Quentin Tarantino is having fun. He’s recently taken over the programming helm of the New Beverly Cinema, the theater he bought in 2007 to save it from indie-theater destruction. Starting this month, Tarantino is screening movies right out of his personal collection. And all the movies will be on film, good old-fashioned 35mm film.
Tarantino joined Elvis Mitchell on The Treatment this week to talk about the project. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
ELVIS MITCHELL: Our old friend Quentin Tarantino, you may know him, his film “Pulp Fiction” celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year.
QUENTIN TARANTINO: Yeah boy
EM: Yeah boy…Oh my God…Suddenly Flavor Flav of sitting across from me, and in 2007 he took of the new Beverly theater, and once famously said, “As long as I’m alive, and as long as I’m rich the New Beverly will show films in thirty-five millimeter. As of this month, October, he’s taking over the programming of the New Beverly. First of all, it’s always good to have you back here. Thanks so much for doing this.
QT: It’s good to be here mate.
EM: And tell me about doing this, because you’ve had a fairly active hand in the programming there anyways.
QT: I mean you know from time to time. Anything I wanted to do, or any wild hair I got, you know, on an idea I could easily program and screen it there. But my association with the New Beverly pretty much starts about ten years ago.
EM: Since ’78 basically…
QT: Yeah ’78, and it was a staple. It was a staple of my teenage years and my early twenties. I think most Los Angelenos can remember, especially a lot of like those special art films or foreign film directors. A lot of times the first films you ever saw of them was at the New Beverly. So that all of us and I start hearing through the grapevine that it was looking like the theater might have to close down. So I started thinking about it, and I go well you know as a lover of film, a lover of small businesses and a lover of Los Angeles, as far as what we need and lover of film culture inside of Los Angeles. My quality of life would be less in this town if the New Beverly closed. So let me just do something about it. So I start supplementing [owner] Sherman Torgan $5 thousand every month just to kind of just help them out to help them pay people help and get some things done, and just so he wasn’t working so under the gun.
EM: Covering his costs.
QT: Absolutely. And there was never any like pay it back or anything, I’m just sort of just investing in you. I want to see the place stay alive. And he really could never believe that I was doing it, but he was just you know a really lovely dude. And at one point, he goes you know Quentin I can never pay this back. It’s okay man I can afford it, it’s fine. And he was saying, well I’ll tell you what, when I eventually pack it in, I’d like my son to run it for a while, but then after that I’d like you to have the theater. And then you can keep it going after I’m gone. Oh wow, well I love that idea, well thank you very much. Then unfortunately Sherman passed on rather suddenly. Then I ended up the way through a situation was able to buy the theater, because they never really owned it, it was just a lease.
EM: Which I didn’t know until you told me that.
QT: Yeah. Most almost small businesses don’t really own their businesses. You know it’s just too much. You know but after a certain point you know they’re open ten years, 20 years, but they still never really owned the building. And so that was the situation. So I ended up getting the building, and was the landlord, and Michael [Torgan’s son] ran it for seven years. And he did a really good job. It was real fun. But I always knew that at some point, I wanted to take it over. I have a huge film print collection. We’re still getting prints from studios and prints from other collectors, but I wanted to start cultivating some from my own collection. Because you know, I’ve been collecting it for 20 years, and there’s almost like my own little museum of what I’ve decided to curate and what I decide not to curate. And I used to do this all the time in Austin, at the Alamo Draft House. My little festivals and stuff. And so what made me say okay I think now is the time, aside from just wanting to do it for a long, long time, was the whole death of 35 millimeter (for the most part) as far as this town is concerned.
EM: As far as the business is concerned.
QT: As far as the business is concerned. And I’m just really, really against it. I mean everybody is fighting for shooting on film, and I go yeah I’m fighting for that too. And that’s important to me too, in fact if I can’t shoot on film I’ll stop making movies, but as far as I’m concerned if we’re just acquiescing to digital projection we’ve already letting the barbarians… we’ve already ceded too much ground to the barbarians. The fight is lost if all we have is digital DCP presentations, because to me that’s just television in public. Anyway you cut it, it’s television in public.
EM: What do you got coming out? I know you have “Morocco,” which happens to one of my favorite movies, like I told you, when I showed it in my classes recently the kids were bored by it. Which talk about barbarians, anyways…
QT: Yeah talk about barbarians. Forget about even Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper may be the most handsome man, aside from Elvis, in the history of movies, in that movie in particular.
EM: He’s at his prime in that; he kind of glowed like a hood ornament. It’s the way von Sternberg shot him.
QT: Actually that movie actually even has one of the one of the only non-spoofy meta-moments if you think about it in film, at that time period. When the way it ends with Dietrich walking in the desert sands and then we hear the sound of the wind and the sands and then it cuts to the Paramount logo with no fanfare. Literally the sounds left over from the previous shot. That’s a meta-movie moment, alright, but done seriously.
EM: And completely sort of consonant with having that snow-capped peak. You want to hear those sound bites, so it is a really cool moment. When does that show? When is that going to project?
QT: That’s going to be playing on the 12th and the 13th, and that’s going to be a “Morocco” and “His Girl Friday.” And brand new prints of both of them straight out of the laps.
EM: What else is on the schedule?
QT: Our opening on Wednesday the 1st and the 2nd is going to be really sweet because it’s going to be at a Paul Mazursky tribute. And we’re showing “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” and “Blume in Love.” And “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” is a brand new print struck for me from Columbia as a present for “Django” doing so well. And it actually is the best print of “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” that exists on the planet earth. Not only that not only they break out the elements to do it right. They actually got Paul Mazursky come down and color time it.
QT: And he was he was very excited about it. He was happy with it. And there’s also something kind of really sweet about us doing this because we played this double feature about two years ago at the New Beverly and Paul Mazursky showed up. And I was there and we had an impromptu question and answer session. That ended up being crazy illuminating just really, really lovely. And then after the screening was over, he had a ball, and then he was like, “Hey Quentin I go down to a farmer’s market every morning and have breakfast with some buddies, you want to come down and have breakfast with us, come on down.” Yeah. Hell yeah. You know so I go on down. And you know it’s Paul Mazursky and a bunch of his buddies. One was Ronnie Shell. Another guy was Jack Riley from the Bob Newhart Show. A couple other old duffers that I wasn’t familiar with. Then all of the sudden George Siegel showed up. And we all just kind of had coffee at the farmer’s market. I remember it was even funny because I come walking up and Paul sees me and goes, “Ah, hey it’s that kid Tarantino, he is the guy who did Inglorious Bastards really good friend the Jews, have a seat young man. By the way that German, he was pretty good in that movie.”
EM: Well, that’s one of the things that has happened there a few times anyways. I was there that night when you showed the movie that we both happen to really like “Man Friday” and had Richard Roundtree come and talk about that.
QT: And you moderated that question and answer session with Richard Roundtree. It was awesome with you and Richard Roundtree up there.
EM: That was a dream come true for me, getting a chance to talk to Roundtree about that movie…
QT: About that movie in particular.
EM: Absolutely. One of the things that’s really been kind of fun about that, as you take note of, is there’s been a kind of excitement just because the audience alone that come because they want to see the movies, because they now they are going to see them in 35 millimeter. They’re seeing them the way they’re meant to be seen. Which is that thing of painting with light isn’t it.
QT: Absolutely. I mean I just had a really, you know uncomfortable experience in Cannes last year because they had the 5oth anniversary of “A Fistful of Dollars.” You know a case, and you and I could both make the case that action cinema more or less changed the day “A Fistful of Dollars” came out. It was never quite the same anymore. Even in terms of the end, especially in terms of cutting to music which has really never been the case. So I went wow well that’s a really fantastic idea, a 50th anniversary. And then because I was known Leone fan, they wanted me to introduce it. And they showed this 4K restoration. And I have an ID Technicolor beautiful techno scope print of “Fistful of Dollars.” I could have brought that. Well anyway we have all the big speeches, we all talk, it’s the closing night of the Cannes Film Festival. I sit down. And this is a movie I’ve seen a million times, and did it look nice? Yeah it looked nice. But yeah my laser disk looks nice. My DVD looks nice, alright. We’re not talking about nice. I was depressed the whole screening. I’m sitting in the Grand Palais, you know, the big house and I felt like I should be pointing a remote control at the screen and hitting play. I was like where is the the f-ing menu. I mean is that fine in my home. Absolutely, it’s fine in my home, I don’t think about it, but in the Grand Palais I felt like there was that some glass between me and the movie that would’ve been there if we showed the 35 millimeter print. And it just all just a can I help me kind of just double down.
EM: Was that one of inspiration the inspirational moments for you about taking the New Beverly into your own hands and make you think now’s the time to do this?
QT: It was kind of a combination of the speech the I gave in Cannes about how I felt that digital projection is this is the death of cinema as we know it; the big birth of T.V. in public. And the combination of that, and just see just having to you know every time I look at the listings in something like the L.A. Weekly or whatever. Well that sounds great, Logan’s Run, I’d like to see that again. Oh it’s a DCP, well hell I got the video at home, I don’t need to see that with strangers.
EM: Here’s what I’ve always thought I want you to respond in this. Technical issues aside, film projects for the most part 24 frames per second, I’ve always thought there’s a kind of hypnosis that takes place when it’s happening because an image flickering before your eyes is a link to your brain chemistry, that I don’t care how pristine your projection is it just is not the same effect on the mind.
QT: The flicker effect. And they are even trying to add the flicker effect in digital which is ridiculous. I know the flicker effect is an important part of how your eyeball and your brain in connection to each other works to take in the images. There’s also a couple other things. There’s another, a poetic way, I think actually of saying it, that’s lost in digital is, digital video whatever you want to call it. It’s a technology to watch the movie. You know you can’t open up an old video cassette, and hold it to the light and see the pictures you need decoding machine in order to watch this piece of technology. However film, you can take a film strip and hold it up to the light and see the pictures. Now why that is important is people talk about the whole concept of the magic of movies. You know part of the magic of movies, is you think you’re looking at moving pictures and you are not looking at moving pictures. There is never moving pictures in movies. There are still frames that when shown at 24 frames a second through a shutter gate creates the illusion of movement. There is no moving going on. It’s the illusion of movement, and that it gets at the really heart of what I think is what you mean when you say the magic of movies. You’re watching an illusion. But now there’s even a scientific point about that. And I’m not up on my stuff enough to call everything by its proper scientific name. But there is a special cortex in the brain when it sees certain tangible images.
EM: That flicker
QT: Well just images in particular. It makes a mental snapshot of it, and you have that for the rest of your life. You may recall it. You may not, but it’s there. And when you watch television, digital, any kind of these formats, that part of the brain doesn’t get worked. That snapshot never actually happens. But it happens if you look at a photograph, if you’re holding a photograph in your hand, that snapshot happens and it happens when you watch film. It’s a tangible thing in that snapshot aspect happens. And that’s why all of a sudden, you can remember being eleven years old watching “The Love Bug” or something, and all of a sudden like the you in the theater everything right comes back to you.
EM: I think that’s part of the romance of movies too. And I think that kind of that thing you talk about, that physical thing that happens, that altering of brain chemistry. From having seen that physical photograph, as compared to the way the brain takes in digital ones and zeroes and something too I think to the way that…what you’re talking about the way movies sit in your soul.
QT: Yeah. I mean one of the things…you know I’ve been collecting prints for a long, long time. And you know the funny part about Death Proof was just as all this technology is going out the window. Is right when I’m doubling down on the romance of the f’ed up print in and of itself with its Frankenstein collection of reels. This reel is good. This reels bad, this was a dirty dupe.
EM: This isn’t even there.
QT: Oh that’s a hot lap dancing. I’m taking that for my collection.And that was kind of the idea behind the whole thing. You know one of the things I mean, we’ve been talking at some of the things on the calendar. Oh “Morocco’s”, a brand new print. “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” is a brand new print. They are, and they are gorgeous. I’ve got some colorful ID Technicolor prints, wonderful four track mag prints that are showing. But It’s not just all about the most beautiful print in the world or forget it. You know we’re getting them from other places. And we’re getting them from my collection and some of the prints, you know aren’t the greatest. They’re not horrible. I’m not going to show something completely splicey that is horrible to get through. Or is missing vast scenes from what I want to show. But I’m really about the whole culture of film prints and they all tell a story.
All those prints tell the story. I’m showing “Junior Bonner” coming up. My print isn’t that great. But I love that print of Junior Bonner. I’ve shown that all over the world. And that print is fantastic. It’s a little washed out, it’s a little beat up but it has character and packin power. I love that print. And I don’t want to show a pristine version of it. That’s my print of “Junior Bonner.” That’s how I’ve seen it for the last 20 years. That’s the way I want to see it for the 20 twenty years. I like it that way. You know so it’s a real mixed bag. But I think all these prints have a quality and personality. Whether they’re pristine or not. I mean if you just want pristine stuff. Stay at home and watch a Blu ray. Watch Sony H.D. channel. Have a ball. Leave me alone.
EM: Not yet. We still got 15 minutes to go. Technical IB is Technical imbibition. When they dye the stock, they dye the colors right into the stock. The technology had disappeared because that Technicolor plant was sold to the Chinese in the 70s.
QT: It’s completely gone. There’s no getting it back. Roland and Rick tried really hard and he couldn’t figure it out, or how to get it back. it’s just gone from this earth. How that can happen. I don’t know. Every time I ask questions and they try to explain it to me, my brain turns into guacamole and I can understand it. But how a technology can be lost of this earth, I don’t know. But that happened. But the thing about the IB Technicolor prints, they’re just magnificent is… They never lose their color. Those dyes are there to stay. The print can be dirty as hell and the color is just eye-popping.
EM: So we should say too, for many people they want to see real example of this and I hope you at some point show this, there’s a really beautiful example is “The Godfather,” which is Technicolor IB. And you can really get the gradation between black and dark dark brown and dark dark blue. Project that you can see all of this in a way that you wouldn’t in a normal colored film print.
QT: And I think the only IB Technicolor film print we have on the schedule this month is our George C. Scott director double feature. Where we’re showing “Rage” and “The Savage is Loose.” “The Savage is Loose” is IB Technicolor.
EM: But people should go just so we can see what we’re talking about and see that there is a difference. And there just things…
QT: Well the most colorful film I have in my print collection by far is my IB Technicolor print of “Yellow Submarine.”
EM: When is that showing?
QT: Apple’s kind a hard about letting us show it. All right. Because they had, they did that new version of “Yellow Submarine” with a digital sound. And so they’ll let you show the one with a digital sound but they won’t let you show the mono one. But the mono one is with the IB Technicolor. So we gotta figure it out.
EM: So I’m wondering since you put this thing together, what’s a typical night like? What’s the programming scheme for the evening as you’re putting them together.
QT: A typical night starts off accumulated from my curatist. Excuse me from my collection, is usually some sort of cool vintage concession bumper. That starts it up. Whether it’s for Coca-Cola or Dr Pepper or something really neat and fun. Then we go into a short. Whether it’s a cartoon, I have a bunch of “Three Stooges” shorts. Like for instance when we show the 20th anniversary for “Pulp Fiction.” We just got a print of “Brideless Groom.” The one that has the guy that says, “Hold hands you love birds., which is in “Pulp Fiction.” And so it will either start with a short. Either a cartoon or something like that. I have a “Costello” episode. I can even like take little musical sequences from other prints and show it off. And so it always starts with a short and then usually about three trailers. That are either upcoming stuff we got. Or it’s all geared towards the retrospective we’re doing that night. Like for instance, on the Paul Mazursky, it’ll be all Paul Mazursky trailers.
EM: So what else you got coming up? What else is on the schedule?
QT: Yeah well some of the other things we’ve got coming up, the fun of it is putting together, going through my big print collection. Then just, hey, this will pair good with this, this will pair good with that. You know it’s all about coming up with the double features that make sense. So we’re having kind of having, this month in October, every Wednesday and Thursday, a mini Steve McQueen Festival.
So like on the 15th and 16th, we are showing “Le Mans.” You know with four track magnetic sound. Showing it with the James Garner racing documentary, “The Racing Scene.”
EM: And you told me about this. I never even heard of this film before.
QT: I never even heard of it either. I picked it up in a group of films, not even knowing what I had. I thought it was just going to be a funny car documentary. I watch it and it’s gorgeous. And you know, “Le Mans” is a documentary any old way. “Racing Scene” is a documentary. Because after “Grand Prix,” James Garner backed a racer and backed a car. It just takes him on the circuit with his racer. It has a crash scene in there that is the most spectacular crash I’ve ever seen on film of a real race car crash. It’s really kind of amazing. But then like for instance, then the next week, at that same time on the 22nd 23rd, we got McQueen, Peckinpah double feature, “The Getaway” and “Junior Bonner.” Then on the 29th and the 30th we’re showing “Papillon.” Which is actually Steve McQueen’s personal print of Papillon, with twenty extra minutes. That’s twenty extra minutes of close ups of Steve McQueen. And I’m showing it with, which I don’t think has ever been streamed in Los Angeles, ever. I’m showing it with “Enemy of the People.”
EM: Which I told you I had never seen before except on television and I assumed maybe it played here for in New York.
QT: I don’t think it played here at all here for a week. It played on Z channel. I remember that. It was like it’s big premier, was on Z channel. It’s showing a 16 printer because that’s the only one we could get. It’s the same directors of both films, and they are two of McQueen’s biggest passion projects. One last thing in October I wanted to bring up, because it’s something I want to do and this is a good way for me to do it is, you know. Often times The New Beverly would have a big long movie and then they show something else. And it seems like a, it’s a waste. A big long movie is it’s own thing. But we’re also commited to double features. So on certain big long movies where it doesn’t make a sense to show another film, like for instance, on the 24th and 25th of October we’re showing “The Dirty Dozen.” So what I’m doing is a big trailer show before we show Dirty Dozen. So it’ll be a bunch of trailers of the different guys in the Dirty Dozen before we start the movie. So like a Lee Marvin trailer and a Charles Bronson trailer and a Jim Brown trailer and a John Cassavetes trailer and a Telly Savalas trailer.
EM: A Clint Walker trailer?
QT: He’s such an insignificant member of “The Dirty Dozen.” I would show a Stewart Cooper trailer before I would show a…
EM: [Laughs] I’m just asking!
QT: I would show a Ralph Meeker trailer. I don’t want to show the generals. I want to show the classics.
EM: I’m just a trained journalist seeking fullness of detail.
QT: [Laughs] No Donald Sutherland will be..
QT and EM: [Laughing]
EM: You can get him and Telly Savalas in with the Segal’s trailer.
QT: Well that’s the thing actually, I’m showing one of each and any time two members of the Dirty Dozen cast are together, I’m showing a trailer of that. So I can show Tik Tik Tik. Yes George Kennedy and Jim Brown. And I can show Kelly’s Heroes. Don’t worry, MASH will be there as well.
EM: Good, good. And you better tell me you’ll have a big night with Eli Roth.
QT: We’ll have a big one for Halloween. Actually what we’re doing is, I just noticed when I was going over the other schedules is that Eli has been a big supporter of The New Beverly. And has had his Eli Roth festivals there. But we’ve never actually shown any you know give it over to Eli as far as like the night of his movies. So on the 31st, on Halloween we’re having an Eli Roth marathon. And so we’re going to show, he’ll be there. It’s an all night marathon. We’ll show “Hostel,” “Hostel 2,” and “Cabin Fever” We might have a really neat special surprise, but we don’t know if that’s going to work out yet. And then after that a couple movies of the likable gory Italian horror films that Eli likes until dawn and he’ll be there hosting the whole thing. Actually, matter of fact, he was supposed to be shooting then and he moved his shoot up so he could actually be here for the Halloween marathon.
EM: Well that’s really great. You know Quinn we want to ask you something before we go back to this schedule. I happen to know that on November 1st you’re being honored. By the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the Art and Film Gala.
QT: Absolutely, and you were a big part of that.
EM: Oh no, listen it was your time. Part of that too was really part of what was a really incredible night. For those of you that were at the ACE theatre in early May, you would’ve seen something that you would never ever see. Because that version doesn’t even exist any more.
QT: True that!
EM: This live read of The Hateful Eight. Talk about what made you want to do that.
QT: Well you’ve been pestering me to do the live reads there for a while. \
EM: “Pestering Me”? Wow!
EM: I’m sorry it’s just dusty in here. I’m not tearing up at all.
QT: Well you’ve been doing the live reads with Jason Reitman and you kept coming up saying, hey is there something you want to do?
EM: And we talked about a lot of things.
QT: Yeah and I came up with a few different things
EM: At some point I hope you do one of those things.
QT: Yeah I’m kind of curious of doing some of them. I’m actually interested in Robert Aldrich’s Attack! in the play form as a reading. I think that would be a really fun read. I like to actually just watch and see what happens frankly. But then what happened was, as people had heard the first draft of my script I only gave it to a few colleagues. And one of them leaked it out. And that was very disappointing. And kind of heartbreaking. I got over it, but I was more hurt than I was enraged. So after I started getting over it, and rather than cursing the darkness, I decided to light a candle. And let me see if I can take this and turn it into a positive. If that has gotten out there, let me do a live read of that. Let’s try that. It was a little nerve-wracking going out there. Like literally I think I said, when I walked up, why did I think this was a good idea? As I’m looking at sixteen hundred people waiting to be entertained. But you that was kind of the cool thing in a weird way because I was I was already committed to the second draft of the script by that time. And by reading the first draft it allowed me to drop stuff. In a different way than normal because, there are certain jokes in there that were that I liked. And we got that we did the reading and I got my laughs. And now I do need to carry it over to the next version. I was satisfied. I’m a bit of a whore. When I got my laughs, do I need more? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. No I was satisfied. That’s fine. Now let me move on. As opposed to, oh that was a good joke, man I never got my laugh. So you hang on to those jokes until you get your laugh. In this case, I got my laugh on a bunch of them and I was able to let them go.
EM: We are out of time. You have to come back and talk more about the schedule. I know, apparently you’re about to go make a movie. So you may not be as available but you will still be actively doing the programming for the New Beverly when you’re away.
QT: For the most part, I mean the first three months, October November December are definitely all put together by me. And then I’ll be gone doing my movie for a few months, and then going to have, I’ve got some really talented people working there. So they want to have fun too. So they’ll be coming up with things. But I’ll give them also some screenings that I want to have happen during my absence.
EM: Well I can’t thank you enough. Thanks for doing this. This is a really short notice. And thanks for coming out.
QT: Oh it was my pleasure!