Sunday, August 4, 2019

Essay on Tarantino/Welles/Fassbinder by Tosh Berman

The 21st-century is very much a juxtaposition of little joys and significant tragedies. On one end, I get the warm feeling of pop culture doing what it does best, by bringing a specific grouping to the movie theater to see a film. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is such a work that represents their desire of an ordered world. I'm the filmgoer that loves to spend a few hours in a theater engrossed in someone's else's world. Quintin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, and at times, even Woody Allen makes a world that is instinctively closed off to the outside world.

For the past six or seven months, citizens of Los Angeles have been experiencing going through a time-tunnel, due to Tarantino transforming various main streets in the city to the year 1969. The changes have brought out a strong sense of Nostalgia for those who remember that era or year. For however long the fake billboards, bus advertising, signage on buildings, were up, the streets became not a route to one place to another, but a spectacle, where people can reflect their memories, both false and true onto themselves and those around them. In theory, fairytales are dark, but here we have a happy ending that is what most of us wished had happened. We have come back home, after acknowledging the past is dead. For a short series of moments, Los Angeles became an amusement park devoted to a dead history.

The 21st-century is not huge on reflection, so having a popular film that reflects an image or society of that time, makes one think of the current status of life. The horrifying disappointment of life being drained either by racist violence or collective stupidity is a lot to digest in one sitting. Therefore, art should allow a specific space to reflect on one's history, and thus the presence in a world that is not exactly beautiful, but nevertheless, an important existence.

There are two types of filmmakers I admire. One is in the world of Tarantino, Anderson, Lynch, and Jarmusch, and the other is Fassbinder and Orson Welles. For the latter, they put us in a world that exposes the rot within that landscape. There is nothing vague about what causes the rotting of a culture but also reflects on the sense of power and how it plays out in religion, politics, and life. The other filmmakers want to make a world of their own making. In that sense, when you see their films, you are immediately in a planet that is sealed off from the outside world. Fassbinder and Welles are dwelling in the world of not their making, but in a hostile environment that is horrifying and deadly.

Fassbinder and Welles don't bring people together. They are dissatisfied with their lot. On the other hand, the world of Tarantino and others of that cinematic world are reflecting on the warm light of the cinema, as we know the night will eventually turn into day. Fassbinder and Welles know very well that they may never see the light of the morning. So, as we trot down Hollywood Boulevard and deal with those in iconic costumes in front of the old Chinese Theater, we come upon a fantasy that's sick, but if we turn the clock back, we live in a happy space. - Tosh Berman

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