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QT 5 Article in The Age

From The Quentin Tarantino Archives

Tarantino keeps 'B' movies alive

By ELVIS MITCHELL, NEW YORK TIMES, AUSTIN. Article extracted from theage.com.au (Thursday 23 August 2001)

There's no better place than this for the Quentin Tarantino Film Festival, which is called ``QT V this year, since it's having its fifth outing. QT V, which began August 17 and ends August 26, thrives in this town, which has carved out an identity for itself as a place wholly different from film capitals like New York or Los Angeles.

It plays host to two other successful film festivals, the film component of the South by Southwest pop music festival in March and the Austin Heart of Film Festival, an event dedicated to screenwriters. (Having three functioning festivals puts Austin ahead of Los Angeles, which struggles to keep one major festival going.)

The Tarantino event has settled into a convention for serious students of the delicacy known as the B picture. In previous years, when Tarantino's popularity was at the boiling point, gawkers dressed up in their trendiest attire showed up to stare at the back of the director's head instead of the movies. (And Tarantino does sit through the movies, too - he's not a dilettante.)

``Now, it's for all the film freaks, said Louis Black, editor of the city's alternative newspaper, The Austin Chronicle, and a member of the Austin Film Society, the non-profit institution that puts on the event in collaboration with Tarantino. This is the sellout audience that jabbered away with appreciative cracks and chortles over Ricardo Montalban's glorious divalike turn during the August 18 showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, part of the Sci-Fi Horror Marathon - the real horror being the apparently primitive state of hairpiece technology in the 23rd century, where the movie was set.

The QT Fest takes place at the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin, a blend of movie theater and lecture hall where a sure-footed wait staff serves sandwiches and beer in the dark. It's the perfect setting for a festival created to run movies in which there's nothing at stake except the ambition to entertain, in programs with titles like ``Bunch of Guys on a Mission War Movies. (That one included the satisfyingly intense, even disturbing Dark of the Sun, a 1968 catalog of carnage starring Jim Brown and Rod Taylor.)

Provisionally a fund-raiser for the Austin Film Society, QT seems to exist primarily as a way for Tarantino to program a series of his favorite films. The only condition is that the films shown are those Tarantino owns prints of - they all come from his private collection.

He jumps onto the stage before each picture and gleefully sprays the audience with introductions to these jewels, including a plot summary, assessments of the performances, impromptu comments on the current state of film and other rapid-fire digressions of the sort that Tarantino has become known for.

No one could make a serious claim for most of these pictures as classics, despite Tarantino's bully-pulpit defense of, say, Saturn Three, about which the screenwriter Martin Amis presumably has a case of resume amnesia. And when the movies don't capture the audience's attention, members of the crowd file into the lobby to debate the finer points of genre film until the next picture starts.

This year, there are 10 evenings of movies and a couple of matinees.

Each night has a theme and features several films. The opening-night motif was ``Spaghetti Westerns, and the first film was Sergio Leone's epic and faintly absurd For a Few Dollars More (1965), with Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. Tarantino followed it with The Devil Rides Alone (1967), which seemed to be a test of the audience's good will.

The evening did become a moving remembrance of the indomitable Van Cleef, who starred in Dollars, Devil and Day of Anger and whom Leone rescued from obscurity. (Van Cleef died in 1989.)

Some of the festival's prints aren't great, but the audience is generally in such a blissful state of zoned-out good cheer that it responds to the auteur/programmer's intentions. The Aug. 18 program was a grueling science-fiction marathon that went from dusk until dawn, so it was appropriate that Robert Rodriguez, director of From Dusk Till Dawn, was in attendance. The print of the 1992 King of Beggars, done in the hand-tinted color that used to be a province of American films, was a knockout, each shot provoking sighs as the action figure Stephen Chow vaulted and smirked through the picture.

Part of ``Martial Arts Epic Adventure Night, the Chow film was paired with the director Tsui Hark's crowning achievement, The Blade (1995), a martial arts film staged like a Calvin Klein Obsession ad. Given the punishment the principals are subjected to, this evening could also have been called ``Dismemberment Night.

Friday night's program is called ``Revenge Night, although I'd be hard pressed to think of a B movie that isn't a revenge film. The triple bill is Fists of Fury, the Bruce Lee classic; the potboiler Framed, with the '70s trash-picture star Joe Don Baker; and 1977's dizzyingly low-key noir, Rolling Thunder, starring William Devane as a Vietnam veteran who seeks vengeance after he is maimed in a robbery.

That freakish wonder gave Tarantino the name for the company he established to re-release B pictures. Paul Schrader, who wrote the film with Heywood Gould, has contended that it blurs the line between being a film about racism and being a racist film because the director, John Flynn, missed the point. It's an unforgettable and curious artifact that, like all of the QT Festival offerings, will give the enraptured audiences something to talk about.