Quentin Tarantino's cinema is crisscrossed with passions and obsessions, recurring themes and trademarks that tickle fans. The cinematic language of the director of Once Upon A Time In...Hollywood has been inhabited since the very beginning, among other things, by violent awakenings (from an overdose, like Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, or from a long period of coma, like the Bride in Kill Bill), by dance scenes (one of all, the Stuck In The Middle With You danced by Mr. Blonde in Hyenas), by assorted torture sequences (like the one in The Bride in Kill Bill), by assorted torture sequences (Blonde in Hyenas), assorted torture sequences, Mexican-style stalls and so-called corpse POVs (shots in which a subjective view of the dead/dead character is shown).
However, what has always predominantly attracted the attention of public opinion is the almost (or too much?) maniacal care that the Knoxville director often reserves for a specific part of the human body, mostly female: the feet. In almost all of his filmography, the lower extremities play a role that is not only important, but even fundamental: they serve to identify the characteristics of a character, they represent an essential turning point in the plot, they in turn become an integral part of the narrative. That Quentin Tarantino is (and has) a foot fetish, in short, seems a matter of fact. But what are the cinematic moments in which the two-time Oscar winner has been able to make the most of this fixation?
Feet in the cinema of Quentin Tarantino: Mia Wallace and Pulp Fiction (1994)
The famous - and, for some, infamous - Tarantino pulp was born with Pulp Fiction, the summa of a poetics and a style that from that moment on would become unmistakable. The strong citationism, the narrative and visual saturation, the sadistic and parodistic taste for violence, the extraordinary post-modern breath that diabolically mixes everything we have already seen in cinema giving it a new meaning and a new look: all this is pulp, at the height of its splendor.
And 'very pulp is also the protagonist Mia Wallace played by Uma Thurman, fetish and muse of Quentin (although at first the actress chosen was Julia Roberts, then set aside for differences on compensation). Mia Wallace is the bored wife of the boss Marsellus, who must take care of the henchman Vincent Vega. Between an unlikely dinner and an accidental heroin overdose, the two end up in a twist contest, which they will win by dancing to the notes of You Never Can Tell by Chuck Barry. Barefoot, of course, to move more freely on the dance floor.
Feet in the cinema of Quentin Tarantino: Carol Hathaway and ER (1994)
Following the success of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino was also courted by the world of television seriality. These are the years of the second television golden age, the one that slowly but surely will lead to the TV series as we know them today. Two curious collaborations of Quentin's go down in history: the one with the mythological E.R. - Doctors on the front line, of which he directs episode 24 (Maternity) of the first season; and the one with CSI - Crime Scene, which sees him behind the camera for two episodes (Buried alive, first and second part) of the fifth season.
In E.R., in particular, Tarantino is unleashed: the sequences triumph with a grand guignolesco and gore flavor (the case of the man stuck in a butcher's hook) and, within the normally chastened setting of the medical drama, the beloved feet pop up here and there. Especially those of nurse Carol Hathaway (played by Julianna Margulies, the future Good Wife), who at the end of the episode is resting on the roof of County General Hospital, after the exhausting workday.
The feet in the cinema of Quentin Tarantino: Santanico Pandemonium and From Dusk to Dawn (1996)
The fame of Tarantino's fetishism finds its full and incontrovertible affirmation in Dal tramonto all'alba (From Dusk to Dawn), written by Tarantino but directed by his friend Robert Rodriguez (with whom he will complete the Grindhouse project in 2007). How can we forget Santanico Pandemonium, the princess of the vampires (homage to the Mexican film The Demoniac Novice, 1975) played by a luminous Salma Hayek, who with her entrance changes the course of the film making it derail and wonderfully go mad?
Santanico's test of strength and submission is experienced by Quentin himself, who here cuts out one of his rare roles as a leading actor: during her sensual dance, the woman seduces Richard Gecko, who literally drinks tequila from her feet, amidst the astonished gaze of those present. This is the beginning of Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish mythology, and nothing will ever be the same again: all his previous films (including the unfinished My Best Friend's Birthday, of which it is possible to recover the 36 minutes of footage thanks to YouTube) will be reinterpreted in the light of this anomalous passion of his.
Feet in Quentin Tarantino's cinema: Jackie and Jackie Brown (1997)
A tribute to the cinematic subgenre of blaxploitation (in vogue in the 1970s, and characterized by African-American actors, a soul/funk soundtrack, and a very low budget), Jackie Brown in 1997 displaces audiences and critics alike because it differs from Tarantino's previous films. No exhibitionism, no excesses: just pure and elegant noir, faithfully following the novel Punch to Rum by Elmore Leonard from which the film is based. First-rate cast - Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton - and two important newcomers: Pam Grier (a somewhat forgotten icon of the aforementioned black cinema) and Bridget Fonda.
It is on the two of them that the director focuses his attention: Jackie and Melanie Ralston - respectively a smuggler and the companion of the arms dealer Ordell Robbie - represent in two different ways the desire for freedom and liberation. And what better way to metaphorise this tension towards autonomy than to show them barefoot? Jackie, in particular, always goes around the house barefoot, "neutral" and frank territory in which to develop her own complex plan.
Let's take a look at her feet: almost all the main turns of the epic of the Bride (aka Beatrix Kiddo, aka Black Mamba) pass through a shot of her feet. From the awakening from the coma, with the intense sequence in which she verifies the functioning of her lower limbs in the Pussy Wagon, to the final duel with Bill in his Hacienda, passing through the fierce confrontation with Elle Driver in the trailer. But the film is a real foot fest, and plenty of characters are granted their own moment of podological glory: Bill, Budd Gunn, Sofie Fatale, O-Ren Ishii, even the Japanese musical group performing at the House of Blue Leaves.
On closer inspection, Tarantino's manic attention is paid to the body in its entirety, here more than in any of his other works. The camera also focuses on the eyes and the looks, on the heads (including the severed head of O-Ren Ishii), on the severed limbs (with an exaggerated and caricatural loss of blood). Kill Bill investigates corporeality and its corruption, in a paradoxical way with respect to the comic book - and therefore two-dimensional - approach of the narration. The unrestrained use of the feet begins to become a sort of inside joke, a bizarre awareness of the author who plays with his audience.
Footsteps in Quentin Tarantino's cinema: Butterfly and Grindhouse - Death Proof (2007)Quentin Tarantino's cinema: Beatrix Kiddo and Kill Bill (2003-2004)
Probably Quentin Tarantino's most underrated film, Death Proof is part of the diptych also formed by Planet Terror directed by Robert Rodriguez. Two very different films, ideally created to be screened as a double feature (two works for the price of one, as was fashionable with third and fourth view b-movies in America in the '70s) and in Italy instead clumsily divided into two (with the distribution idea of a double gross). Grindhouse is a distillation of Tarantino's trademarks, expressed at a free rein and for this reason perhaps even more irresistible.
The feet here are a vehicle of meaning and content, they represent the turning points of the plot. Just think of the looming threat of Stuntman Mike, who secretly caresses the sole of Abernathy's left foot while she sleeps in the car; or of the terrifying accident that mutilates Jungle Julia by severing her leg. Our greatest appreciation goes, however, to the lap-dance scene of Arlene called Butterfly in the Guero's club, in which the girl improvises in flip-flops a funny and at the same time sensual dance on the notes of Down in Mexico by The Coasters; a dance that suggests that the girls have fallen into the trap set by the killer.
The feet in the cinema of Quentin Tarantino: Bridget Von Hammersmarck and Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Nazism, according to Quentin Tarantino. Reworking one of the most serious pages of contemporary history, Inglourious Basterds takes us to 1941 and to the France dramatically occupied by the Nazis. The beating heart of the film is the operation that aims to eliminate the leaders of the Third Reich, including of course Adolf Hitler. Among special teams of Jewish soldiers, girls who miraculously escaped death waiting for revenge and infiltrators of various kinds, there is also room for the German actress Bridget Von Hammersmack, Allied spy.
The fearsome and ruthless Colonel Hans Landa, sensing the plot, unmasks the woman by interrogating... her feet. In one of the most tense and revealing sequences of the film, Landa intercepts the actress at the premiere of the show dedicated to the national hero Frederick Zoller and makes her try on the footwear found shortly before in the tavern, the place where a massacre by the Bastards took place. Should the shoe fit, Bridget would unquestionably be part of the conspiracy and the evening would take a completely different turn from the one envisioned by the Reich's top brass...
Feet in Quentin Tarantino's cinema: Sharon Tate and Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood (2019)
One minute and 34 seconds for Leonardo DiCaprio, 39 seconds for Brad Pitt, one minute for Margaret Qualley, one minute and 26 seconds for Margot Robbie: Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood shows 36 scenes in which actors are barefoot, for a total of 9 minutes and 47 seconds. The reason Tarantino's foot fetish has come back in a big way is the seemingly excessive attention given to the lower limbs in his latest film. Let's talk about it: in the economy of a 161-minute long work, is 9 minutes too much? Too little? Or are we starting to become a little obsessed with Tarantino's passion, almost more than the author himself?
Be that as it may, it is Robbie herself who comments on the expedient, declaring that as far as her character is concerned, bare feet have been functional to the characterization. In fact, it seems that Sharon Tate - Roman Polanski's ex-wife murdered by Charles Manson - loved to be barefoot. Not only that: sometimes she put elastic bands around her ankles to make it look like she was wearing sandals, so she could enter restaurants. All in the norm in short, or maybe not. The myth of the alleged fetishism continues, and we are already dreaming of a Star Trek, 007 or Kill Bill 3 (fishing in the pile of projects announced by Quentin for the end of his career) full of funny, hidden, obsessive and bizarre shots of feet.
Credits images: from web