Quentin Tarantino’s films speak for themselves…

Cinema Speculation counts as Tarantino’s first non-fiction book, which revolves around his love for movies, storytelling and filmmaking. It’s interesting to read about Tarantino’s early exposure to movies. Born in 1963, Tarantino’s childhood influences consisted of mostly 70s films.

The book details memorable stories about him watching countless movies as a kid in Hollywood’s Tiffany Theater, the Carson Twin Cinema and the Pussycat Theater. Tarantino writes about an influential moment that happened in 1972 when his mother’s boyfriend Reggie, a professional football player, took him to see the Jim Brown blaxploitation film Black Gunn.

You can imagine all the films, scripts and players Tarantino connects that include heavies such as Coppola, Scorsese, DePalma, Peckinpah, Ford, McQueen, DeNiro, Coburn, Eastwood, Bogdanovich, Siegel, Altman, Milius, Corman, Hitchcock, Hopper, Van Peebles, Welles, Friedkin, and a long list of others. Tarantino deconstructs films for the reader and explains the filmmaking process and a well-reasoned analysis of how specific results turned out.

In the middle of the book there’s a random, yet fascinating 1966 article by Barry Brown from Castles of Frankenstein #10 titled “The True Facts Behind Lugosi’s Tragic Drug Addiction”, which features “one of the last pictures ever taken of Bela Lugosi”. Great stuff.

Much like Bob Dylan’s The Philosophy of Modern Song, Tarantino writes little about his own work except for a frame of cultural reference or a personal experience, which allows the reader to draw conclusions as well as gain insight regarding Tarantino’s own films. He reveals glimpses into the business few can muster. He delivers the reader arcane facts like Steve McQueen hated reading scripts and that his first wife, Neile, read and provided McQueen a synopsis for each script. One of this writer’s favorite essays of this book explores the 1972 Sam Peckinpah (read more in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2) film The Getaway based on the Jim Thompson novel. 

On page 288, Tarantino writes about a well-known movie: “From that point on cynicism in the Seventies cinema was dead on arrival…Needless to say as a young boy at the time, I loved Sylvester Stallone. I loved everything about him. I loved Rocky, I loved him in Rocky, I loved the story how he wrote Rocky (easily the most inspirational Hollywood story I ever heard).”

Tarantino stands as a first-rate storyteller, and every page of this book contains gems of cinematic examination, wonder and creativity. The last essay “Floyd Footnote” renders the book worth its price, but no spoilers here. 

Any real film fan should own Cinematic Speculation