"Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is a unique entry in writer and director Quentin Tarantino's filmography. That's certainly saying something, as every film of his up to this point is exceptionally distinctive in one way or another. Still, there are certainly violent and structural quirks visible in each film, and it's arguably "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" that strays furthest from what's expected of a Tarantino picture. Frequently feeling like a meandering time capsule of late 1960s Hollywood, Tarantino's 9th film is unrestrained in its love for the era, propelled by excellent performances, a great soundtrack, and production design that makes the film feel older than it is (in a good way).

All of this is done intentionally for the most part, as Quentin Tarantino sees "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" as his most personal project to date. The famous director has always been extremely vocal about the video store he worked at in the '80s that helped fuel his love for film. Pair that with Tarantino's early childhood in the 60s, and the movie's setting makes much more sense. In fact, Tarantino cited "Once Upon A Time" as his version of another film from an acclaimed director to accentuate how personal the film is to him.

Movies That Serve As Memory Pieces

In an interview with Esquire during the film's initial release in 2019, Quentin Tarantino wanted to emphasize how personal the project was to him. Going so far as to say that "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is "the closest thing [he's] done to "Pulp Fiction." The similarities to "Pulp Fiction" are striking, from the structure to the seemingly disconnected characters converging towards the end, "Once Upon A Time" plays out like a less violent and more methodically paced film that wants viewers to soak in the scenery. The emphasis on LA primarily has to do with how much that period means to Tarantino, with the director comparing it to another personal period piece:

"[This] is probably my most personal [film]. I think of it as my memory piece. Alfonso [Cuarón] had Roma and Mexico City in 1970. I had L. A. and 1969. This is me. This is the year that formed me. I was six years old then. This is my world. And this is my love letter to L. A."

While entirely different in tone and structure than "Roma," it's clear that Tarantino empathizes with Cuarón's passion project. While some might consider the film too self-indulgent with its driving scenes and emphasis on the radio station structured soundtrack (similar to Tarantino's directorial debut Reservoir Dogs), anyone could relate to wanting to return to the time of their childhood. Born in 1963, Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is so different and resembles his earlier work because of how closely it's associated with his nostalgia for his younger days (which is probably why he considers it his best movie). However, some critics believe such intimate projects bite off more than they can chew.

More Movies Reflective Of What Shaped Their Director, Please.

If anything, such creative endeavors that are deeply personal should be encouraged more. It's a more positive outlook than being called "unrestrained" or "self-indulgent." Phrases like these have been used for recent releases similar to "Roma," like "The Fabelmans" or "Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths." Instead, films that tap into a director's early years could be considered fun and fascinating insight. One driving aspect of movies that makes them so enjoyable is the empathetic qualities of characters— stories that mirror everyday lives, whether on a grand scale or a grounded and relatable lens that feel especially intimate.

In the case of the latest string of films previously mentioned, in the words of Tarantino, as "memory pieces," they don't get much more intimate than that. However, in usual Tarantino fashion, the director opts to romanticize the era he grew up in rather than directly focus on his upbringing. "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" may serve as a memory piece similar to "Roma," but it's fundamentally different in its execution. Tarantino's comparison of the two films serves as a reminder of how differently people can make films with similar intentions, just as how the interpretation of these films is entirely subjective.

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