Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays, Film Reviews

Blu-ray: Jackie Brown

[Expanded from a feature originally published in 1997 in Seattle Weekly]

“Amateurs borrow, professionals steal,” goes the maxim. Quentin Tarantino steals like a pro. Where directors of the previous generation peppered their films with classic cinematic quotes, Tarantino plunders the films of his formative years for ideas – mostly B-movies and exploitation films about cars and capers and criminals – and riffs on them with a mix of reverence and sly playfulness.

Tarantino’s films aren’t so much stories as strings of anecdotes: movie moments, urban myths, conversations strewn with pop culture references. His challenge with Jackie Brown is how make someone else’s story—Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, to be specific—his own. His solution: set it in his own reference riddled world. From the film’s opening shot—a quote from The Graduate overlaid with early seventies movie lettering and set to a Motown tune—we know we’re in Tarantino territory.

Pam Grier’s entrance in her retro stewardess outfit introduces the kick-ass star of Foxy Brown and Friday Foster gracefully aging into the modern world. Robert Forster, the almost star of the late 60s turned exploitation film stalwart (see Alligator and Vigilante), brings the understated authority that marked his genre pictures to the lived-in ease age brings. That’s the genius of Tarantino’s casting. Jackie Brown is not some stand-in for Foxy Brown but a projection of where she might be 25 years later. Grier’s persona is intertwined with the role, a middle aged woman with her back to wall who turns her situation around: from victim to player. With the weight of her career as an action star, Grier makes Jackie her own and dominates the screen with her energy and charisma.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Interviews

“What was it like to live and work in someone else’s dream” – Pam Grier interviewed

Jackie Brown may not Quentin Tarantino’s best film, but it should be. With grown up, lived-in characters, Tarantino broke through the jacked-up, smart talking pulp adolescents that populate his (admittedly ingenious and inventive) reference-riddled earlier films to tell the stories of a pair of middle-aged survivors. For those key roles, Tarantino cast a couple of middle-aged survivors—70s blaxploitation action queen Pam Grier and exploitation stalwart Robert Forster—and surrounded them with a cast that included Robert DeNiro and Samuel Jackson.

With the Blu-ray debut of Jackie Brown this week, I had the opportunity to speak with both Pam Grier and Robert Forster for my home video column, Videodrone, on MSN. I was able to use just a fraction of my conversation on MSN but I offer the entire interviews on Parallax View. This week, I present Pam Grier.

Twenty minutes was barely enough time to get started on her career, let alone the experience of making Jackie Brown, a film as much inspired by the films of her career as by Leonard’s novel, so we started on the present. “I live in Colorado. People always assume that I live in Los Angeles or New York in a hotel somewhere, but I have horses. I have English and Western, Dutch Warmblood, Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred. Matter of fact, my Thoroughbred is a descendent of Bold Ruler, who was the sire of Secretariat. And he’s a jumper, he’s a fabulous horse, and he’s a little teddy bear. Well, he’s a big teddy bear.”

Sean Axmaker: Quentin Tarantino was a fan of your films. Were you a fan of his when you were cast?

Pam Grier: Very much so. He had established himself as a filmmaker of really raw or true grit when you saw Reservoir Dogs and he paid homage to me in that. Everyone said, “Do you know you’re mentioned in the Quentin Tarantino movie?” And I said, “Yes, and I fell out of my chair.” I love his work. And then when he did Pulp Fiction… I had met with him, we had talked about a role and it wasn’t going to work out, the same way with Robert Forster, so he said, “We’re going to work together.” When I went into his office to meet with him, he had all of my posters on the wall, from the Roger Corman films to the AIP films, you know the progressive films of the women’s movement, and there they were, one after the other. I thought he was a stalker. He saw something in those films in how we were attempting to translate a time and a place in politics and pop culture and chaos and so much. And the music, he loved the music. Every song that was in every film, he knew. He knew the composer. He was this maven who loved film and we would talk. We had the same tasted in films and I just said, “God, I hope I get a chance to work with him. Naaah, I’m not gonna, it’s gonna be all those male shoot ’em up movie, I’m not gonna get to.”

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