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Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood - turning a new page

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Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. Quentin Tarantino directs Julia Butters. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood. It is about the end of Old Hollywood on the eve of New Hollywood. It also channels Tarantino's concern for the current turbulence of the film industry: the end of the era dominated by film and the new era of digital cinema, mobile cinema and streamed cinema. Tarantino has always been a maverick, a swimmer against the tide, politically incorrect. My attitude to the sadism of his revenge fantasies is that everything that is extreme is in danger of becoming dated. Sadism can be effective once, but it soon starts to feel tired. I think Tarantino is better than that and Once Upon a Time would have been better without sadism. I confess that after Django Unchained I suffered from Tarantino fatigue and did not feel the need to see The Hateful Eight. Django Unchained felt tired partly also because it was the first Tarantino film that had not been edited by Sally Menke. Once Upon a Time is the second Tarantino film edited by Fred Raskin, and there is again a good sense of timing in the editing. Tarantino has a solid sense of cinema time and space, and he is not afraid of duration. Tarantino is also honing his personal approach to inserts, montages and flashbacks to perfection. The basic temporal structure is linear, based on two major time blocks, but they are interspersed with memory flashes and fun montages irrelevant to the narrative, for instance in a hommage to Hollywood neon signs. Tarantino's sense of humour is more mature and sophisticated than before. Besides the incorrigible pop art approach there is a more refined stage of self-awareness, sense of transience and mortality. Tarantino has had stronger female characters before, played by Uma Thurman and Pam Grier, among others. Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate is a dream woman observed from a distance. Although she is the female lead she remains a stranger. But she is the carrier of the future, expecting a baby. Truth is stranger than fiction. In 1969 Roman Polanski was the talk of the town after Rosemary's Baby , a trendsetting film whose impact continues in today's new wave horror cinema. In it, Rosemary is expecting a baby by the Devil. In real life, Sharon Tate lost her life and her baby to devil worshippers. In the finest sequence of Once Upon a Time Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets his eight-year-old costar Trudi Fraser (Julia Butters). It represents something new in a Tarantino film, a humoristic variation of the A Star Is Born theme: the alcoholic has-been meeting the promise of the future. Perhaps we are meant to be reminded of Jodie Foster. The Rick Dalton / Sharon Tate parallel is the film's obvious A Star Is Born connection, but Rick's meeting with Trudi is even more charged. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood might be a memorable farewell film for Tarantino. I hope it is the start of a new period instead.

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