Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

I didn't give this film the love it needed the first time. I wasn't exactly sure what I watched. I didn't know where this was going and what the narrative was exactly doing to me. I didn't realize that I witnessed a perfect 161 minutes until they were over much too quickly.

This time around, I watched at a DCP multiplex in an average-sized theatre giving the circumstance. This was a much less glamourous viewing than my first time with a 70mm projection in a sold out Music Box Theatre. Everyone was silent here save a few chuckles. All 750 people the first time were laughing and cheering throughout the whole thing.

But here's the thing. When making a love letter to the '60s, it makes sense to tell a story in the way that they would've back then. In this case, the narrative twists and turns and goes forwards and backward much like a story told by the hippies that Rick Dalton so vocally despises. Narratives like these can only be made sense of after the conclusion. What I'm saying is that once you know where every piece is, it's much easier to understand why they are there.

Every piece matters here. Every character and every flashback. This is not always apparent, but at the end of the day everything contributes to the violent and beautiful finale. Sure, not everything is major. But everything is there and I am so glad about that.

I think what really stuck out to me this time around was Margot Robbie and Emile Hirsch's portrayals of Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring, respectively. SPOILERS FROM NOW ON On my first viewing I admittedly didn't understand much of the final sequence. I understood how Rick Dalton finally gets invited into the Polanski house and this is the happy ending for him, but I didn't understand much besides that. Honestly, I didn't know much of the Manson Family. I didn't realize that Kurt Russel's narration was all real events that lead to the tragedy that was Sharon Tate's death. I didn't understand that the one thing that stopped Tex and the others from brutally murdering the Polanski household on Cielo Dr was Rick Dalton being a drunk asshole with a pitcher of margaritas.

Seeing the survival of Sharon Tate made me cry this time around. It was a beauty that I didn't expect this film to achieve. It was an emotion that I didn't expect to have. It was the timeline that deserved to happen in real life.


What else? I love how masturbatory Tarantino is here. The constant Django and Basterds references (Antonio Marghereti!!!!!). The feet. The love of 60's cinema and television and the stars that surrounded them. I mean, even a simple B roll shot of Al Pacino loading up 35mm film to watch Rick Dalton's shows is just amazing.

It's also awesome to see Roman Polanski in this. Especially with how weird his outfits are. All I know him as is as an old man so that was an exciting thing to be flashed on the screen. Oh, and I love how Russel'ls narration towards the end just slams Polish television for no reason.

I love the floating camera that reveals things by floating over the landscape. I love Rick Dalton's freakout in the trailer (those jump cuts!). I love Brandy the perfect dog. I love how the best performance in this is from an eight year old. I love that with Climax’s sound design, Midsommar’s subtlety, and Cliff Booth’s hand waving here, it’s been a good year for accurate  trip sequences. 

There's so so much to unpack here and there's a very good chance I see this a third time in theatres.

Quentin Tarantino, as per the usual, is one of the directors that got me into film. I skipped Fincher and Scorcese and many others that seem to get a lot of people into the medium, and my original three were instead Wes Anderson (still my favorite), Kevin Smith, and this guy over here. After a year in film school, I seemed to grow apart from his work. It seems that nobody around me gave him the attention he deserves. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe because how referential he is? Maybe because I was busy getting into more obscure areas of film? Or maybe because he just didn't speak to me as much the past year. I really can't say what it is or why film school has had this effect on me.

It's safe to say, however, that after this viewing I am in love again.

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