Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quentin Tarantino gets creepy in person

Yes, I'm the unnamed reporter mentioned here. A very creepy night very accurately reported by the venerable James Hibberd. I share this in honor of the Dobie...

The dice keeps rollin', the HOs keep hion', the money keeps flowin'
Just another night at the Dobie with Quentin Tarantino

BYLINE: james hibberd
DATE: January 22, 1998
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
PAGE: 43

FADE IN: 6:55 p.m. -- Dobie food court
The Austin filmmaker leans forward, going in for the kill.

``Here's the deal: For this kind of production, you need lots of friends to pull it off, and I have lots of friends to pull it off. I also have access to cameras. I have access to guns. I have access to all sorts of equipment. And if it all works out, I'd like to play the main character, too.''

``Yeah,'' says his mark. ``I'm starting to get that impression.''

``Now I'm not trying to tell you this is gonna be the most glamorous thing. But this is definitely your chance to work on a project that can make you, you,'' he points, ``pretty f---in' famous.''

The filmmaker looks about 21 years old.

CUE OPENING CREDITS AND '70s MUSIC: 7:20 p.m. -- Dobie Theatre

I'm reporting live from a dusk-'til-dawn not-so-classic exploitation film marathon with host Quentin Tarantino.

``This is zero hour of the marathon,'' says Tarantino, addressing the near-full auditorium. ``This is going to turn the Dobie into a New York, downtown, 42nd Street grind house!''

The audience, about 85 percent male, hoots in delight.

This is the second film series at the Dobie to be presented by Tarantino -- or ``Q'' as he's called on the show tickets, on signs marking his reserved seats and by his close and personal friends here tonight. Both of his mini-festivals benefited the Austin Film Society, although the director doesn't suffer for this worthy cause. After all, isn't this gig an ex-video store clerk's ulitmate fantasy?

During his previous life before he died and went to video geek heaven, Q was one of those anxious clerks who tells every customer that John Woo's ``Bullet in the Head'' is the best friggin' movie ever. Now Tarantino is dead, and there is only the godlike Q, lord of the cinematic second chance. Q wants prints of his favorite obscure films -- he gets them. Q wants a movie theater to accommodate four nights of private screenings at short notice -- he gets that, too. Q wants an appreciative audience who'll hang on his every word -- heck, we'll even pay $75 for the privilege.

Which brings us to the crowd. The crowd is more interesting than Q. The movies screening tonight, the names of which were not released before the show, are ``forgotten B-movies.'' Which, in my book, makes them C-movies at best. Many would beg the question: Why?

``All these people paid all this money,'' says one attendee. ``They wouldn't care if it was just the movies. It's all about him.''

Perhaps. But for a crowd only here to see a celebrity, these die-hard cinemaphiles aren't worshipping his Q-ness. There's little of the usual fawning and resume hurling that often greets filmmakers at such events. In fact, other celebs sitting in the back row -- Mike Judge, Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez (J, L and R?) -- are practically ignored. And as the projector begins to unspool the blaxploitation flick ``Bucktown,'' it's apparent that fans are here to enjoy the ride.

Growls an onscreen character: ``No one in Bucktown cares just as long as the dice keeps rollin', the hos keep hoing and the money keeps flowin'!''

The crowd goes nuts.

10:45 p.m. -- Dobie Theater

We're watching ``Gates Of Hell'' and giggling.

For some reason, a scene in a small-town park has stock Tarzan jungle noises, complete with squawks from exotic birds and monkeys. Obviously, it's not supposed to be funny. But we have now entered a bizarro cinematic universe where bad movie moments are badass movie moments. Every bit of cliched dialogue, clumsy camera handling and stoic line delivery is celebrated. Half the theater gives a standing ovation to a continuity error. I wonder how many in the audience are struggling filmmakers taking a special delight in knowing that, no matter how clumsy their first feature, they would never make cinematic goofs like this.

Grinning in the back row, Q takes delight in the audience's reaction to his cheesy favorites. After the festival, he would summerize his love of exploitation flicks. ``I liked `Citizen Kane,''' he said. ``I loved `Ghetto Freaks.'''

1 a.m. -- Dobie Theater

``Police Woman'' has just ended and Tarantino is wielding a club. Not a real club, but an imaginary club. He's using it to excitedly re-enact a fight between two female characters.

``Oh man, she picked up that club and was like: Boom! Boom! Boom!'' he says, striking repeatedly. ``Not even in a Hong Kong movie have I seen chicks getting that f---ed up!''

Most of the audience has left the auditorium to get marathon fuel at the snack bar and stretch their joints (or smoke them). Some fans approach Q, who is very cordial, inquiring if you're having a good time, whether you liked a film and answering your carefully selected inquiries (``Just one question,'' says a fan, ```CHiPs' or `Hawaii Five-O'?'')

Q is less accommodating for regional press, as is his tendency. When a reporter from another Texas paper finds him momentarily alone, Q refuses any Q&A.

``Hey, this is like a party at my house, all right?''

Which is interesting. I only charge $60 when I have friends over.

SLOW DISSOLVE TO: ``Pulp Fiction'' premiere party and a Q-esque shift in narrative sequence

Seeing the reporter dismissed takes me back to my first sellout Austin Film Society-sponsored Q event. My assignment was to review ``Pulp Fiction'' for ``The Daily Texan,'' but I had gone to the postscreening party strictly as a wide-eyed fan.

Tarantino (he was just a man, then) was scarfing buffalo wings while yakking with admirers. He was a hungry filmmaker, and a hungry filmmaker without napkins to boot. If you thought that ear-slicing scene in ``Reservoir Dogs'' was gory, you have not seen Tarantino with spicy wings.

Anyway, I was waiting for my moment. I had blown $40 on an advance mail-order ``Pulp Fiction'' poster. I thought, Wouldn't it be the coolest if Tarantino signed my poster? I could hang it by my word processor -- a writer's inspiration!

So I worked my way through the throng of admirers and gingerly approached the wing-gobbling auteur. I sto>od, poster in hand, and waited until the next conversational pause.

My moment.

``Um, excuse me? Mr. Tarantino, sir?'' I asked, my heart thudding. ``Would you mind so much signing my poster?''

He looked up at me with those big brown eyes, those eyes that were the last thing a plate of helpless buffalo wings ever saw, and said, ``Please don't ask.''

And turned away.

I went back to my apartment. Grinding my teeth, I dutifully gave ``Pulp Fiction'' 41/2 stars and dubbed it the best movie of the year.

I hung the unsigned poster in my bathroom.

BACK TO THE PRESENT: 4:55 a.m. -- Dobie Theater

The crowd is stiff with resolve: Must. Get. Through. Marathon. Looking down at my notes, I'm not surprised to find they have gradually suffered a ``Flowers for Algernon''-like deterioration.

Currently screening is a surreal drug trip called ``Ghetto Freaks'' (a k a ``Love Commune'') and the senses are dulled by ongoing '70s exploitation bombardment: Visual input is hippies and bad lighting. Olfactory is popcorn and smuggled beer. Audio is the endless soundtracks of bongos and wah-wah peddle guitar riffs along with Q's rapid-fire ``heh-heh-heh-heh'' laughter.

Things perk up a bit when ``Ghetto Freaks'' loses a reel and sound problems set in: Grind house nirvana is here.

6:10 a.m. -- Dobie Theater

The final movie, ``Girl on a Chain Gang.''

Linklater, Rodriguez and Judge throw in the towel and two-thirds of the audience remain. And now, perhaps unavoidably, the Issue has arisen.

I should point out that I've enjoyed sexploitation romps from ``Beyond the Valley of the Dolls'' to ``Showgirls.'' It takes quite a bit to offend me and this event is, after all, an exploitation film marathon. But after ``Eager Beavers'' (a k a ``Swinging Barmaids''), the casually misogynistic air in the theater turned pork-scented ugly.

In that film, a maniac kills cocktail waitresses, ripping off their clothes during lengthy and titillatingly> filmed attacks. The director's obvious attempts to arouse viewers during murder and rape scenes caused squirming even in this audience, which so far has been hooting at every tight sweater.

For his part, Q demonstrated his appreciation of the opposite sex, surprising the two pretty blonde fans sitting behind me by plopping down between them to watch the last movie.

``I've been sitting in an aisle seat all night,'' Q says. ``It's so nice to change seats.''

Truly, it's a line that could only work on a woman who's just watched 11 hours of brain-numbing exploitation flicks stuffed with come-ons like, ``Hey baby, let's make it.''

From the audience, there are grumbles of frustration with the surprisingly chaste and misleadingly title ``Girl on a Chain Gang.'' But suddenly things are looking up: A corrupt small-town sheriff is stripping off his uniform and advancing on a female prisoner cowering in her cell.

``Wooo!'' yowls the audience.

Behind me, Q's blonde ambition gives our testosterone host a deserved kick where it counts.

``I find it very disturbing,'' she says, ``when guys get excited by impending rape.''


EPILOGUE: 8 a.m. -- Dobie Food Court

``Daylight'' -- that's what everyone says as they exit the theater into the sunshine-filled food court. It is, in so many ways, such a contrast to the theater. On a table, donuts are waiting and Harry Knowles makes a beeline.

``By the end,'' says Q, his seemingly boundless energy finally ebbing, ``it was like: Who's going to win? You or the movie?''

Fans say they won. Walking out onto 24th Street, one declares, ``Sundance, eat your heart out.''