What I am about to do is wrong to judge a work of art before it’s even been made but there’s something about Quentin Tarantino tackling the Manson family murders that feels … well, wrong and gross.
The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday noted that Tarantino’s next project would be a “unique take on the Manson family murders,” and “script details are fuzzy but one of those stories centers around Sharon Tate.”
Tarantino’s sensibilities and crime? These items go together like chocolate and onions.
Tate was eight months pregnant in 1969 when she and four other people were stabbed and beaten to the point of mutilation by four individuals at the direction of Charles Manson, who is still responsible for this and other grisly crimes. It ranks among the most gruesome and upsetting murders in American history, and the grief it caused lingers.
Tate, a rising Hollywood star in the time, was wed to writer/director Roman Polanski, whose Chinatown (which came out five years later, in 1974) is regarded as perhaps the best movie ever produced. Polanski still lives in exile in the U.S. after he pleaded guilty to raping a 13-year-old, a crime he committed six years following his wife and unborn child were also slaughtered.
There’s only a whole lot to process for this one. This is not some faded, deliciously juicy Hollywood tale for the soapy-podcast crowd to script up and dish about. Due in no small part to its sickeningly morbid character, this is still pretty fresh in people’s heads. All these are the Manson murders.
And take away nothing from Tarantino, a master filmmaker. He’s only the incorrect man for the task.
Tarantino left his bones fetishizing gangstery murder, torture, extortion surrounding anguish with cheeky dialogue, burning with revenge, taking older genres and bending them into his own. He left killing appear stylish and cool. And he has a voice in the gratuity; brutality stokes his passion, blood is baked into his brimstone. Great vengeance and furious anger it is all there. He’s the best at it.
However, his violence is fantasy violence. This allows for a degree of individual debasing which titillates, makes us feel something. Cross that into true crime nay, one of the most harrowing true-life stories of individual debasing ever inscribed to something and history feels deeply erroneous. The motivations are not evil, but they’re misguided. This whole thing makes me feel something, all ideal sick to my stomach.
In a parallel world, I am composing that Tarantino is your perfect director for a Manson murders film
In a parallel world, I am composing that Tarantino is your perfect director for a Manson murders film. Inglourious Basterds worked precisely because it took aim at a real-life catastrophe, then attacked it with machine guns, machetes and baseball bats. But we’re in this mysterious deadline today, and Sharon Tate and her friends were not notorious Nazis.
And however far Tarantino attempts to space his script out of this morbid fact, the fact will be right over there, looking at us forlornly. Five people, tied up, tortured, punched open with heaps of knife-holes, blood spattering and pooling everywhere.
What could possibly be fun about that, whether onscreen, suggested or otherwise?
So … does Tarantino try to deal with this delicately? Obliquely? Respectfully? That’s not his style in any way. He couldn’t do this if he tried, and nobody wants that from him. They don’t desire Django understated, they need Django m-f*cking unchained.
However, if Tarantino leans into what he does best, and we get a slick, hard-headed, blood-soaked Manson murder gore-fest, ughhhhh. NO. Pass the Dramamine. And that’s just from reading the words I just clicked.
I really don’t need to be amused by a cult leader’s murder of five innocent people and one unborn child, and notably in the hands of a man who’d write that kind of thing into a script for shock factor and probably do it very well.
I’m queasy enough judging art after it is made, let alone earlier. This is a bad sexy take. And who knows? Maybe Tarantino will make a fantastic movie.
However, you know what? It’ll still gonna be a bad idea.