Only Tarantino Could Blissfully Pull Off a History Revised Hollywood 1969 Love Song

Updated 1 year ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Only Tarantino Could Blissfully Pull Off a History Revised Hollywood 1969 Love Song

Quentin Tarantino has gone from reinvented westerns to stretching slasher torture techniques a step behind exploitation, where a gasp shock at the "Hostel" comes close to "Mark of the Devil's" grab the provided emergency cleanliness bag. 

Luring Leonardo DiCaprio, as Rick Dalton,  former star of a western TV series, and  Brad Pitt  his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth would nearly guarantee a swift one-liner filled buddy hybrid comedy. Tarantino has Al Pacino, Margo Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, and Harley Quinn (among others) .

Opening with cars, neon, and familiar tunes, it's a recall of "American Graffiti," saluting not high school antics and graduation but 1969, a year of turpitude , transition, and mounting revolution. Single screen long running flicks dominate Hollywood Boulevard as an occasional fast foot (Taco Bell) place creeps into the string of family owned eateries. Television has passed through its western era as crime drama (The FBI, Mannix) dominate. Former cowboys now play "heavies" or warble out a song on "Hullabaloo" as the white boot dancing teens smile.

Only Tarantino Could Blissfully Pull Off a History Revised Hollywood 1969 Love Song

Ultra wealthy hideaways are rising and flaming out star favorites. Times changing  --- studio system dying; color TV booming; quiet and smoking, macho males puff nervously (with a glitch or two --- see the sneaked in bare leg power pump during pre-shoot horseplay and the eight year old female method performer, wonderfully played by Julia Butters,  arguing about "actress" versus "actor"),  and occasional mostly barefoot female hippie societal drop outs hang out at bus stops looking to peddle acid for fifty cents.

Enter rising star Sharon Tate strolling blocks from downtown picking up a book for hubby Roman Polanski. Dark glasses, mini skirt, and white boots Margot Robbie stares at her pic advertising her new Dean Martin flick at a neighborhood movie house. Short a quarter, she convinces the manager to let her in free. Robbie gets comfortable, laughs and pantomimes her performance oblivious to other moviegoers.

Only Tarantino Could Blissfully Pull Off a History Revised Hollywood 1969 Love Song

After a six month an Italian spaghetti western stint , Rick and Cliff have a bittersweet homecoming. Rick's replaced Cliff with a wife. 

The filmography depicted may bring The Man with No Name to mind, but Tarantino's actually has Rick based on Burt Reynolds and Cliff on Reynolds' stuntman Hal Needham. The western is a stand/in for  "Wanted Dead or Alive."

Playing a near alcoholic ,  DiCaprio saunters around the backlot struggling to memorize his lines and occasionally softly sobbing. He's hit or miss when the camera's on. After losing a gig for decking Green Hornet's "Kato" (martial arts trained Bruce Lee) , he's fired, leading to a drive around 69er L.A. and eventually picking up a 17-year-old Manson follower.  Watch for a gender behavior reversal. It's Pitts character than expresses age or consent prudence that following a potentially "mocking" scene in which he pulls off his shirt on a roof, potentially underscoring another male perk. 

Only Tarantino Could Blissfully Pull Off a History Revised Hollywood 1969 Love Song

The script weaves a fictionalized encounter with Squeaky (Dakota Fanning)  and Charlie on a former back  lot. Of course, we know little about these TV slumming barefoot gals and their commune. Charlie flattens the Caddie's tires and Cliff bloodies the cult leader when he refuses to "fix it." That scene delivers an inkling of the alleged revenge home invasion which related to a devastating music producer turning Manson down.

Tarantino's camera strays for a few extra seconds on the flicking neon light marquees, bright colored roadsters, bulky puffy headphones,  vinyl record and other extinct icons. You won't see a cell phone or computer in the entire flick. Couples frequent small restaurants for dinner or business deal making. Meanwhile, he's compiled a solid retro musical score ranging from "Mrs. Robinson" to a more hard rockin' "Brother Love's Travelin Salvation Show" and "The Circle Game" ("Strawberry Statement").

Considered an opus to the end if golden age glamour, the director historians would assert is about ten years late. The switch from black and white to all color occurred in the 50s. The sixties and seventies are generally regarded as post-classic.

Only Tarantino Could Blissfully Pull Off a History Revised Hollywood 1969 Love Song

The 60s were transitional as the studio system had crumbled partly due to over budgeted failed blockbusters, color TV stole more moviegoers, and the trickster scripts more and more faced competition with special effects and intimacy. Although mainstream had experimented with nudity, it was Roger Corwin's American International that drew youth with surfing and swimming cultural norms then brandished blood and naked bodies as a requisite for new filmmakers. His lucid corpuscle flowing monsters and horror remakes inserted cleavage too. 

A glimpse at the L.A. Times essentially describes the random murders as an "end of innocence" for Los Angeles. Call it the city's 9/11. Their recall have "stars" and "filmmakers" often blending with locals. Tensions surrounded "race;" the massacre placed young radicals on radar. An analogy could be suggested to "mass shootings? opening vigilance beyond foreign terrorists. The Times suggested (alluding vaguely to the Watts riots) that beyond racial ground zero L.A. was nearly a don't lock your door at night community. 

Hence, "Once Upon a Time" reminisces for an era beyond studio lots, but a community culture too. 

Tarantino skirts the exploitation era and even a hint of hippie flowerchild free love (opps, no bra, flimsy thin top...).  Pitt's  character lives near a Van Nuys drive-in but no visual of a "skin flick" on the giant screen or cuddling car based lovers. Stays  clean too in an exterior shot of the adult Pussycat grindhouse. 

Having  purposefully scheduled the film's opening near the 50th anniversary of the Manson Massacre, Tarantino has fun blending fact and fiction into a new vision of that day in history. He still inserts a few bloody sequences, all which advance the plot which can shift from tensely dramatic to intentionally silly while maintaining acting personas. It's a skillful , blissful sojourn where seismic changes and cultural wreckage lazily flows.  One writer labels it a violent blast of terminal audacity" while another scores a slam dunk stating that by brazenly manipulating history he's baked a perfect "bagel" --- Part satire, part bear hug, part fictional bromance.

Another surprise---  don't leave your seats when the end credits roll. Not sci-fic or super hero, you can still toss a wicked credit crawl insert.