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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Tarantino: Return of the movie maverick

By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

BBC News Online profiles US director Quentin Tarantino, who is back after six years with the martial arts movie Kill Bill.

Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman
Tarantino with Thurman, "my Dietrich"
The prospect of a new Tarantino film has left fans and critics in a state of heightened excitement unknown in recent years.

It is difficult to think of another contemporary director whose absence has led to the feverish anticipation that has greeted his return.

To his admirers he is the greatest auteur of his generation, a freewheeling throwback to the glory days of independent Hollywood film-making at its best.

To his detractors he is an amoral purveyor of bloodlust who has made some of the most gratuitously violent movies of the past decade (of which Kill Bill is far from an exception).

Despite Kill Bill having the biggest body count of any of his four films, Tarantino has defended the use of violence - and the outlandish way it is portrayed.

One scene culminates in dozens of slain gangsters reeling in various states of near-death agony in a bloodied restaurant.

Daryl Hannah, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman
Kill Bill is getting better reviews than its predecessor, Jackie Brown
"I wouldn't use the word cartoonish but it is outrageous," he told an interviewer.

"Nobody is getting killed; this isn't real blood; it's syrup, it's paint. If you don't like it you must not like the colour red, because you know it's not real blood."

This seamless blend of ultra-violence and comic absurdity has been a trademark since his cult 1992 debut Reservoir Dogs and its follow-up Pulp Fiction (1994).

The first film's notorious ear-slicing scene has passed into movie legend, while his gangsters' hip dialogue and knowing pop culture references have been imitated to the point of pastiche by lesser directors.

The movies had a huge cultural impact and led to Tarantino being feted as a genius - the most important US director since the likes of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola 20 years earlier.

A cruel older brother, that's what he's like. Me in the dirt, with blood everywhere is his favourite thing in the whole world
Uma Thurman
However, his third film, 1997's homage to blaxploitation Jackie Brown, received a far cooler response, and Tarantino seemed to go into a period of withdrawal.

Worse, there were even suggestions that the brilliant saviour of American film was washed up; had writer's block; was sinking into depression as he passed his 40th birthday.

Tarantino has admitted struggling to cope with the sudden fame that he encountered as a result of the seismic effects of his first two movies.

He has been arrested twice for brawling outside restaurants, and his venture into stage acting in the off-Broadway thriller Wait Until Dark was slated.

He has been frank about his supposed decline, but reports from the set of Kill Bill on location in Beijing suggested that the old, inspired Tarantino was back.

Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino said he felt like an outsider at school
"It was a wild ride," said his muse Uma Thurman, the film's central character, a vengeful bride who awakes from a four-year coma to become an unlikely ninja warrior.

"A cruel older brother, that's what he's like. Me in the dirt, with blood everywhere is his favourite thing in the whole world. He wants to rough me up every day. He wants to see me mad."

Tarantino has described the film as "the movie of my geek-movie dreams" - a notion backed up by cast member Julie Dreyfus, who said: "His enthusiasm and attention to detail are extraordinary.

"It was like a crash course in his movie obsessions."

His love of kung-fu, noir and blaxploitation movies was formed as a lonely child growing up in suburban Los Angeles, often skipping school where he saw himself as "the dumb kid who couldn't keep up with the class".

Some kids, it's cars, some kids, it's drawing... with me it was movies
Quentin Tarantino
His mother, a nurse, brought him up alone, allowing him the freedom to indulge his passion for cinema, or to watch TV, listen to his records or read his comics.

At 16 he took acting classes and began writing film scripts while working in various adult cinemas.

He famously honed his writing while working at a video store in Manhattan Beach - cementing the myth of the nerdy film geek immersed in B-movie minutiae.

It remains the defining image of Quentin Tarantino, who once outlined the simple truth behind his life's path: "Some kids, it's sports; some kids, it's studies; some kids, it's cars, some kids, it's drawing... with me it was movies."

Quentin Tarantino, director
"Japanese cinema is more outrageous, more violent"

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