Pulp fric­tion: di­rec­tors’ mys­tique be­gins to crack


The brute en­ergy of the #MeToo move­ment con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate in­trigu­ing and trou­bling off­shoots.

The film di­rec­tor Quentin Tarantino found him­self un­der scru­tiny last week af­ter the ac­tress Uma Thur­man gave an ex­plo­sive in­ter­view to The New York Times that shone a light on his on-set be­hav­iour – and raised wider ques­tions about the treat­ment of women by ag­gres­sive male di­rec­tors.

In a scene in Kill Bill in which Thur­man is spat on, Tarantino in­sisted on do­ing the spit­ting him­self. When Thur­man ex­pressed strong reser­va­tions about the film­ing of a driv­ing scene on the same movie set, she said that Tarantino lost his tem­per and in­sisted.

Thur­man crashed the car in the stunt and was badly in­jured. The di­rec­tor has ex­pressed re­morse over his ac­tions, calling it ‘‘one of the big­gest re­grets of my life’’.

The crash de­stroyed what had pre­vi­ously been a close work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two, with Thur­man per­ceived as Tarantino’s muse af­ter the huge suc­cess of Pulp Fic­tion.

Since the rev­e­la­tions Tarantino – in many ways the ar­che­typal ‘‘dark ge­nius’’ male au­teur – has been ac­cused of be­ing the other side of the coin to Har­vey We­in­stein, a pro­ducer of Pulp Fic­tion and Kill Bill.

While We­in­stein al­legedly at­tempted to have sex with Thur­man, Tarantino com­mit­ted the less se­vere crime of emo­tion­ally abus­ing the ac­tress.

The idea of the au­teur – the di­rec­tor as prime cre­ative force be­hind a film – arose from French cin­ema in the work of Fran­cois Truf­faut and Jean-Luc Go­dard.

It in­cludes such well-known names as Al­fred Hitch­cock, Ing­mar Bergman and Martin Scors­ese, but crit­ics have called the con­cept out­dated, ar­gu­ing that au­teurs have al­most all been men who have used their cre­ative myth as a shield to ex­cuse in­dul­gent and un­pleas­ant be­hav­iour.

Ann Hor­na­day, chief film critic for The Wash­ing­ton Post, be­lieves Tarantino cre­ated an on-screen aes­thetic in which hy­per­sex­u­alised women were reg­u­larly abused and at­tacked so as to cre­ate a spec­ta­cle or as a ve­hi­cle to get a nar­ra­tive go­ing.

‘‘When we see the cur­tain pulled back on how these images were made, I hope that it gives us pause,’’ said Hor­na­day.

‘‘We’ve all in­ter­nalised this idea of the ‘mad ge­nius’. But it’s bo­gus. ‘‘Artis­tic great­ness and com­pas­sion and de­cency are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.’’

Pub­lic ver­sus pri­vate health­care is a de­bate that is rag­ing on both sides of the At­lantic.

Uma Thur­man, dur­ing a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s movie

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