With the Christmas Day release of “The Hateful Eight” fast approaching, and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino more or less permanently perched at the center of the news cycle, director Tara Wood’s authorized documentary “21 Years: Quentin Tarantino” is likely to attract more attention than her first feature, 2014’s “21 Years: Richard Linklater” (poster and trailer below).
But the “hollow hagiography” of the Linklater doc, as Variety film critic Peter Debruge put it, provokes a concern about the Tarantino project. An auteur as wildly inventive as the “Pulp Fiction” director, particularly one with such a contentious reputation, deserves—and perhaps requires—more than a greatest-hits reel.
Notwithstanding the vague origins of the premise—”It’s been said that the first 21 years define the career of an artist,” per the promotional materials for the Linklater film—the starry lineup of talking heads set to appear in “21 Years: Quentin Tarantino” doesn’t exactly promise close scrutiny. (It’s hard to imagine Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Christoph Waltz, or Jamie Foxx offering much more than plaudits for the director.)
Both the positive and negative reviews of “21 Years: Richard Linklater” compared the film to an awards-show tribute, which seems out of step with Tarantino’s ballsy, take-no-prisoners aesthetic, and unlike low-key Linklater, Tarantino probably doesn’t need the good publicity to bring attention to his work. His last two films, “Django Unchained” (2012) and “Inglourious Basterds” (2009), both grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office.
Still, if Wood can channel a “Hitchcock/Truffaut” vibe, becoming a companion to Tarantino’s oeuvre—an illustration-in-motion of the director’s cinematic first principles—Tarantino is ripe for re-evaluation. His first genre-bending 21 years span “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) and the revolutionary “Pulp Fiction” (1994), the underrated “Jackie Brown” (1997), and now a cycle of twisted historical epics. It’s an evolution that demands to be taken seriously, even if that means taking the gloves off from time to time.