By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
When we first met, you gave me your top five movies. Would you like to revise that list?
I can tell you now. This got picked up on from that L.A. Weekly piece for the next five years, those top three in particular: Taxi Driver, Blow Out and Rio Bravo. I’ve changed. I know I was cagey about it before, but my favorite movie of all time is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That’s the best movie ever made. I can’t even imagine myself doing better; that’s how much I love it. I would also throw His Girl Friday in there. The fifth will always be however I feel at the moment. So I’ll throw in Carrie, give De Palma a shout-out.
What have you liked recently?
One of the best movies this year is Observe and Report. That’s a real movie. Somebody said it’s Seth Rogen’s Punch-Drunk Love. Well, fuck Punch-Drunk Love, it’s Taxi Driver. That’s fucking Travis Bickle. I find it hard to believe there’s going to be another moment as cathartic as him shooting the flasher. I was a big fan of Jane Campion’s Bright Star, I think it’s her best movie. I got caught up in the seriousness of the poetry, and I don’t mind the chaste stuff.
Your movies are pretty chaste, too.
Moving right along, I know that unlike many directors, you read a lot of film criticism.
Film criticism is in a strange place. Talk about 17 years later! I could never have imagined that print film reviewing would be dying. It’s unfathomable to me. I don’t like reading film criticism on a laptop. I like holding it in my hand.
You’re a geezer, Quentin.
Exactly. It seems to me from reading a lot of the film criticism that came out of Cannes this year, the few print critics who are left writing are so busy combatting these Internet bozos that there’s a new formulism, a new self-seriousness among remaining critics, to prove they’re professionals. Even some of the younger critics who are still writing in print — well, they’re not that young — are coming across like young fogies. There are some good online critics, but then there’s these fanboy types: “Ooh, this sucks balls.” It’s a little bit like ’78, ’79, ’80, where exuberance in filmmaking is not getting its due anymore. For example, The Blues Brothers never got any respect. Now it truly is beloved, as it goddamn well should be. I mean, it’s sad to think of what happened to John Landis after An American Werewolf in London, but in those two movies, he was the first fanboy director making movies out of his head.
I feel very lucky to live the life of an artist in this town, in this industry. I have no intention of ever being a director for hire. I just started guiding myself as things have gone on. One of the huge lessons I learned is that these writer-directors come out, and their films are idiosyncratic; they have a special voice and those first two movies are like that. But it’s hard work to go back to a blank page, to start from scratch every single, solitary time and make a great movie every time. There are exceptions. Woody Allen is one of them.
Not necessarily for the better.
I think he’s in a renaissance, except for Melinda and Melinda. I loved Anything Else. But it’s much easier [for a director] to ask, “What scripts are out there?” Either they buy it and rewrite it or they work with a writer. And they get more movies made. That’s all well and good, but cut to 10 years down the pike, and all of a sudden they don’t have that voice anymore. They’re sucking dick for the Man. I’m not interested in just doing a job or working with this actor just to work with them. I learned something after I did Jackie Brown — and don’t get me wrong, I love Jackie Brown. But when it was all over — even when I was making it — the fact that it was just a little bit once removed made me a little bit disconnected from it. That’s why I haven’t done another adaptation. I want to naturally fall into the next thing that’s going to turn me on.
Do you feel pressure to work more often?
No. I mean, I don’t want another six-year gap like what happened between Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. I make a movie every year and a half, two years. When I finish, I take six months off, doing nothing, and that’s great. But you can live life while you’re writing. It’s a fun life actually, ’cause I’m working and committed and passionate, but I go out and see friends. When I’m making a movie, the world goes away and I’m on Mount Everest. Obama’s president? Who cares? I’m making my movie.
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