Quentin Tarantino is today seen as a master of genre films who has inspired generations of directors after him
New York (AFP) - A quarter-century after nabbing the coveted Palme d'Or at Cannes for "Pulp Fiction," Quentin Tarantino is back at the world's top film festival on Tuesday to show his all-star new picture "Once Upon A Time in Hollywood."
The mastermind behind hits including "Reservoir Dogs" and the "Kill Bill" series, Tarantino, 56, is in Cannes to premiere his ninth movie, one of the festival's most hotly-anticipated screenings.
It's a remarkable trajectory for the self-taught American director born in the southern state of Tennessee and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, a high school dropout who developed an encyclopedic knowledge of movies while working in a video store.
"People ask me if I went to film school," he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1994, the year "Pulp Fiction" changed the course of independent film. "And I tell them, 'No, I went to films.'"
After his debut as a screenwriter, Tarantino's name exploded onto the scene with his first feature film "Reservoir Dogs," an extraordinarily violent, low-budget gangster movie that quickly became a cult smash.
Its popularity helped him forge his own image as a filmmaker, a blend of arrogance and reverence for the greats of the craft including Jean-Luc Godard, John Woo and Sergio Corbucci.
An unabashed "cinema nerd", Tarantino is today seen as a master of genre films who has inspired generations of directors after him.
- Omnipresent violence -
"Reservoir Dogs," a film about the aftermath of a jewelry heist gone wrong, contains all the traits for which Tarantino has become famous: non-linear story structure, snappy dialogue, graphic violence and plentiful pop-culture references.
A stomach-churning scene where a sadistic gangster played by Michael Madsen cuts off the ear of a police officer has made its way into Hollywood folklore.
"I'm a big fan of violence in cinema," Tarantino told Britain's Daily Telegraph.
"I believe Thomas Edison invented the camera to film people beating the shit out of each other. It really affects the audience in a big way, but at the same time you know it's just a movie."
It's not something he condones in real life, however: "To say that I get a big kick out of violence in movies and can enjoy violence in movies but find it totally abhorrent in real life -- I can feel totally justified and totally comfortable with that statement," he told Britain's Observer in 1994.
Tarantino followed "Reservoir Dogs" with "Pulp Fiction," a mesmerizing ensemble piece that skilfully weaved together multiple Los Angeles underworld characters.
The film was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture and landed Tarantino a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award while actors John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson all received nominations.
- Schlock series -
Tarantino returned in 1997 with "Jackie Brown," his well-received adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel "Rum Punch," before taking a prolonged sabbatical as he worked on his martial arts epics "Kill Bill: Volume 1" and "Kill Bill Volume 2" starring Thurman.
In typical Tarantino fashion, the films blurred multiple genres, with influences ranging from spaghetti Westerns to blaxploitation and Asian martial arts movies.
Tarantino's next film, 2007's "Death Proof", paid homage to the low-budget, high-bodycount B movies that were a staple of drive-in cinemas and seedy theaters throughout the US in the 1960s and 1970s.
He then took a turn with period films, releasing "Inglourious Basterds" -- the story of a Jewish assassination squad parachuted into Nazi-occupied France with the purpose of sowing terror amongst German troops -- and "Django Unchained," set in the American South during the Civil War.
His most recent film "The Hateful Eight" saw him dive into a western, a genre that had already influenced a number of his films.
Tarantino has vowed several times he will retire after 10 films, meaning that he'll have only one to go after "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" starring powerhouse duo Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.
His intention is to leave behind a coherent filmography, in the style of his illustrious role models.
"At the end of a director's career you don't look at just one movie -- you look at all of them," Tarantino said.