What is different agrees with itself: The harmony of opposites is like the harmony of lyre and bow.
(Heraclitus, Fragment 51)
Infinite is the finiteness of the completed form,
The immortal is that who lives steadfastly in his own limit.
(Massimo Cacciari, Philosophical Labyrinth)
The passing of time sometimes makes it possible to clarify the vision. So trying to grasp the essence of Tarantino's cinema, can be exemplified in two of his films: the most famous, which decreed its international success, winning the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1994, Pulp Fiction, and Grindhouse, of 2007, which I think illustrates in purity this essence-charism, free from any narrative superstructure.
A lot has been said about Pulp Fiction and therefore it is useless to repeat it, as for example on the aspects of "pathos of quotation" and "epos of gratuitous violence". A cinema de-genre in the etymological sense, which comes from the re-elaboration of several genres, as a cinema that reconfigures filmic B materials and series. Here we will limit ourselves to underlining two dialectical and complementary polarities that I consider fundamental and structural: the situationism and the modesty of feelings.
The main subject in Pulp Fiction is not the narrative course or the importance of the characters but the "background noise", the vital and chaotic chatter of becoming, of happening. The "detail" is the deus ex machina of the visual. Inside this noisy background, within the eraclithean fire of opposites, from the inside of the conflict of characters and trends details pure poetry emerges, deliberately left under track, allusions, hinted at and - as such - intense and delicate at the same time and not considered autonomously with respect to the context in which it emerges, as in real life, every day.
The violence itself in Tarantino is not real violence, that is, it is neither celebrated nor idealized, but it is part of the irreparable event, it emerges as a seriality of the chaos of kronos, natural context of the vitalism of the ephemeral. It is Heraclitus' polemos that holds the cosmic harmony of opposites. It defines boundaries, opens scenarios, it is a flaming medium of passage between existential dynamics and possibilities. It belongs to the rising aspect of the phenomenal when it happens. These intimate poetic purities appear to emerge as in an implicit poetics of an oriental type, having feelings as its core: never told, always eluded and at most alluded to. We have several interesting examples: the kiss when Vincent Vega kisses Mia unseen at the end of the stormy night and the pathetic joke that Mia tells Vincent to open their intimacy, as if to thank him for what he did to help her during her overdose, as well as the chats about intimacy during a foot massage between Vincent and Jules or their discussion about the experience in Holland, about the different way of naming McDonald's sandwiches.
This is what happens to everyone: the world as a chat, as an otium, as a crossroads of complexity in progress and made of crossroads. Conversations that are the salt of Tarantino's magic charisma, like the one about Jules' sense of having been saved from Brett's clumsy gunshots: chance or destiny?
Friendship, love, passion, desire are narrated in a situationalistic, implicit, subtrack way, as in the game of existential essences. A counter-fiction, where violence serves to keep on another level, here recited and exhibited, the artistic fiction, to veil modestly the deep pathos of the inner hold of feeling. The answer is in the conversation, not in its inexplicable but ineluctable outcome. And what about Vincent's enchanting discomfort when he takes Mia out to dinner? Here the context holds the narrative but in an incisive and credible physical fluidity. And what about Mia's gesture that indicates with a finger a gesture of delimitation of space, visualized with a dotted rectangle to mean that Vincent should not behave in an intimate way.
Ingenious and innovative details, the quintessence of this filmic magic, like when Butch shoots Vincent when the slices suddenly come out of the toaster, almost a universal metaphor for "being chosen" by living. The first sense of every tragicomedy, especially the one called "life". Even the editing of the scenes in a circle where the two killers reappear to close the initial scene, with a case of which he performs the story without explaining it and the clothes change through the blood but not the characters, the masks, still seems to allude to a philosophy similar to that of Heraclitus where "nature loves to hide" and it is the fire that mediates each transformation of an element in its opposite.
We are in front of the kingdom of Ananke, the curved network of the Necessity goddess where the telos is already in the archè and the veil of forms rises from the fire that dissolves them. The pro-delivery of life is grasped in its posing as an intent of "calling in" and interest and pro-evoke. Tarantino tells in a credible, concrete way the physiological hallucinatory nature of everyday life, the spontaneous visionary nature, the fatal uncontrollability of each element, of each factor. Every little fact is irreparable, decisive, ephemeral as well as apocalyptic, eschatological.
Pulp Fiction seems to masterfully visualize that "philosophical labyrinth" between being and becoming of which Massimo Cacciari speaks, where Being remains unspeakable, ineffable but still within the game of things where complete vision is closed by Necessity. Each fact is both to appear unique, very singular and very concrete, as a sign of Being which is always elusive. The world as a language, as the unfolding of an energy that contains in itself its beginning and its relevance. The present participle as an all-inclusive way of the story's aiòn.
In Grindhouse (a name that indicates American theatres where B series, genre films are shown) the essence of this charisma is even more fully manifested, as it almost does not appear as a narrative plot. A film one and a film two. The story without a story of a serial stunt man killer of young, beautiful and unconscious women. There is really no plot, but pure situationalism, pure "background noise" between friends and strangers. The pub, the radio and the car as existential places. Chance and Nemesis. The ephemeral and fatal figures that loom and dance intertwining.
One of the film's iconic images is the female foot on the dashboard or the door of a car. There is love but it is silenced, barely hinted at in a text message, in a background music, in a missed encounter, in a song. It doesn't matter how the story unfolds, but what happens inside the story, inside the fatal evolution of the world's noise. The fact that the crash of the cars and the chases are as erotic metaphors as the visualizations of Fate, of Ananke's network that looms over the ephemeral happening of things doesn't add anything to the intensity of the being of and in the conversations that radiate and support the magic and pathos of Tarantino's story. There's no need to wonder why Mike enjoys killing those girls: that's just the inexplicable premise of the story itself, the "being" before and within the appearance of becoming. Maybe Mike has lost the difference between living in the filmic fiction of a stunt man and living in daily acting.
In Grindhouse the protagonist is precisely the conversation, the complicity between friends, the infinite chiselling of nuances in and around the world that speaks of itself. In the initial scene, the four friends talk as they drive towards a club and the scene takes eight minutes: a very long filmic time that unblocks every cliché and genre and shows the aiòn of Tarantino's postmodern poetry. In these absolute times, in these existential clearings, the deep sense of being is pulsing, the living unity of word and fact, the de-release within the appearances of Necessity.
In Tarantino words assume the consistency of facts and facts the fluidity of words. Finally, the two films appear mirror-like because while Pulp Fiction is an all-male film, where women appear like ghosts, even if in three modulations (the boss’ woman: Mia, the woman-child, Butch's girlfriend and the complex woman, in all senses: Grindhouse is a rarity as it appears as an all-female film: in the first part, a group of friends (seen in cars and clubs) dominate the scene, while in the second scene, the protagonist is another group of stuntman friends with a passion for racing cars.
Grindhouse is not only a film that embodies the quintessence of Tarantino's poetics and charm, but also a very rare and precious film because it is dominated by the feminine element told "from the feminine" perspective, also in its aspects of "goliarism", complicity and friendship that seem objectively difficult to narrate and rarely so intimately represented in their emblematic, everyday life. Epic works of art, where the narrative time is a philosophical matter.