WEIRDLAND: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood and Sharon Tate

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood and Sharon Tate

'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood': In 1969 Los Angeles, a television actor and his stunt double embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the film industry. Featuring a large ensemble cast, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood weaves "multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age." Release Date: July 26, 2019. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood finds a pulp-fictionally redemptive take on the Manson nightmare in late-60s California: a B-movie loser’s state of grace. Margot Robbie presents Tate as a free-spirited young actress at the beginning of her career, wide-eyed and excited about what the future might hold for her. And although the film deals with the events of 9 August, 1969 in its own way, Charles Manson is by no means its focus. Tarantino soaks up the atmosphere of a magical Los Angeles slowly going to seed, the movie mecca of buzzing pool parties and glittering hot spots being invaded by the wild grass of youth culture and drugs. It’s a decadent town slowly rotting away.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood really belongs to a figure who gets less screen time than either of the male leads but who fills the movie with light. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, and in the movie’s most stunning sequence—set in February 1969—she comes upon a theater, the Bruin, that’s showing her most recent film, The Wrecking Crew, one of those spy joints starring Dean Martin. She goes up to the box-office booth to buy a ticket—and then it occurs to her that if she explains to the ticket girl that she’s actually in the film, she might be able to get in for free. DiCaprio’s Rick looks mischievously boyish, though you can’t help noticing the tiny crow’s feet marking the skin around his eyes, etched there by dried-up work and dwindling bank accounts—there’s an alluring, Robert Ryan-style weariness about him. Tarantino addressed the public’s continued interest in Charles Manson: “I think we’re fascinated by it because at the end of the day, it seems unfathomable. I’ve done a lot of research on it. How he was he was able to get these young girls and boys to cement to him seems unfathomable. The more you learn about it, the more information you get, it doesn’t make it any clear. It makes it more obscure.”

Rick and Cliff are basically nonentities in Hollywood, the only difference being that easy-going Cliff has no ego to bruise, no ambition to nurse. But their marginal status is transformed by Tarantino’s parallel-universe comedy, a piece of bloody mayhem which leads to a bizarre denouement which might well have you replaying the entire film in your head. It’s entirely outrageous, disorientating, irresponsible, and also brilliant. In real life, no one could save Sharon Tate. With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino and Robbie restore life to her. The magic spell lasts only a few hours. But no one has ever brought her closer to a happily ever after. Source: time.com

Margot Robbie is the heart and soul of this film. Her Sharon Tate is the most humane and resonant character of the entire movie. Almost every scene she's in is heartbreaking to watch. Tarantino told me, “This film is the closest thing I’ve done to Pulp Fiction.” What that means, I can’t reveal. But what that means in terms of structure is this: Think multiple characters (some real, some imagined) and story lines that are seemingly unrelated . . . until they intertwine in surprising ways. This film, Tarantino says, is also “probably my most personal. I think of it like my memory piece. This is my world. And this is my love letter to L. A.” It’s 1969, a year of tremendous upheaval, not just in America’s streets but also on the backlots of Hollywood. The Golden Age is ending. The original studio system, which has been a source of stability and structure for fifty years, is collapsing as the counterculture rejects traditional plotlines and traditional leading men. It’s the year Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy break big—films that celebrate the antihero and upend the definition of what a matinee idol looks like. 

It’s against this background that we meet Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), a declining star and a veteran of TV westerns. Joan Didion famously wrote, “the sixties ended abruptly . . . the tension broke . . . the paranoia was fulfilled.” Tarantino says: "‘How does the Manson Family fit in?’ It’s like we’ve got a perfectly good body, and then we take a syringe and inject it with a deadly virus. Through the whole movie, we’ve been hanging out on real Hollywood-western soundstages where phony versions of this kind of masculine drama are being played out for cameras. Then we end up on Spahn Ranch, on this dilapidated western backlot, and those masculine rituals are played out—but this time with real-world consequences, and no one’s acting. This is a Hollywood movie in the same vein as, like, The Stunt Man or Singin’ in the Rain or any other movie about Hollywood. And there’s a good-hearted spirit to it. Then you ask, 'How does the Manson Family fit in?' Well, that’s the trick. And that is, actually, how it is supposed to work: 'How does this rancidness figure into everything?' And I want the audience asking that question, and I hope that’s one of the things that helps lead you to the theater." Go in asking yourself, “What if that era had never ended? What if that awful, murderous night hadn’t crushed that balmy social heritage that still sends so many into a dreamy fit of nostalgia? What if we had found a way to presently thrive in its tranquil ethos?” It’s clear that Tarantino would rather live in a world in which we had found it. Source: wwww.esquire.com

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