Quentin Tarantino Talks His Final Movie and Love for Violent Films at Cannes Masterclass

The man who directed a scene so bloody it was filmed in black and white to avoid an NC-17 rating has some qualms with violence in film.

In an hourlong conversation at the Cannes Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino addressed some parts of his book “Cinema Speculation” and he teased his 10th and final film, “The Movie Critic.” As a serious grind-house fanatic, Tarantino discussed the place of violence in his own films and in classics like John Flynn’s “Rolling Thunder” and Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”

On John Flynn’s “Rolling Thunder”

“It was the movie that made me start taking myself seriously as a film critic,” Tarantino said of “Rolling Thunder.”

Not that he was writing and publishing reviews on movies, but as he watched the film, he was able to note its nuances and form opinions on them. The moderators asked Tarantino about why he believed Flynn’s “Rolling Thunder” should have ended with more violence, as Paul Schrader wrote in his screenplay.

“Well, I like violent movies,” he said. But he didn’t just want violence for violence’s sake.

“Paul Schrader doesn’t recognize this movie any more than I recognize Oliver Stone’s version of ’Natural Born Killers,’” he said, explaining the pitfalls of Flynn’s direction. He read Schrader’s script and realized that the revenge element of the screenplay dies off in the end when Flynn removed the mass rage killing, destroying characters’ element of insanity.

“But some people really like that movie, and God bless ‘em. Johnny Cash really liked that movie,” Tarantino said. “I bumped into him once in an elevator and he goes, ‘Hey, me and June really love that ‘Natural Born Killers.’ And I wasn’t gonna tell him he was wrong!”

On Don Siegel’s “Dirty Harry”

Upon its release in 1971, “the film “Dirty Harry” received pushback for its portrayal of police brutality in association with Vietnam War protests. Siegel was adamant that he aimed to shock audiences, but not make a political statement.

“I’m more on the side of electrifying audiences, frankly,” Tarantino said, siding with Siegel’s intentions for the film. As for Tarantino’s own work, “I write my own material, so if there’s political aspects to it in there, I fucking put ‘em in there.”

On limits of violence in film

Tarantino’s mom once told him that people can withstand images of violence if provided with context. Still, as much as the filmmaker loves violent films, he has drawn a few moral lines.

“I have a big thing about killing animals in movies. That’s a bridge I can’t cross,” Tarantino said. “Insects too. Unless I’m paying to see some bizzarro documentary, I’m not paying to see real death. Part of the way that this all works is that it’s all just make believe. That’s why I can stand the violent scenes, cause we’re all just fucking around.”

“Some animal, some dog, some llama, some fly, some rat, doesn’t give a fuck about your movie,” he said. “I’d kill a million rats, but I don’t necessarily want to kill one in a movie or see one killed in a movie, because I’m not paying to see real death.”

“Almost always, it’s not just the violence that I have a problem with,” he said. “There’s usually an incompetence factor in there.”

On fixing reality with revenge

In a lot of Tarantino’s films, he rewrites history by weaponizing marginalized characters with violent revenge, evident in “Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unlimited” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Sometimes, Tarantino did it intentionally, other times, it happened by chance.

“Kurosawa would do this a lot. He would write himself into a corner and tell his writers to get him out,” he said. When writing “Inglourious Basterds,” he didn’t plan to end with the death of the nazis. “I wrote myself into a corner and said, ‘Now what do I do?’” he said. “Then all of a sudden, the thought just came to me, ‘Just fucking kill him. Wait, can I do that? Well yeah, it’s my story.’”

“But in the case of ‘Once Upon a Time,’ I wrote that to save Sharon and kill those motherfuckers,” he said.

On his final film

As garrulous a cinephile he may be, Tarantino was tight-lipped about his upcoming film.

“That’s a long story, I can’t tell you guys until you see the movie,” he said. “I’m tempted to do some of the characters monologues right now, but I’m not going to. Maybe if there was less video cameras. You just have to wait and see.”

Watch the full conversation below.

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