In 1960, a french director named Jean-Luc Godard came along with his first feature film Breathless (À bout de souffle). The film was celebrated as one of the finest directorial debuts since Citizen Kane (1941), while Godard became one of the forerunner of the French New Wave in the 60s. He was a cineast, who was fed up with the comtemporary movies in France and rebelled against it. He took what he liked from the past and and abandoned the conventions of the time. Natural lighting, low budgets, real locations, weird camera angles, abrput cutting, off-topic dialogues, referencing old films and the absurdity of human existence were flushed into the cinematic toolkit. Godard’s spirit and approach, amplified by Pauline Kael’s writings, inspired the young movie geek Quentin Tarantino.
Reservoir Dogs, his own debut film, has one of the most well-known intro shots of its time and yet does it appears only after seven minutes of discussions about Madonna’s Like a Virgin and the concept of tipping. In actuality, the film tells the story of a group of criminals (portrayed by an excellent cast) and a failed robbery, its preperation and its aftermath. It’s a simple setup. However, Reservoir Dogs is not about a complicated initial situation, but about all the little twists and reveals that come out of it. Therefore, Tarantino uses a non-linear story structure, which was not common practice at the time. All the more influencial is Tarantino’s early work. In fact, the ordering of the scenes create a strong narrative drive and might be the film’s best element. It keeps you on the edge and proposes a certain urgency. It sets a rythm that keeps the momentum rising at any time. Some of his later films might include better set pieces, but Reservoir Dogs might still be Tarantino’s most homogenous film.
The members of the gang meet at a hideout, where most of the film takes place. They conclude they have been set up and try to figure out who the rat is. All the characters go beyond the genre tropes and are somewhat unique. Tarantino described his approach as: “taking genre characters and genre situations and giving them a real life spin”. Of course, his primary means is dialogues. Unlike Godard, Tarantino has a way with words. He turned the formerly empty chitchat into funny, intriguing and fast-paced conversations with no apparent connection to the plot. Instead of expedient dialogues, that are used to bring across information quickly or are simply easy to subtitle, Tarantino’s dialogues were a major feature of his film. Snappy, cool and character-related. Reservoir Dogs, the starting point of Taratino’s outstanding journey as a professional filmmaker, is a story about professionalism and the consequences of not acting professionally.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney, Chris Penn
Genre: Crime, Drama
Runtime: 99 min.
Release Date: 1992/01/21 (at Sundance)
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Editor: Sally Menke
Cinematography: Andrzej Sekula
Budget: $1.2 – 1.5 million