For nearly three decades, Quentin Tarantino has established himself as one of the most ambitious and provocative filmmakers of his generation, as his history as a video store clerk has resulted in a vast knowledge of film history, blending countless influences to deliver audiences a variety of films that honor their predecessors while also offering boundary-pushing perspectives. Regardless of your opinion on either his works or him as a person, he’s left an indelible mark on cinema, which director Tara Wood dives deep into with the help of some of his most frequent collaborators. Focusing solely on his first eight films, QT8: The First Eight is a celebration and exploration of his accomplishments, which manages to demystify the filmmaker while being endlessly entertaining.
Ranging from Reservoir Dogs in 1992 and up through The Hateful Eight in 2015, Wood speaks directly with members of the cast and crew involved with bringing each film to life, only offering a bare minimum of history on Tarantino as a person, instead allowing his films to speak for themselves. Ranging from actors like Tim Roth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Madsen, who have worked on a number of Tarantino films, to the inclusion of figures like Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, and Christoph Waltz, whose collaborations are minimal into his career, the journey of the documentary encapsulates a wide range of perspectives and opinions on the filmmaker at various points throughout his career.
Much like Tarantino was influenced by a number of filmmakers throughout his career, his impact on cinema has been so strong that his own last name has seemingly become a genre unto itself. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of movies will have an opinion on the filmmaker, as each of his films goes on to become one of the most talked-about experiences of their respective years of release. Despite his prominence in the industry, the man behind the movies is much more mild-mannered than the stories he tells, which QT8 helps remind the audience of.
The documentary fully embraces its title, serving less as a history lesson on Tarantino and more an exploration on his impact on the industry. If you’re looking for a complete dissection of how Tarantino got to where he is in his career, you’d be better suited seeking out more scholarly endeavors, as QT8 shies away from thoroughly dissecting him as an individual. In that regard, the film feels more like one of the best special features you’d find on a film’s home video release and, while some might consider that dismissive, you’d be hard-pressed to find more insight into the filmmaking process in this day and age than the physical release of your favorite film.
QT8 enlists a number of seminal figures from his career, though there are some omissions from his more defining entries, like Pulp Fiction‘s John Travolta and Kill Bill‘s Uma Thurman. Some fans are sure to be disappointed with their lack of input on the filmmaker, yet the films in which the performers have appeared are so strongly defined by their contributions, their inclusion could potentially have derailed the overall experience. As much as we’d love to hear Thurman’s take on Kill Bill, the film could have easily spent hours talking solely about those films and their accomplishments for both the filmmaker and the star. The documentary being devoid of those perspectives helps keep the pacing on track and dodges the difficult task of cutting those conversations down to digestible anecdotes alongside discussions about the rest of his impressive career.
One of the most troubling parts of Tarantino’s career, in retrospect, is his connection with producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women throughout his entire career. Wood had the unenviable task of addressing the scandal by balancing the severity of the issue while also refusing to allow it to define Tarantino. The film mostly finds an objective way to confront the scandal head-on, yet with most of those discussions not coming until later in the film, it’s hard not to cringe at the mere mention of the producer, even if such references are minimal.
QT8: The First Eight is sure to become beloved among Tarantino’s fans, as it manages to serve as a 90-minute reminder of the power of his films. Audiences who have chided the figure as being racist or sexist based on his use of slurs or depictions of women likely won’t have their minds changed, regardless of what Jamie Foxx or Zoë Bell have to say about their personal experiences about regarding such matters. Given the bloated run times of most of his movies, QT8 makes for an effective surrogate of the journey of watching his first eight feature films.
Rating: 4 out of 5
QT8: The First Eight is available now digitally and across all VOD platforms.