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‘Hollywood’ blends Tarantino’s childhood and the era that revolutionized cinema

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Interview. Quentin Tarantino takes us back to the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles County, a coming-of-age moment for himself, for Hollywood and for America. ‘It was a special time and place.’

written by Luca Celada


September 20, 2019

At the New Beverly movie theater in Los Angeles, the poster looks a bit faded by the scorching heat of California in September, but the title still stands proud: “Tarantino Presents: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” More than two months have passed since the official Chinese Theater premiere, but the little theater on Beverly Boulevard is still showing Tarantino’s latest oeuvre. Not a huge surprise—since the theater’s owner is Quentin Tarantino.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has now earned an eye-popping $329 million worldwide, surpassing Inglorious Basterds and gunning for Django Unchained, the director’s most successful film to date ($425 million). Hollywood is sure to pass that mark.

Many of Tarantino’s films are set in LA and have strong ties to their location, but in this one the city becomes a character in its own right. In fact, Angelenos got to watch it in some of the locations used in the film, like the Cinerama Dome. For weeks a billboard for the film hovered over the El Coyote Mexican restaurant, the very place Sharon Tate dined for the last time on that fateful evening of Aug. 8, 1969, in the summer of Manson.

That sultry summer seemed airless, with a blanket of smog concealing the sunset of an age—two of them, in fact. The old system of making movies was in the process of being blown away by the advent of the New Hollywood. And the carefree and sunny season of counterculture was coming to an end, which, after the Summer of Love a couple of years before, would now be forever marred—at least in the official account—by the Manson Family’s bloody Helter Skelter.

Tarantino develops his story against this backdrop, offering us an image of America and its avatar—Hollywood—in its essential elements: glamor, narcissism, naivety and violence. He imbues it with wistfulness and what can only be called a deep affection for an industry, a place and a state of mind which served as his metaphorical “childhood home.” Here we have an unusually romantic Tarantino, who created an ingenious device which allows him to re-shoot the beloved B-movies and TV shows of his artistic formation, inventing an imaginary filmography for his middling protagonist and saving a few matinee idols of his own.

So is this the love letter to Hollywood that everyone says it is?

Yeah, a little bit actually. It’s funny because when you said the Hollywood of my childhood, most people use the word Hollywood, they mean it more euphemistically as far as like the filmmaking industry and that is part of this movie. But I am also dealing with it as a town, as like Los Angeles County. And I was in Los Angeles in 1969, I was about 6 or 7, but I remember it really, really well. I remember what was on TV and I remember what was on the local stations, I remember the kids shows and I remember the cartoons on Saturday morning and I remember the “Horror House.” And I remember the music and I remember the radio station. Back then the big........

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