January 13, 2004
Palm Friction

QT1.jpgWhat is the deal with Quentin Tarantino and masturbation? Why does the musky odor of onanism hover around the Kill Bill director like the visible stink lines that emanate from Peanuts' Pigpen?

Last week in "The Year in Movies," Slate's raucous film critic caucus, the conversation between David Edelstein, A.O. Scott, J. Hoberman, Sarah Kerr, and Manohla Dargis practically devolved into a circle jerk about whether or not Tarantino is jerking off on film.

Sarah Kerr of Vogue spanks Tarantino first in an entry headed "Quentin Tarantino's Masturbation":

On to Kill Bill for a moment. Jim, do you really think Tarantino is a victim of the system? I think we're a victim of his not writing a screenplay, indulging in a quite boring obsession with his leading lady, and essentially masturbating on screen, with the gall to invite us back for a second installment. I hated Kill Bill not in a tsk-tsk, scolding way but because it induced boredom to the level of panic—a desire to flee the theater—and self-pitying rage that work required me to stay put.

David Edelstein, Slate's resident critic and "Year in Movies" host busts off his own critical nut graph, dense with particularly loaded imagery:

As is often the case, Sarah, you nail Kill Bill but you end up on the wrong side of the equation. You say that Tarantino is "essentially masturbating on screen, with the gall to invite us back for a second installment." I say it's rather entertaining to watch this guy's masturbatory fantasies, especially when they're epic. N.B.: This is NOT a general principle, but for some artists, masturbatory fantasies and art are very close-knit.

(Let's assume he's referring to Brian De Palma—a filmmaker whose very name recalls a naughty reference to masturbation—whom Edelstein has taken a number of well-deserved whacks at over the years. The fact that all those reviews contain references to math or trigonometry may bespeak the critic's own particular fixations, but that's neither here nor there.)

Manohla Dargis shoots her own load with her response: "I don't want to watch anyone's masturbatory fantasy unless I've specifically skulked in and out of my neighborhood video store or am watching pay-for-view in my lonely Lost in Translation-style hotel room and have nothing better to do."

Since "The Year in Movies" ran every day last week, the Slate crew continued their critical beat-down of Tarantino's cinematic beat-off sessions for another two days, always with the smirking, knowing tone of those who know that there's a thin line between criticism and its pathetic cousin, wankery.

So, I ask again, what is it about Quentin Tarantino that makes dirty minds of all these high-minded folks? Certainly it's the 10 minute sequence of Uma Thurman's feet in Kill Bill and the fact that Tarantino is not only unabashed about his love of exploitation flicks (veritable booby parades when not displaying acting so bad it could be used as a "how-not-to" teaching tool for aspiring thespians) but celebratory to the point of ecstasy.

But maybe the real stain comes from creepy comments like the ones Tarantino made while stroking Lost in Translation at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards (here quoted by Page Six): "At some point, I got a crush on the movie... I've seen it five times and every time I've seen it I've had a little date with myself."

So, Quentin, here's some free advice if you want to avoid being seen as the film world's answer to Alexander Portnoy: keep it in your pants, man. Maybe people won't think you're such a wanker.

Posted in a Shallow fashion.

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