercharges this scene, as the aged stuntman attempts to find out if his old friend is being taken advantage of.

2) Pop Song Dissection

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From frame one of Tarantino’s debut, the indie auteur scorches the cinematic landscape with cool and hardened criminals dissecting pop culture with biting casualness. The fact that Tarantino himself begins the discussion of the meaning of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and inserts amusing tangents makes the scene feel authentic and ironic. The opening of Reservoir Dogs is revelatory for introducing a generation of filmgoers to the virtues of examing the cinematic content they consume.

1) Buffonish Raid

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Django Unchained has a dark comedic heart that both amuses and subverts our collective perceptions of slavery. No sequence is more evident of this than the KKK raid and meeting. Making an entrance with ominous operatic music, the group is eventually reduced to bumbling and unorganised fools, who bicker over the practicality of the sacks they’re wearing. While the scene is consistently funny, it also deflates the terror of the KKK. In so doing, it feels as though Tarantino is responding to D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, a film that gave the group cinematic immortality and infamy.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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