Monday, July 29, 2019

Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton who in turn plays a cowboy named Caleb on The Bounty Hunter, a black and white television series of the 50’s and early 60's which has a cult following.  Rick had almost gotten Steven McQueen’s role in The Great Escape (1963)However, as a bad guy, his career is in danger of going down the tubes until a producer named Schwarzs (Al Pacino) not Schwartz, mind you, offers to make him a hero in Italian spaghetti westerns. Brad Pitt plays his stunt double, Cliff Porter, who’s also a drinking buddy, fearless body guard and gofer. In one sequence Cliff beats up Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and he's reputedly murdered a former wife. To say that Once Upon a Hollywood is a homage to film is an understatement. The fact that all the major roles are played by actors who are themselves screen icons, who have spun their own myths, adds one more level of complexity that film scholars will undoubtedly debate in parsing the varying resonances of the cinematic symphony Tarantino orchestrates.  Film may be the palette that the director paints with, but he’s not only interested in his colors, but the very pigments from which they’re made. The movie, which takes place in l969, is a series of narratives which all have lives of their own. For instance, Rick lives next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha). Cliff runs into the Manson family and SPOILER ALERT the film’s ending renders a rather tongue-in-chic alternate universe rendition of a gruesome piece of real history. Sharon Tate herself attends a movie in which she appeared with Dean Martin and Elke Sommer. The fact that this comedy was called The Wrecking Crew (1968) is another ironic twistFilm and reality are conjoined when the fictional universe crosses paths with the Mansons, yet the two gently disentangle like dancers at the end of pas de deux with the illusory filmic world ultimately taking over the spotlight. It may be hard to willingly suspend disbelief in any Tarantino film simply by virtue of the directorial gaze—which creates an almost Brechtian verfremndungseffekt. On the other hand, the process of filmic illusion and role playing are rendered so realistically in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, they create their own kind of film within a film form of believability. You may smile at the absurdity and then find yourself totally buying a scene like the one in which DiCaprio angrily threatens himself in a mirror after forgetting his lines. Does one care about the characters in Tarantino’s self-referential postmodern universe? After two hours and forty-five minutes of tergiversation, one may be hard put to experience empathy. Amidst all the ironies, you may not feel moved by anything, though that may ultimately be the point. Emotion will always come at a premium when you’re watching a cartoon of a certain kind.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.