Tarantino And His Asian Inspirations - From Reservoir Dogs To Django Unchained!

By Sayantan Mondal. Posted on April 10, 2015

The world is divided into two halves when it comes to the movies of Quentin Tarantino. For the first half, he is simply a copy cat, lifting randomly from movies from all over the world and placing them in his narratives, plagiarizing and creating mediocre films and of course taking advantage of audiences’ ignorance. But the second group thinks he is a genius, whose movies are tributes to all the films that have inspired him and made him the filmmaker that he is. Unfortunately this debate on whether he is a mediocre filmmaker or a trendsetter will continue, but what we can’t deny is his love for obscure movies and the way he has promoted them.

Also Read : Tarantino Explains How He Made Reservoir Dogs

Tarantino has been heavily inspired by Asian directors whose films have left a mark on his own style. He's also done his bit to popularize their works in the US. Although he hasn't limited himself only to Asian auteurs, in this post we will focus only on his Asian influences. There is a lesson here for budding filmmakers, 'don’t limit yourselves because the world is your oyster'.

Ringo Lam: Narrative And The Use of Aesthetic Violence

It was Ringo Lam’s City on Fire that inspired the Reservoir Dogs. Without it, Reservoir Dogs would not have been possible. Now, it is not worth going into the controversy of whether there are other films that Tarantino was inspired from, but what we should learn from this is that one can derive inspiration from almost anywhere.

City on Fire is known for its uncanny narrative and the use of violence as poetry. Tarantino borrowed heavily from it, added his own bits and took it to another level. More importantly with this he managed to create his own stunning visuals. Here’s a video that gives the reader an idea of Tarantino’s obsession with tributes and the role influences play in his films.

John Woo: Developing A Keen Sense Of Style

John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow II and The Killer have inspired Tarantino very heavily. Though Ringo Lam provided him with the structure of Reservoir Dogs, John Woo gave him much more style to copy. While A Better Tomorrow II was another influence for Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown borrows a bit from another cult film, The Killer.

Tarantino has reportedly admitted in several interviews that the idea of making his characters wear those ties, shirts, suits and sunglasses came from A Better Tomorrow II. In this video below Tarantino talks about the importance of creating his own sense of style but he doesn't hide his influences. Now that is a rare trait in filmmakers.

Lo Wei: Integrating A Director’s Style In Your Work

Lo Wei is another cult actor/director from Hong Kong who inspired a lot of action scenes in Kill Bill Vol 1. Lo Wei is mainly known for making Fists of Fury and launching the careers of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Tarantino consciously borrows some striking elements of Wei’s style, integrating them into his narrative. This video will help you understand how Tarantino’s method works and how well he constructs his scenes.

Jimmy Wang Wu: Adopt And Adapt For Proper Assimilation Of Characters

Jimmy Wang was an accomplished actor as well as a director in the Hong Kong movie industry. His One-Armed Swordsman is considered by many as the movie that changed wuxia narratives. The film was directed by Chang Cheh, another filmmaker who influenced Tarantino. Tarantino borrows a lot from Jimmy Wang’s Chinese Boxer and Master of the Flying Guillotine for some action scenes in Kill Bill Vol. 1. This influence is apparent in the character of Gogo Yubari and her use of mace while fighting The Bride.

Chang Cheh And The Art Of Giving Subtle Tributes

From one cult director to another. If you look at the career of Chang Cheh, he was one of the most prolific directors of the Asian movie powerhouse Shaw Brothers, directing one cult movie after another. So it wasn't strange that Tarantino pays him homage in his films. And he does so by naming the assassination squad Deadly Viper Assassination Squad with Five Deadly Venoms as its apparent influence. Here’s a video where you can see the making of Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2 and a discussion on how Tarantino got around making it.

Gordon Liu: How To Pay A Great Homage Through Your Work

Gordon Liu will be known to most Indians as the antagonist from Chandni Chowk to China, but for cult movie enthusiasts he is the legendary figure from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Tarantino not only includes him in his movie but pays a tribute to his character from the movie by making The Bride’s character undergo a similar training with Gordon Liu himself appearing as her master, Pai Mei. Talk about tributes, eh?

Hiroyuki Nakano: Understanding How The Cinematography Manages To Capture The Essence Of A Shot

Samurai Fiction might have had no relation to Pulp Fiction but Tarantino borrows several sequences from it and again uses it in Kill Bill. The training scene of The Bride with Pai Mei and the fight scene in The House of Blue Leaves is something that has been influenced from Nakano’s Samurai Fiction. The cinematography here manages to maintain the essence of the original. Tarantino also uses Tomoyasu Hotei’s soundtrack for the film. Here’s a clip from Samurai Fiction that will show you how Tarantino got inspired from it for Kill Bill.

Kinji Fukasaku: Get Those Characters Right For Your Movie

Kinji Fukasaku is a legend among Japanese moviemakers and has a cult following among cinephiles. So there was no doubt that Tarantino was going to borrow from him when Tarantino said that one of his favourite movies of all time is Fukasaku’s Battle Royale and how he wished he had made it. Not only this, the character of Gogo Yubari is somewhat of a tribute to Battle Royale with Chiaki Kuriyami appearing in both. Here’s another video where Tarantino discusses his love for Fukasaku.

Toshiyo Fujita: Narrative Brilliance And The Art Of Re-creating From A Source

It was Toshiyo Fujita’s Lady Snowblood that gave Kill Bill its proper frame, similar to how Ringo Lam’s City on Fire made Reservoir Dogs possible. Starring Meiko Kaji in the lead role, Kill Bill owes a lot to this cult movie as the entire narrative has a strong semblance with Lady Snowblood, with several recurring plotlines becoming visible.

However trust Tarantino to mix things up. So while Uma Thurman’s revenge story in Kill Bill has parallels to Lady Snowblood, it is Lucy Liu who plays the antagonist, who bears a striking resemblance to the character in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

Takashi Miike: A Mutual Working Style That Complements Each Other

Tarantino and Takashi Miike have a strange relationship to each other's works. Some of the more gory scenes in Kill Bill Vol.1 were borrowed from Miike’s Ichi the Killer. On the other hand, Miike has made his own version of Django called Sukiyaki Western. Tarantino appears in both the films and maybe it was because of Miike's film that Tarantino got the inspiration for his Django Unchained. Who knows?

Are there any other films which you think have influenced Tarantino? If yes then we would love to know more about such influences.


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