Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company
As a short introduction assures us that the lights being left on for 5 minutes of the screening is deliberate as “Tarantino wanted it that way” it is clear that The Hateful Eight with the tagline “The 8th film by Quentin Tarantino” is truly a celebration of Tarantino’s impressive body of work and a display of our trust in his filmmaking visions.
The overture plays, a score conducted by Ennio Morricone, the legendary Western composer who created iconic scores such as those associated with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). It becomes apparent this is as much a celebration of Tarantino’s work as it is of the cinema experience and the excitement of the special event it once was.
A roadshow theatrical release of a film is typical for the big-budget epics shown in only select cinemas that could accommodate such special releases. They have an intermission between acts and an accompanying overture and finally a souvenir programme. However, these practices were sadly left behind in the early 70s. That was until Tarantino took it upon himself to reinvent the cinema experience back to a special event and thus making The Hateful Eight into a film that will stand alongside such classics as Gone with the Wind, Cleopatra and Ben-Hur, which were also exhibited in this fashion.
The Hateful Eight is only the eleventh film to be shot in this impressive 70mm process with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1. After the last film to use the process, 50 years passed with the equipment being kept in storage, before The Hateful Eight. Cinematographer Robert Richardson utilises the impressive span captured by the lenses to reveal the beautifully vast, snow-covered landscapes with remarkable detail, as well as demonstrating the excellence of these cameras, as they worked perfectly in extreme conditions of the shooting locations. The gigantic images, which are spread across the extraordinary screens, have the ability to bring you into the frame, producing a completely immersive cinema experience allowing you to sit in a Tarantino created world, in awe of what you are experiencing.
The opening scene echoes that of Django Unchained (2012). This is because the films take place in the same universe. The Hateful Eight was originally conceptualised as a paperback sequel to Django Unchained, however after creating such “disreputable characters” Tarantino decided Django needed to go as “you shouldn’t have a moral centre when it comes to these eight characters,” creating the opportunity for Samuel L. Jackson’s character to take the lead, a first for Samuel L. Jackson after appearing in six out of eight of Tarantino’s films.
In typical Tarantino format the narrative is divided into chapters. The first two tread carefully in the snow, slowly building up friction between the merciless individuals as they start to fill up John Ruth’s, a.k.a The Hangman’s stagecoach heading for Red Rock with his prized fugitive.
The worsening blizzard causes the party to seek shelter in Minnie’s Haberdashery, the nearby store where the rest of the action takes place. From here, the impressive lenses which so perfectly lend themselves to the conventional wide-frame western landscapes become confined to a single room. Nonetheless, in this room, Tarantino confirms his screenwriting abilities as he develops each of the enticingly untrustworthy characters while keeping an audience captivated in his one-room Western packed full with classic Tarantino iconography.
A perfectly timed interval prompting reflection, speculation and debate of the first act, especially after Samuel L. Jackson’s attention-grabbing, shockingly detailed monologue brought back the excitement of cinema going.
As well as a filmmaker, Tarantino is a passionate cinephile. The Hateful Eight’s roadshow release is an homage to the film industry that he so clearly revels in as well as admires. Tarantino’s notorious cameo is less conspicuous as he takes the role of the narrator, arriving in the second act. This choice can be seen as a nod to the film Bande a Part, the same film Tarantino named his production company after (A Band Apart). Director Jean-Luc Godard was one of the first directors to narrate over his own film, a decision Tarantino has chosen to replicate himself.
The audience is lured back to their seats by Tarantino’s narration delivering the turning point of the narrative. What I had thought had been a fairly tame film by Tarantino’s standards, is transformed into a multi-layered, quest-to-the-truth, in a room filled with liars. And we are shown why a blue coffee pot is important enough to fill a whole page of the souvenir programme. The hatred in the Haberdashery is vamped up and we realise just how out of place a moralistic character like Django would have been in the middle of these corrupt crooks.
The final denouement uses every Tarantino-ism in the book. We question everything we thought to be true and are introduced to new perspectives. The blood and violence is cranked up and Samuel L. Jackson gives another great speech.
The Hateful Eight has revitalised the special event of the cinema, bringing back an admiration for exhibition practices only made possible by cinemas, and the possibilities to create an immersive event for the keenest of cinema-goers. Tarantino has truly put his auteur stamp on this film and the sheer scale of the whole spectacle he has created in a single room, both on screen and for the audience is something “only Tarantino can do.”
By Louise Conway