(wailing in pain) “I’m sorry!” So, in the very first sentence of the New York Times’ review of Reservoir Dogs, Critic Vincent Canby wrote “it’s been an unusually good year for the discovery of first rate, new American film directors”, Then goes on to list four films that you’ve never seen by four directors that you’ve never heard of, none of whom lasted more than a decade making movies, before continuing, now add to that list the name of Quentin Tarantino. I guess one out of five ain’t bad. (Screaming) “You’re gonna be okay!” 25 years after that review, Tarantino is probably the most popular living, working director in the world, after maybe Spielberg and Scorsese. His eight films have grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide, and writing about his work could fill a small library. The quarter century milestone is a good opportunity to look back at how Tarantino’s first film has aged. I’ve a slight obsession with firsts, with how things begin, and the first shot of Reservoir Dogs is probably the first that I think about the most. Okay, yeah, obviously I know this is not technically the first shot of the movie, but I’ve always sort of viewed the diner scene that precedes the opening credits as a kind of overture of Tarantino’s entire filmography. Traditionally overtures are mood setters. A little bit of music that sets the tone for what’s about to follow. It’s only natural that in Tarantinoland, the overture is a seven-minute conversation about Madonna songs and the merits of tipping. ”But no, society says ‘don’t tip these guys over here, but tip these guys over here’, that’s bullshit.” So, the first shot of the story proper is this, and it’s one of the most electrifying openings in film history. Like the first notes in the first Led Zeppelin album. Before you have a chance to blink, you’re involved. Your mind fans forward and backward through time. It’s usual in film for actions to have consequences, but here, consequences have actions; actions you begin to imagine. A heist gone wrong. [Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” playing in the background] And just like you’re in the past, you’re also in the future, calculating how long this guy has left to live and what can be done to save him. And of course, like Mr. Orange bleeding out, you can’t escape the present either, because that’s what pain is; a brutal and specific attention to the present moment. It’s that pain, that panicked feeling of time running out, that separates this film from others that begin in media res. Whenever I create anything, I always hold it up against the opening of Reservoir Dogs; is the beginning as attention capturing as this? Does it have the same kinetic energy launching you into the narrative? It’s here too, of course, that we’re introduced to the technique that made Tarantino famous: the non-linear structure of his story-telling. In interviews, Tarantino compared the Byzantine tracks of his early films to novel-writing. “Novels have always had just a complete freedom to pretty much tell their story any way they saw fit, alright, and that’s kinda what I’m- That’s kinda what I’m trying to do.” But while I think the comparison to fiction is apt, I also think that there is a relationship here again, with music. One of the things that I think helped Reservoir Dogs age so well is Tarantino’s instinctive sense for narrative momentum. To me, the ordering of the movie is a lot like an underexamined aspect of popular music; the sequencing of albums. One of the reasons I love Abbey Road, for example, one of the reasons I’ve listened to it so many times all the way through, is because the song sequence carries me through. Even in the first half, where there’s no medley, the arrangement has thrust. I mean, just imagine the change in feeling if the album began with, say, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. [Beatle’s “Maxwell’s silver Hammer, playing in the background] Now imagine the change in feeling if Reservoir Dogs began here. “Say hello to a motherfucker who’s inside. Cabot’s doing a job and take a big fat guess who he wants on the team?” The sequencing in Reservoir Dogs has the same natural rhythm as an album cycle does; offering a variety in tempo, from intense, to reflective, and back, while linking corresponding scenes together. All Tarantino’s films are constructed this way, like albums; more like albums, I think, than novels. Even the ones with more straightforward narratives. [Rick Ross’ “100 Black Coffins”, playing in the background] “And part of my thing when I’m coming up with an idea is to go through that record room and go through those records, and to kinda ‘find the music’ or the ‘personality’ of a given movie. It’s like I’m looking for the rhythm that this movie needs to play in, I’m looking for the spirit and the rhythm that this movie needs to play in.” The other thing that Tarantino is most known for is his dialogue, and of course, some of the references in Reservoir Dogs haven’t aged so well. “You know who she looked like? She looked like, uh, Christie Love. Remember that TV Show?” “Get Christie Looooove” “Get Christie Looooove!” “She’s a cop?” “Oh yeah!” “You’re under arrest, sugar!” (laughing) Nobody today remembers the show Get Christie Love, but what’s more important here is the concept; people still talk about TV shows, entertainment is still a common language between strangers. “Taking genre characters in genre situations allright, and giving them a real life spin, have them sound like real people, like, y’know, me and my friends, and just other people, and make references that other people make…” Reservoir Dogs translates into 2017 because the humanity and the comedy that Tarantino breathed into genre films is still felt all over Hollywood. “Footloose; and in it, a great hero named Kevin Bacon teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that dancing is the greatest thing there is.” I think the only context in which Reservoir Dogs hasn’t aged so well is within Tarantino’s own filmography. For all the purchase it has on film culture and popular culture, it’s still very clearly his most amateur movie. It’s impossible to say how it would be received today if it was released, because so much of cinema in the past 25 years is influenced by this style. But I think Siskel and Ebert got pretty close in their original reviews. “I liked the movie as far as it went, I wanted it to go further and try more.” “I had the same reaction, that it was a lot of- an exercise in style, uhh but then I got that really quick, I mean, I understand what he’s trying to do here, which is to show things in crime movies that crime movies don’t show. For example, the sloppiness, the humour… But we get that within 15 minutes” The missing piece to Reservoir Dogs is the deeper character studies and exploration of big ideas that you get in Pulp Fiction, in Jackie Brown, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained. However, I do think that there is one point in Reservoir Dogs where Tarantino does reach for something deeper. The commode story sequence. All of Tarantino’s work comments on the nature of storytelling itself, but the part when Mr. Orange, an undercover cop, learns a fake story to sell the criminals on his credibility, is one of the best instances of this in all his movies. He splits the sequence into four parts: Orange learning the scene, Orange rehearsing the scene, Orange performing the story for an audience, and finally, the story coming alive. It’s an elegant illustration of how words can transform into stories, and stories into reality, or into movies. And it’s a nice touch that the only thing that keeps the cops from noticing the drugs is a similar storytelling situation, because stories can keep us from seeing reality too. “Buddy, I’m gonna shoot you in the face if you don’t put your hands on the fucking dash!” As an exercise in genre and style, Reservoir Dogs is superb, one of the best in film, and if it falls just short of the transcendent heights that Tarantino would later go on to reach, that’s not really a criticism because, I mean, let’s see you reach try to reach ”just short of transcendent” with your first movie. I think a good rule of thumb for how well films have aged is simply whether or not we keep watching them. 25 years on, I’m still watching Reservoir Dogs, and I’ll bet that’ll still be true 25 years and more from now. Hey everybody, Thank you so much for watching, this episode was brought to you by VRV. VRV is a service that pulls together a lot of great content channels like Rooster Teeth, Mondo, Tested, Cartoon Hangover, Crunchyroll and Funimation, it’s cool to have those two in the same place, You can download the VRV app on Xbox, Playstation, iOS, or Android, and if you get the VRV combo pack at this link, you can get a 7-day free trial. Once you get that combo pack, I’d recommend that you watch a show called March Comes Like A Lion on Crunchyroll, it’s a show about A 17-year-old Shogi player (Shogi is a Japanese foreign variation on chess) Really good, it’s beautiful, melancholy, I think you’ll really love it, also Adam Savage’s one day builds on Tested is just a great time, all the shows are in HD and ad-free, I definitely recommend checking out the VRV app. I’ll see you guys next time.