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Quentin Tarantino: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Nerd

25 August 2009 Stories and Appreciations 12,044 views 4 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

In 2001, at the Seattle International Film Festival, I got to meet Quentin Tarantino before a showing of the film “Battle Royale.”

I am a nerd, so this made me very happy. To tell him I loved his movies was exciting, but listening to him talk was electrifying.

Quentin Tarantino is a nerd of a very specific kind. The type of nerd that doesn’t relate naturally to people. They want to;  they envy those people who can do it with no effort; and they make it their life’s work to study it until they can replicate it. But it never come without some degree of awkwardness. Even at their best, it’s an imitation of speech.

And, of course, what is communicated is not what most people would want to all the world to see. The normal guarded nature and control of everyday communication is instead a naked attempt to make other people understand what is going on in their own head.

I love to talk to people like him. I get caught up in the burning passion they feel whether they are talking about movies or doll house miniatures. Once they get going, the pretense of normalcy drops and the pure nerd within burns as brightly as E.T.’s finger and shoots out like the webbing from the movie Peter Parker’s wrists. Listening to him talk about “Battle Royale” was just that kind of moment.

He had already seen it three times in his home theater, but this would be his first time seeing it with an audience. He couldn’t wait to hear their reaction to some of the more violent parts of the movie which he assured me were “insane.” He conveyed the awesomeness and energy of the movie in a spoiler free rant that made me wonder if anyone had ever turned down one of his pitches.

I knew the version of the movie he carried in his head was far better than any actual movie could be and I envied him for it. I was in love with the movie before I saw the first frame.

Then, I made a mistake that ended the moment. I brought up an article I had read on the internet. I realized immediately that he thought everything that he had said was going to be put up on the internet that evening in the comment section of Ain’t it Cool News. He thought I was a spy.

Without a goodbye, he wandered over to the concession stand and struck up a conversation with the staff. Thankfully the theater opened soon after and I got a seat in the center about ten rows back.

You may have never heard of “Battle Royale” because no one will release it in the United States, not even on DVD. It’s a Japanese movie about a reality show that strands the worst High School class in Japan on an island, gives them weapons and lets them battle it out with only the winner making it out alive.

I know now Quentin was working on “Kill Bill” and was going to cast “Battle Royale’s” Chiaki Kuriyama as Gogo Yubari. You’ll remember her dressed in a school girl outfit killing a middle aged business man who tries to pick her up in a bar.

Quentin sat in about fifth row. I mention this because the two guys who sat in front of me noticed Quentin a few rows up and had a long discussion about what they should say to him. They weren’t of the nerd persuasion. Not our people. Jocks.

They were big fans of “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs,” but hated “Jackie Brown.” Perhaps, they said, they would ask him for their money back. Really though, I think they were in awe of him and lacked the verbal skills to tell him that.

The movie was high school with guns, knives and lots of explosions. Every permutation of high school cliche is thrown together and slaughtered. True love blossoms, and revenge, a lot of revenge, is meted out for past wrongs. Some of the deaths were meant to be funny, others tragic. The two guys in front of me laughed and cheered at every bit of violence with equal fervor.

There was some discomfort in the rest of the audience. A series of high school shootings had happened recently, and a movie in which high school politics are played out with weapons, no matter how strong and potent its social satire, still brought to mind scenes of teenagers escaping through the windows of Columbine High.

On the way out, I ended up a few feet from the jocks. They were discussing a particularly gruesome moment from the film when they spotted Tarantino ahead of them in the crowd.

“I know what to do,” one of the jocks said.

With that, he pushed his way through the crowd, drew his hand back and slapped Quentin in the back of the head. Quentin’s tilted forward with a quick snap. He turned around but the jock had already disappeared into the crowd. His friend whispered, “Nice one, bitch.”

Quentin’s face turned red and he continued walking forward. There really wasn’t anything to do, it was more humiliating than painful. No one made a big deal out it. It was a crowd of nerds and those that noticed walked with him in silent unity, knowing that having people acknowledge it would only make it worse. Like having your mom tell a bully not to pick on you.

Years later, when I saw “Kill Bill,” I understood why he would want to make a revenge movie. In fact, watching Uma Thurman as The Bride stand in the middle of a crowd of Crazy 88s while she sliced them into pieces reminded me of that moment.

I’m sure one of those limbless bodies soaking in his own blood was that jock. Each one of those goons was a moment’s humiliation or a hurtful comment transformed into a perfect ballet of revenge and projected huge on a screen. Probably nowhere near as perfect as the revenge he imagined in his head, but as close as he could get in the real world without being thrown in jail.

Plus, he got to spend six months in China with Uma Thurman. Nerd revenge doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

David Wahl

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4 Comments »

  1. Nice article- I love some of Tarantino’s films! The Four Rooms will always be one of my favorites. I have to add here that the closest we can get to that movie here in America is the book, which was fantastic. The statements of personal horror and violence were graphic, no-holds-barred, and made most action movies that I’ve seen look like a cake walk in comparison.

  2. Though it has not been officially released in the US, Battle Royale is now pretty widely available for purchase:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Royale_(film)#Distribution_in_North_America

    Also, it’s available on Netflix!

  3. That great! I had seen it at conventions (in semi-legal ways), but I didn’t check before I wrote this.

  4. […] Monkey Goggles Klassics: “Quentin Tarantino: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Nerd” by David Wahl […]

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