Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Andrew Berish, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.

Keywords

Crime Film, Film Theory, Justice, Postmodernism, Realism, Tarantino

Abstract

The films of Quentin Tarantino have held a significant influence on modern cinema, and therefore on cinema studies. As such, studies on the social and philosophical implications of his work have appeared over the years, mostly in regards to content. However, with the exception of references to his use of cinematic violence, studies of his technique—i.e., his cinematic style—have been rare, and rarer still have been studies of the social implications that arise from the patterns of his style as well as those his subject matter.

The following thesis seeks to use the concept of Auteur Theory—specifically, that Tarantino is the primary artist of the films directed by him—to propose that a specific artistic style conveys a specific worldview: namely, that the artistic choices made by the director, in content and technique, can and do convey a viewpoint regarding “real life” and the world.

Specifically, this work will culminate in analyzing and determining tenants to be gleaned from the Tarantino canon regarding issues of justice, both on an individual and societal basis. With his focus on crime—again, both societal and individual—Tarantino makes commentary on societal breakdown; the audience’s emotional support (or lack thereof) for characters and their actions corresponds with identification, and therefore draws real-life parallels. Such refers to the concept of “Realism”, which will be discussed in detail.

Further, Tarantino’s trend of recycling elements from prior films refers to artistic “Postmodernism”—use of “pastiche” and sampling to create a “new” work. The thesis will analyze the value and meaning of the major samplings in Tarantino’s films—particularly in regards to genre--and concludes that, far from a simple conglomeration, a Tarantino “Genre-Blender” forms a cohesive whole, oriented towards specific impact of the audience.

From the above two issues of Realism and Postmodernism in art, and establishing the existence of a cohesive artistic vision in Tarantino’s work, this thesis identifies patterns in such that identify specific viewpoints on questions of “Good”, “Evil”, and “Justice”. Key to this is the dichotomy between objective principles and subjectivity in human interaction amid the applications of principles. Tarantino’s work conveys a belief in certain objective tenants; however, the applications that arise through interaction cause complications, arising through human limitations in perspective.

The ultimate purpose of this study is to link studies of social implications of film to not merely content, but in choices in cinematic style. It is a contribution at once to studies of film and to studies of artistic theory (in particular Realism and Postmodernism), using both to analyze how a specific, popular, mainstream artist reflects a worldview through the sensibilities that are channeled in creating his works.

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