Quentin Tarantino isn't for everyone, obviously. Nor should he be, but his detractors are so furious in their disdain that it makes one wonder when he had the time to poop in their shoes. Everyone has their own reasons, but some of the more prevalent ones tend to be that his scripts are too wordy, that he's just a genre mash-up artist ripping off the movies he grew up with, or that his distinct form of hyper-violence is somehow making the youth of America desensitized sociopaths.
His eighth film, The Hateful Eight, might not win him any new fans, but it sure as hell shouldn't lose him any old ones. This time, he is actually pulling something from his past not just to make a pastiche of other awesome films, but he is bringing back actual, honest-to-god projection to the world in a limited number of cinemas.
For a week before the film opened in wide release, Tarantino opened it on 70mm projectors across the country. For the historians, this is the first film to be shot in Ultra Panavision 70mm since Khartoum in 1966 and the first new film to be shown in 70mm in almost that long. Basically, 70mm is a wide high-resolution film that shows up much more stunningly crisp and tactile than 35mm. A majority of theaters can't handle 70mm, so the ones that make the effort to project a film on 70mm tend to be the places run by true lovers of cinema and the lost art of projection.
The Hollywood Theatre in Northeast Portland is not only a historic and magnificent marvel of architecture and design, but run by true cinephiles, so of course they were going to show it in 70mm (on the largest screen in the country)—and, of course, I was going to drive to Portland and see it.
The Hollywood's passion for cinema is clear. They care about film more than anything, so they care about the audience's experience while watching it, something I found to be depressingly refreshing. This shouldn't be a singular treat, this should be the norm.
The film itself is magnificent. It's an Agatha Christie mystery combined with John Carpenter's The Thing and directed by Howard Hawks, but with dialogue so electric the audience savors every word. This is easily one of Tarantino's best scripts and gives Samuel L. Jackson's wicked bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren, Kurt Russell's equally wicked bounty hunter John "The Hangman" Ruth, Jennifer Jason Leigh's animalistic fugitive Daisy Domergue, and Walton Goggins' ex-militiaman Chris Mannix an embarrassment of riches. When these four characters arrive at Minnie's Haberdashery in front of a blizzard, they are certain at least one of the other lodgers is there to spring Domergue. What happens next is a master class in the execution of tension and how to raise it one word at a time.
The film is violent as hell but with a genuine critique of said violence beneath the surface. It's almost as if he is daring the audience to laugh at some of the horrifying acts of cruelty on display, not as a judgment, but as a signpost to an American thirst for bloodshed. There are some heady ideas in here if the audience is willing to look past the easy thrills to find them.
The Hateful Eight sits comfortably in the middle of Tarantino's filmography as being better than the Kill Bill films, Death Proof, and Django Unchained, but not quite up to the lasting power of Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Bastards, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown. But this is a film that will grow over time and over multiple viewings. If Tarantino is really still planning on retiring after 10 films, then American cinema will be less for his absence.
The Hateful Eight
Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Now Playing at The Hollywood Theatre in Portland and Old Mill Stadium 16