Perhaps more than any other director working today, Quentin Tarantino owes his success to the filmmaking greats who came before him. The years he spent working in a video rental store, obsessively watching every revered classic and forgotten B-movie, would directly inform the types of films he would pay homage to in his own work. In the forward to Christopher Frayling’s new book Once Upon A Time In The West: Shooting A Masterpiece, Tarantino pays tribute to a director that looms large in his list of influences, Sergio Leone, whom he claims is “the greatest of all Italy’s filmmakers.”
“[Once Upon A Time In The West] was almost like a film school in a movie. It really illustrated how to make an impact as a filmmaker. How to give your work a signature,” Tarantino writes. “There have only been a few filmmakers who have gone into an old genre and created a new universe out of it.”
Fans of Tarantino’s work will know that going into old genres and tinkering around is one of the director’s favorite things to do. As seen in both Kill Bill movies, Inglorious Bastards, and Hateful Eight, Tarantino has the ability to take an older, perhaps oversaturated genre and put his own unique spin on it. Leone did something similar with the spaghetti western, which pre-dated him, but didn’t become as iconic until the director transformed these slow-paced tales of gunslingers into operatic high art. Tarantino also notes how Leone’s use of music (often composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone) and his focus on exciting action sequences, presaged much of what would become popular in the films of the 1990s.
Tarantino concludes his brief, loving essay by saying, “to be as great a stylist as he is and create this operatic world, and to do this inside a genre, and to pay attention to the rules of the genre, while breaking the rules all the time — he is delivering you a wonderful western.”
You can read the full excerpt here, reprinted in The Spectator.