So, the long-awaited ninth film by Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood came out.
50 years ago, on August 8, 1969, in Los Angeles, in a house at 10050, Cielo drive, the eighteen-year-old Stephen Perent who came to visit his friend, cleaner, were brutally murdered, a men’s fashion hairstyles Jay Sebring, a rich heiress Abigail Folger, a film director Roman Polanski’s friend, an emigrant from Poland Wojciech Frykowski, and Polanski’s wife – an actress Sharon Tate, who was nine months pregnant. The murders were committed by the members of Manson Family – a religious sect led by a criminal recidivist Charles Manson.
Those events were described in detail long ago and many times. The most important thing for us right now is that Manson himself, his manias and his crimes were generated by pop culture. He dreamed of becoming a star, and he managed to do it at the cost of other people’s lives. This is necessary to understand the story that Tarantino tells.
The main characters – an actor of Westerns Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his understudy Сliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton’s career is on the decline. He mainly gets the role of villains in the series and spaghetti westerns. The less work there is for Rick, the less earning there is for Cliff. At the same time, Cliff drives Rick’s car, does repairs at his home, is even a kind of a psychotherapist for his sentimental partner; in fact, they live as a married couple, although they do not admit it to themselves.
Location and time make a special twist in the plot: Dalton’s house is situated somewhere near the doomed mansion on Cielo drive. However, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) exists in a parallel world, without intersecting with the protagonists. She goes to parties, invites friends, watches the comedy The Wrecking Crew (1968), where she played. This, by the way, is a deep and touching moment: in fact, Margot Robbie looks at the screen in the image of Tate – she is the same spectator as we are, but at the same time she is watching the original film with the participation of his heroine. This is another key to understanding Tarantino’s work.
Indeed, all his previous films, although filled with many quotes from different eras and styles of cinema, never operated on the realities of the film industry as a story material – only as a kind of background for the characters.
Now the neon-drenched Los Angeles of 1969 becomes the setting for this rather strange plot. In Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, the cinema fills the existence of the characters without fully. The Manson Family lives in the Spahn ranch – an abandoned film set. The main drama of Rick and Cliff is to be unnecessary on the screen. The three murderers sent by Manson decide to punish those who made them cruel by acting in bloodthirsty tapes – and the character of DiCaprio with his antagonistic talent and shooting repertoire is the perfect target in this sense. The new Tarantino’s film generates meanings directly from its on-screen nature; the motives and actions of the characters grow from the same foundation. But in this case, the cinema acquires metaphysical qualities, becomes a kind of higher power that can change the course of things, in particular in the past: to revive the dead, to punish the villains.
That is why the finale of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood is an indecently spectacular exercise in the genre of alternative history, nothing else. Just as there could not be other endings of Django Unchained (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015) – where the protagonists won the war against slavery and World War II. And who cares what connoisseurs of authenticity will say?
What is Hollywood, after all? It’s a conveyor of fairy tales. One of which was created by Tarantino this year.
No, not for us. For himself.
For his whole world is cinema.
And looking in the last frame from above – from this “angle of God” borrowed from Hitchcock the only time in the whole film – at the characters of the reality where the innocent are alive, and evil is punished, he says to himself, like the Old Testament Creator, that it is good. And puts the caption on top: Once Upon a Time in…
The tale is told.
The tale will not end.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – specially for opinionua.com