Quentin Tarantino is unprecedently one of the distinctive filmmakers. While the two-time Oscar winner possess talent exceptional for any era, his style is unmatched in today’s Hollywood. The 60-year-old is not exactly a rule breaker, he just goes by his own set of rules.
Tarantino’s near encyclopedic knowledge of music has equipped him with the ability to perfectly match scene and song. This allows him to frame a sequence through a unique perspective because music expresses the nuanced sentiment in a way not possible for dialogue. In part two of Tarantino Talks Music, Quentin crystalizes the importance of music in film.
“The personality of the movie”
“One of the things I do when I am starting a movie, when I’m writing a movie or have an idea for a film. I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie. Then, boom! Eventually I’ll hit one, two or three songs, or one song in particular”.
“The most magical”:
“If you put the right piece of music with the right scene and the right sequence. I actually truly think its maybe the most cinematic thing you can do. It’s the most magical cinema can be.”
“Battle Without Honor Or Humanity” from Kill Bill: Volume 1:
Many of Quentin’s most celebrated musical sequences occur as diegetic sound. His use of “Stuck in the Middle with You” from Reservoir Dogs is a great example of this. But QT is also a master non-diegetic sound or, sound that exists independent of the scene. Tarantino’s utilization of Tomoyasu Hotei’s “Battle Without Honor Or Humanity” in 2003’s Kill Bill: Volume 1 ranks among his very best non-diegetic implementation.
“Get the opening credits right”:
“If you’re gonna get anything right, you gotta get the opening credits right. The opening credit song, that is the theme of your movie whether you like it or not. So I can honestly say, when I do my little deep-sea-diving-thing looking for stuff. Once I get a good opening credit song—once I go, ‘OK, this will be in the opening credits of the movie’. That’s 50 percent of me doing the movie.’”
“Misirlou” from Pulp Fiction:
Tarantino employs the 1962 classic “Misirlou”, performed by surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, to set the tone for his revolutionary film Pulp Fiction. QT states, “Having ‘Misirlou’ as your opening credits is just so intense. It just says, ‘you are watching an epic, you are watching this big old movie just sit back’. It’s so loud and blaring at you, a gauntlet is thrown down that the movie has to live up to; it’s like saying: ‘We’re big!’”
“Great artists steal”:
“I don’t consider myself just as a director, but as a movie man who has the whole treasure of the movies to choose from. And can take whatever gems I like…I steal from every single movie ever made…Great artists steal. They don’t do homages”. Quite honestly, all filmmakers steal, but none as honestly as Tarantino.
“I’ll do it better”:
“For a long time I was like, ‘Well, any song that had been used in a movie that was used well…well then you can’t even touch it because that movie owns it.’ [Then I was like], ‘Ahh! F**k that! I’ll do it better than those guys! Let it be great, I’ll do it better! I’ll put mine against theirs any day!’ But it’s like… when I watch other people’s [stuff]. When I see a song and it works perfectly with the right kind of scene, yeah, whenever I hear that song I think of that movie.”
“Strawberry Letter 23” from Jackie Brown:
Tarantino’s ability to engage the audience and elicit genuine concern for his characters is unrivaled in the last 30 years. This is in large part due to the moods and tones he is able to establish. He achieves this greatly by his use of diegetic music, or music that is a part of the scene proper. 1997’s “Jackie Brown” shows Quentin at his diegetic best.
“I’d rather the actors just experience it”:
“Unless I’m using the music in the scene itself proper, I’d rather the actors just experience it all when they watch the finished movie. But I’ll do something at the same time though, if this would be applicable, I could make a tape that your character would listen to. If your character had a little mix tape of music that they liked, I could make a mix tape that your character would have made. And that you can listen to. And this is something that your character responds to”.
“I can see the shots”:
“I’m looking for the spirit and the rhythm that this movie needs to play in. But that really helps me sink my hooks into ‘hey, maybe we’ll make this’. And it keeps encouraging me…Literally, I just pace around the room and play the music. I kind of close my eyes, sometimes I don’t even have to close my eyes. And I can see the shots just play out in front of each other”. Tarantino’s skill of employing music in film has only improved throughout his career. This is confirmed with his latest picture, from 2019, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
You can also read:
- Quentin Tarantino Talks Music
- The 20 Best Autumn Songs of All Time
- The 10 Best Cody Jinks Songs of All-Time
- Ranking All the Songs From the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack
- The Mastery of Music in Film: Quentin Tarantino