Quentin Tarantino is one of the most seductive anomalies of the Hollywood system and American cinema. He did not go to prestigious universities and did not attend famous film schools. Quentin Tarantino attended to Los Angeles video store; an eternal child in love with American cinema, as well as Italian genre cinema, Chinese martial arts and, in short, cinema in all its forms, flavors and without limits of origin, open to any cultural offer presented as an audiovisual product .
On the other hand, the exploration of American history carried out by Tarantino continues without discouragement, film by film, although occasionally adorned with the external covering of some cinematographic genre. After Inglourious Basterds (a story installed in World War II), Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight (the first set shortly before the Civil War; the second, years after that war), the filmmaker takes the chest of finals from the 60s to recreate a Hollywood that he knows very well and admires in excess. The title, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, already indicates a more complex and stratified approach to the subject than it might seem at first glance. Not only does it refer to Sergio Leone's works, but it also refers to the classic opening of fairy tales and, above all, theoretically places Tarantino's film in the field of mythical narration. Even the ellipses, so significant in a title that it would be natural to read without pause, reveal the intentions of a turn.
The ninth feature film by Tarantino is the first film in which the director plunges directly into the intense, busy and bright-but also dark-soul of the Hollywood system. It is not that in his previous films the theme has not been addressed, but this is the first time Tarantino has made a systematic recognition. He does it in his own way; placing the story in a key year for American history: that 1969 in which the hippie movement lost its innocence, drowned in the blood of Sharon Tate and in her tortured body, but also the year in which the success of a film like Easy Rider (Dir. Dennis Hopper) evidenced that New Hollywood was not a joke of a hippie with a camera; in fact, there was a new generation of filmmakers ready to give their opinion, willing to challenge the dictates of the system.
From the first images of the film, photographed in a live and physical 35 mm, it is clear that Tarantino's goal is immersion. A total and unconditional immersion in a specific world, time and atmosphere; Los Angeles exteriors have such consistency and a fascinating scenic performance. The neon lights of clubs, bars and restaurants, the voices of the radio, the turntables, the guides of the television program in the foreground, the engines of the 1966 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and even the cough and phlegm caused by the cigars . The 1969 Hollywood is there before our eyes: eyes that overlap, from time to time, with those of Rick, Cliff or Sharon. Within this reconstruction of an era, Tarantino needs to create a parallel reality to move his characters, suggestions and intentions, making them plausible and throbbing, giving life to the Hollywood he idealized.
If Rick is an overwhelmed actor, sometimes neurotic, who tries to escape the decline, Cliff is the myth of the action stunt, the true American cowboy, who has not been tamed by civilization and still lives on instincts made of sharp looks , scars and a deep voice tone. One lives in a small house in Hollywood Hills, the other lives in a shabby place with a faithful dog, muscular like him, as scary as the urban legends that surround him. Rick and Cliff are two helpless men, the invisible and forgotten figures of the show that, according to Tarantino's story, are perhaps the most precious to him. Without the need for many words, Robbie plays a woman full of life, in love with the idea of being able to have the privilege of being on the screen; a smiling Sharon Tate, solar, elegant, talented, the cinema woman who crosses the screen and wants to live in the cinema and in everyday life, and Tarantino, with that character, does a wonderful job because it elevates him to something different, to an ethereal figure like all the great Hollywood actresses of that period. If Emma Stone, in La La Land (2016) was a dreamer and yet everyday she was able to explode in Hollywood fantasies only through the lines of the musical, Margot Robbie is the 60s, it is the eternal iconicity of the actress who lives in that constant state of being mythological.
The script intentionally lacks a classic narrative structure, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood fragments the narration into the separate stories of its three protagonists, breaking the rhythm with seemingly decontextualized details and sketches (the appearance of Bruce Lee -interpreted by Mike Moh- for example), concomitantly delineating the background and reality experienced by the three. A reality that sometimes forces you to lock yourself in a dark movie theater to look at yourself, re-tuning this side of the screen with your own essence.