I could spend a lot of time re-writing Variety headlines to make them not gibberish.
Quentin Tarantino has been making the international press rounds in support of his “Cinema Speculation” book tour, recently speaking to Spain’s Diari ARA about how one of his only box office bombs shook his confidence as a film director. That bomb would be “Death Proof,” Tarantino’s 2017 stuntman action-thriller starring Kurt Russell that was released domestically as one half of the movie “Grindhouse.” The other half was Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror.” The “Grindhouse” release earned $25 million, while “Death Proof” picked up only $30 million overseas in its standalone release.“Quentin Tarantino Calls ‘Death Proof’ Bombing a ‘Shock to My Confidence,’ Says His Films Lack Sex Because It ‘Hasn’t Been Necessary’” -Variety.com
Death Proof is my least favorite Tarantino film, because it lacks what he brings to his work: creativity with pulp tropes. A Tarantino film is never merely a heist movie, a gangster movie, a kung fu revenge flick, etc. There’s always a tweaking and a going-beyond of what’s expected in the genre. With Reservior Dogs, it’s the idea of having robbers discuss a heist having serious conversation about Madonna songs and the morality of tipping right before they go do a robbery. These people are human, as human as you, the film tells us, and this makes their deaths hit in a different way.
I could do this with all of them, but the point is it’s not there in Death Proof.
“With ‘Grindhouse,’ I think me and Robert just felt that people had a little more of a concept of the history of double features and exploitation movies,” Tarantino said at the time. “No, they didn’t. At all. They had no idea what the fuck they were watching. It meant nothing to them, alright, what we were doing. So that was a case of being a little too cool for school. But as far as the movie playing in England as the movie, I think people took it okay.”Blah Blah Filler Filler You’re Only Reading This for the Sex Scene Discussion, No One Cares About Death Proof – Variety.com
This reeks of cope. If “grindhouse” means anything, it means “something amateurish and sleazy, with saturated visuals and the glorious absence of sophistication.” Which is fine, if you’re into that sort of thing, but hardly something that requires depth of study. Now, it would still work if Tarantino had done something interesting with Death Proof, but he didn’t. That film is half a joke, a parody too devoted to the source material. However he imagined he was elevating it (That Robert Frost poem, maybe?), I didn’t catch it. It’s the only one of his movies in which I found the ending weirdly abrupt and unsatisfying.
One of his best soundtracks albums, though.
The filmmaker also touched upon the lack of nudity and sex scenes in his movies while speaking to Diari ARA. Outside of Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda in “Jackie Brown,” there isn’t much sex to be found in Tarantino’s filmography.
“It’s true, sex is not part of my vision of cinema,” Tarantino said. “And the truth is that, in real life, it’s a pain to shoot sex scenes, everyone is very tense. And if it was already a bit problematic to do it before, now it is even more so. If there had ever been a sex scene that was essential to the story, I would have, but so far it hasn’t been necessary.”“LMAO Did You Know Quentin Tarantino Likes Feet, That Never Stops Being Funny“, Variety.com
I’d actually forgotten about the sex scene in Jackie Brown, because it was mostly played for laughs. It also was an important scene for both characters, but you don’t think so at first. Like everything else in Jackie Brown, it’s subtle, because that movie answers the question “What if a Blaxploitation film was realistic and underplayed?
And when it comes to sex, that tends to be how he plays it. He’s more interested in desire, or latent sexuality, as an expression of a character, than in showing characters jumping on each other. I’m sure sex scenes are a “pain to do”, but more importantly, they’re rarely interesting to watch. He’s on top, she’s on top, there are sheets and flailing. Kenny G plays somewhere in the background. I’m not saying it can’t be done in a way that forwards the story (Once Upon a Time in the West comes to mind), but most of the time it’s an apotheosis of a B-Plot rather than a necessary story beat.
In any case, for a guy as trashy as Tarantino is regularly accused of being, you don’t see a whole lot of naked people in his movies. That is interesting to contemplate.