TL;DR - Since his editor Sally Menke died, Quintin Tarantino’s last 3 films have had more conventional narratives and been sluggish in pace. What would you guys specifically cut out of Django, Hateful 8, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to give them a more whimsical pace, and a narrative style more in line with Inglorious Bastards/Kill Bill? In other words, what would you do to give the films a more Sally Menke feel?
Watching the last 3 Quintin Tarantino movies has left me frustrated with how needlessly self indulgent they were despite how much potential the films had to be great. They make me much more appreciative of what Sally Menke was able to add to his work by reining him in when his head got far too up his own arse. Maybe there’s the argument that he’s genuinely gotten worse as a screenwriter in the past few years. It’s probably true somewhat. But it’s when an artist is as it’s worst that you need the most ruthless editing possible, which means that you have to kill your darlings. There’s about a dozen of these moments in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that could have been trimmed or left out, e.g. the Bruce Lee scene, Cliff killing his wife, some of the western scenes, the constant foot shots, etc. I can’t say for certain that these wouldn’t have made it in the final cut if Menke was editing, but I think it would’ve been handled differently and the movie would have more flow.
Another aspect I wonder about is the narrative. Tarantino himself has stated “The final draft of a script is actually the first cut of the movie, and the final cut of the movie is the last draft of the script.” What this means (I’m guessing) is that because QT’s movies have such big timelines and scope, the final cut may be structured drastically differently than the shooting script, whether it’s flashbacks inserted here or there, or it being entirely non linear like Pulp Fiction. I’m sure over the years Menke has had great inputs in terms of structure and the chronology of his films that he’d be too biased to the source material to come up with on his own. So in this regard I wonder how DU, H8, and OUaTiH would have differed structurally had Menke edited them. The problem I think is that QT is just too trusting in what he initially created to realize it needs to be heavily edited or restructured/faster paced.
I’m also sure that editing with film vs digital is a key component to Menke’s success. Since Tarantino exclusively works with film, the editor has to personally cut the film themself, whereas with digital it’s all on computers. So regardless of the direction QT was giving Menke, since she was personally doing it, she had the opportunity to really put her own stamp on the film. Now that it’s Fred Raskin’s opportunity to do this, the results are… lukewarm. I don’t want to shit all over Fred Raskin, but he just doesn’t have a good feel of rhythm compared to Menke. I’m not sure if he was being too much of a ‘yes’ man, or if it’s cuz he likes really slow movies. Music was also a low point for OUATIH. There were many driving scenes that cut the songs short when the shot changed to him driving later on. This was really fucking irritating. Why not A) use a better song that fits the mood of the story better, or B) if you’re gonna use it at least let it play out naturally instead of cutting to another song on the radio. It felt like QT was just touching himself to the fact that all his favorite songs from the 60s would’ve actually been playing on the radio at the time, which is why he went with mostly diegetic sounds. Not to mention the use of voiceover in the third act, which was a total failure. Rather than sound like a cool QT monologue that puts us in the mindset of our characters, it sounded as if the guy was reading straight from the script’s treatment of each scene. Could have had so many more creative ways of filling the audience in.
Never saw Guardians of the Galaxy or Fast n Furious, so I can’t point to Fred Raskin’s style elsewhere. I saw in a comment however that OUATIH felt like more modernly edited than his past work, which was interesting. Do you guys see editing similarities in those films that can pinpoint some of his global issues as an editor?
Anyways, rambling aside, what would you do to give Django, Hateful 8, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to give them a more whimsical pace, and a narrative style more in line with what Sally Menke brought to the film? I know this is virtually impossible to guess as her style differed from film to film.