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“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” the awakening from the dogmatic slumber

By Aleksandr Smirnov

The latest Quentin Tarantino feature, titled “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and released in July 2019, combats the necessity for strict realism in exactly the right way. The movie takes place in the 1960s and follows the story of a fictional Hollywood actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt.

Dalton is a struggling actor in Hollywood, which is the reason why Marvin Schwartz, played by Al Pacino, suggests that he move to Italy and partake in the creation of westerns. At first he is hesitant, but over the course of the movie he decides to pursue the opportunity. Dicaprio and Pitt’s characters then rewrite one of the most shocking murders of the 20th century in America by stopping Charles Manson’s family from murdering Sharon Tate.

The film combats obsession with historical accuracy in the best manner because it does not reject it. An attentive viewer will notice that the smallest details of the movies are historically accurate, such as shop signs, radio ads, clothing, etc.

Tarantino’s devotion to an authentic depiction of late 1960s Los Angeles went to such lengths as to entirely close off the city’s arterial road for multiple days to recreate its vintage appearance in 1969. However, Tarantino purposfully changed the most dramatic event that the story was building up to: the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends.

In this juxtaposition, the purpose of the film is borne. For almost three hours, the viewers enjoy both the meticulous accuracy and artistry with which Los Angeles of the 1960s is portrayed. However, they also see the fictional world, where one of the most talked-about murders of the 20th century did not take place, instead replaced with Tarantino’s characteristic fight scene.

“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” barely left anyone indifferent, whether in a good or in a bad way. This feature film is important because the topic of Manson has recently enjoyed a new wave of discussion, due to 2019 being the 50th anniversery of Tate’s murder. David Fincher’s series “Mindhunter” also did not leave Manson unmentioned.

Tarantino has given us not only a way to neglect our need for “facts,” but also a reminder of one of the main aims of cinema – to give the viewer an opportunity to experience a different world from the one they live in.

smirno1@stolaf.edu