Wednesday, August 26, 2009
One of the most memorable moments in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown occurs right before Samuel L. Jackson’s Ordell Robbie shoots and kills Robert De Niro’s Louis Gara, his lifelong friend and partner in crime. Featuring a chilling close-up Ordell, with his spiritually defeated eyes closed and head bowed in silent concentration, that is among Tarantino’s most effective shots in his canon, the scene is incredibly well-done. Ending with the immortal line, “What the fuck happened to you, man? Shit, your ass used to be beautiful.”, this scene from Jackie Brown again shows Tarantino’s often overlooked talent at using silence and an actor’s face to heighten the tension brought on by his acclaimed dialogue and directorial skills.
The scene works on a number of levels. As a summation of Jackie Brown, a film centered on once great people past their prime, it is perfect. It is also a wonderful tribute to the spirit of Elmore Leonard’s novels (Jackie Brown is based on his excellent Rum Punch) that are filled with many such moments of brtrayel and disappointment that contain as much emotion as they do shocks and excitement. Finally the scene works as perhaps symbolic for the question so many of us have for De Niro himself, as Jackie Brown is one of the last great movies the man has made (and he hasn’t even come close to his performance as Louis since.)
In a film absolutely filled with heart and sentiment, Jackie Brown has fewer moments that contain as much heart and spirit than this encounter between two of its main characters. Like the film itself, it is wonderfully written, directed and finally acted. I remember the first time I saw this scene that snowy Christmas night and it immediately felt legendary. More than ten years after that night, it has only become more and more resonate.
***On a side note, I must say that I really like this series and feel like it would be perfect for a number of my other favorite directors. So be on the look out for more celebrations of my essential scenes from Tarantino's work as well a number of my other filmmaking favorites in the future.***