Les Huit Salopards is a great American classic (review)

In Tarantino’s filmography, his eighth film calls for superlatives more than ever: the most successful, the most beautiful, the darkest, the most pessimistic. But certainly not the coolest.

June 7, 2020 update: Les Euit Salopards, which is broadcast for the first time in clear on Sunday (at 8:55 pm) on Arte, had received a mixed critical reception when it was released in 2016. At Première, we had been conquered by this camera with an impressive cast.

Article of December 19, 2015: At first glance, Les Euit Salopards looks like a film-sum which would operate the synthesis of all that Tarantino has already done, and some will not fail to compile recurring patterns, arguing that such a plan has just Dogs Reservoir, such other ofInglourious Basterds. In fact, we are in familiar territory, all the ingredients that make up the signature of QT are there: the virtuoso dialogues, the direction of actors, the ideal marriage of music and image. In addition, he obtained means that matched his ambitions: he finally secured the collaboration of Ennio Morricone, who composed a score mainly of strings and the tone much closer to the horror thriller than the western. He also paid for the luxury of shooting in 70mm Ultra Panavision format, an exceptionally wide ratio, but which ensures such viewing comfort that it gives the impression of having always been the norm. Robert Richardson uses it masterfully, not only outdoors to highlight vast landscapes, but also indoors to define the space with precision and scrutinize the characters in close-ups.

The 10 films shot in Ultra Panavision 70 before Les Huit Salopards

Almost closed

But behind the gleaming surface, we observe a major evolution which places this eighth film above all that QT has done so far. The filmmaker has matured and he has sharply restrained some of his youthful excesses (sneering irony, second degree) to deal with a serious subject – how to survive in America when you are black or a woman. He chose a hybrid form that dates back to the classicism of Howard Hawks through John Carpenter (via The ten little Negroes by Agatha Christie), all situated in the context of the post-Civil War period. The action takes place on neutral ground (neither to the North, nor to the South), in an isolated inn where eight characters have found refuge while a snowstorm is raging. They have every reason to distrust each other: lawyers against possible outlaws, whites against blacks, former confederates against former northerners. One of them, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), is a bounty hunter en route to the nearby town of Red Rock to deliver the corpses of two wanted thugs. John Ruth (Kurt russel) is another bounty hunter, who takes his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), condemned to hang. With them Chris Mannix (Walton goggins), former Confederate and future Sheriff of Red Rock. Facing them, an English executioner (Tim roth), a deceptive Mexican (Demian Bichir), a mutant traveler (Michael Madsen), and a retired general from the Southern Army (Bruce Dern).

QT reveals his favorite movie of 2015

This almost closed door (a malfunction of the front door gives rise to a recurring gag) recalls The thing by John Carpenter. In both films, Kurt Russel feels that someone is not who he claims to be, and he intends to unmask him. The investigation will take complex and unpredictable detours, according to a very Tarantine narrative, which sometimes consists of repeating the same scenes to give them different meanings. It’s a bit like his version of Rashomon from Kurosawa. Throughout the discussions, a capital motive is revealed, that of lying, which surpasses that of revenge and takes on a particular importance in this intrigue where everyone conceals his identity or his intentions. As a virtuoso of dialogues, Tarantino has developed a rhetoric of deception as revealing of truth as much as a means of achieving its ends.


The Goggins revelation and the tribute to Jason Leigh

The actors revel in it and all find the opportunity to shine there. The lion’s share goes to Samuel L. Jackson, whose intonations, phrasing and rhythm have become inseparable elements of Tarantino’s cinema. The music of language also serves to distinguish each of the characters: Kurt Russel speaks like John Wayne, Tim Roth accentuates his anglicisms, and Damien Bechir his Mexicanism (this is also true for secondary characters like the New Zealander Zoe Bell who plays. .. a New Zealand woman). As often, Tarantino reveals a talent: this time, it is the turn of Walton Goggins, who passes from the status of picturesque supporting role which one never remembers the name in leading role which one will never be able to never ignore. He speaks with false candor and a southern accent that works wonders. Incidentally, the dubbers of the VF will have a hard time making all the thematic and musical richness of distributed like “Cut my legs off, and call me Shorty!” Another beneficiary is Jennifer Jason Leigh, in a role that seems to have been written as a tribute to her past career in taking hits, and which she discharges with a sort of evil joy.

The twilight of the odious

Tarantino has often been criticized for listening to himself writing dialogues, and these take up a good part of the film’s exceptionally long duration. But the road show presentation, with its 2/3 intro and intermission (as in 2001 The Space Odyssey or Once upon a time in America) lets the film run at a natural pace. In other words, we do not see the time passing (and we can only advise to see the film in this format). The first two thirds are used to raise the tension which is released at the end in an orgy of action of a splashing intensity. It is in this last part that the film changes register and summons another film by Carpenter, Assault (incidentally a remake of Rio Bravo by Howard Hawks). At Carpenter’s, good is combined with evil to fight the worst. Here, too, circumstances force the protagonists to choose sides and form unexpected alliances. Except that at Tarantino, there is no positive character (or else, they are dead). Good no longer has its place, there are only shades of Evil. The least odious of the characters is only racist and misogynist. The result is a particularly dark picture of America, where only lies can achieve its ends, where only money can make “justice” and make order reign, where human life does not has no value (dead or alive, the reward is the same), and where freedom is wrested by arms and violence.

Where can we see Les Huit Salopards in 70 mm?

Tarantino wrote one of his least cool films, in which violence is no longer a reason for pleasure but for reflection linked to its subject and its repercussions: brutality towards black Americans is still current today. And if there is one that the graphic savagery of the film can shock, it suffices for them to remember Henry Fonda massacring in cold blood an entire family in Once upon a Time in the West to see that Tarantino is not so much bloodier than Sergio Leone. He would be flattered to be placed on the same level. And we can hazard that Hateful Eight already has its place among the great American classics.

Les Euit Salopards to be released in theaters on January 6, 2016

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