By Mónica Delgado
Tarantino’s request of “no spoilers” for his film, made for the general audience, critics and journalists around the world, has little to do with revealing plots, or some turn of the screw that could’ve ruined the tension of the spectator. Quentin’s request has to do with another aspect of the film, which lies in its core itself. When Once upon a time… in Hollywood ends, one has the impression of having assisted to an exemplary act which shows the capacity of cinema of transforming reality, of proposing an exit and creating an evasion, maybe even accomplishing a dream. What Tarantino did in this film is closer to the highest degree of sublimation of cinema. The filmmaker of Reservoir dogs and Death proof has materialized that which cinema can achieve to mean for several people: a way of salvation.
The film is full of cinephile and television winks of the late seventies, in a country embedded in waves of hippies and consumerism criticism. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are two characters of Hollywood that are searching for a place in the world of cinema with a little more luck. Dalton has some fame due to a TV program, but dreams to reach the big screen, and makes that so hand in hand with a filmmaker (Samuel Wanamaker), that little by little turns him in an emblematic figure of Spaghetti Western, where the ghost of Leone and Corbucci appear regularly. Meanwhile, the stuntman Booth involves himself with the hippie environment and constantly dwells among the studios.
Unlike other films of the American filmmaker, Once upon a time… in Hollywood doesn’t have an episodic narration or temporal games, but a meta-textual order, of cinema inside cinema. The moments where Rick Dalton shoots the new western or Spaghetti films, stop being simulations to become long scenes which govern several parts of the plot. It isn’t a drama either, beyond touching the fact of the tragic death of Sharon Tate and friends by the Charles Manson clan. It’s a relief that the proposal of Tarantino deals with this episode, leaded by the silhouette of Margot Robbie, in order to talk more about the sensibility of a time and less about the police incident.
Once upon a time…in Hollywood is too intelligent of a comedy. It’s full of recurrent absurd dialogues, where this cinema inside the cinema is revealed by the figure of these two characters (like in a buddy movie) which complement each other but also play the wicked reverse of a contradictory system (the millionaire actor and the stuntman who lives in a trailer house, for example). We’ll be waiting for its local release to talk more about it, when the request of the spoiler isn’t necessary anymore.
This film of Tarantino was one of the highest points in this Cannes 2019 (we were lucky enough to see the 35mm version), and will probably become, because of some commentaries of critics who asked a reedition or a recut, a misunderstood film.
Director and screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Editing: Fred Raskin
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Zoe Bell, Damian Lewis, Luke Perry, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, James Marsden, Clifton Collins Jr., Scoot McNairy, Damon Herriman, Nicholas Hammond, Keith Jefferson, Spencer Garrett, Martin Kove, James Remar, Brenda Vaccaro, Mike Moh, Lena Dunham, Austin Butler, Maya Hawke, Lorenza Izzo, Rumer Willis, Dreama Walker, Margaret Qualley, Costa Ronin, Madisen Beaty, Penelope Kapudija
Production company: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) / Heyday Films / Visiona Romantica
USA, 165 minus, 2019