Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino’s non-conformist conformism


Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood reimagines late 1960s Los Angeles and the disintegration of the traditional studio system. The director’s ninth movie culminates in a counterfactual version of the infamous August 1969 murder of Sharon Tate and four of her guests at the house she shared with husband filmmaker Roman Polanski. The killings were carried out by members of the so-called Manson Family, a commune and cult living on a deserted movie ranch and heavily involved in drugs led by Charles Manson (1934-2017).

As opposed to a number of Tarantino’s previous works that deliberately play fast and loose with immediate facts and conditions, including recent “period pieces” Inglourious Basterds (2009), Django Unchained (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015), the director’s new movie luxuriates in the everyday tawdry detail of the Southern California of the period. Paying particular attention to popular music, it also self-consciously reproduces commercials, drive-in theaters, bars and restaurants, cars and home interiors. But this carefully built-up surface notwithstanding, Once Upon a Time exhibits Tarantino’s trademark strains of subjectivism and unseriousness, and has little meaningful to say about American life in the 1960s.

In the film, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a Western television star whose career is on the downward slope. A heavy drinker, he relies a great deal on his pal and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as a driver and general factotum. Rick’s neighbors, living above him on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon—an area west of Hollywood in the Santa Monica Mountains—are the Polanskis (Rafa? Zawierucha and Margot Robbie), epitomizing the success and celebrity that Rick envies.

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