Super-uncool biography of the supercool filmmaker.
The groundbreaking impact of Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994) certainly make Tarantino a worthy subject for a full-length portrait, and his oddball backstory—learned film history at a geeky video store; betrayed, then (sort of) reconciled with early associates—provides good fodder. Regrettably, prolific celeb-unauthorized biographer Clarkson (John Travolta: King of Cool, 2006, and many more) makes uninteresting use of both life and art. The author spends an inordinate amount of time recounting Tarantino’s upbringing in a broken home and youthful taste in movies; while mildly interesting, this material isn’t nearly as compelling as his film career. The likely reason for this imbalance is that Clarkson’s best source was Tarantino’s eager-to-chat mother, Connie Zastoupil. The remainder of the director’s story is told primarily via previously published material and author analysis. Clarkson surveys Tarantino’s career competently enough; his critical perceptions range from uninspired to lame, as when the author compares Tarantino to Vanilla Ice for their respective use of “sampling.” Further, the book all but ends in 2004, glossing over, for instance, Tarantino’s production work on the horror flick Hostel in 2005 and his 2007 exploitation-flick homage with Robert Rodriguez, Grindhouse. For that matter, the two Kill Bill films (2003 and 2004), not as resonant as his early films but still highly enjoyable, receive what could generously be called a cursory discussion.
For a far more compelling dissection of Tarantino and his contemporaries, see Sharon Waxman’s excellent Rebels on the Backlot (2005), which offers three vital qualities sorely lacking here: access, context and insight.