Pulp friction: directors’ mystique begins to crack
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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such well-known names as Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman and Martin Scorsese, but critics have called the concept outdated, arguing that auteurs have almost all been men who have used their creative myth as a shield to excuse indulgent and unpleasant behaviour.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.’’
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Uma Thurman, during a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s movie