Out of Time: Lessons in Editing From Cliff Booth’s Drive Home

Or: how to get to the Valley from Beverly Hills in under three minutes.
Ouatih Driving
By  · Published on April 17th, 2020

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Early into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, stuntman turned right man in the wrong place Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) drops his movie star boss Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) off at his Beverley Hills home. Then, after switching over to his comparatively dinky Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, Cliff drives off to his trailer park. The montage that follows is laidback and rich with detail; a feast of lights, sounds, and a veritable “hell yeah” for anyone partial to lazy late-night drives with the radio up and the windows down.

Cliff Booth may be a fictional character, but the Los Angeles depicted in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is real. At least, in its resemblance to the LA that Quentin Tarantino remembers from his childhood. And with that caveat comes a hazy sense of nostalgia that turns places into feelings, and getting from point A to point B into a love poem directed squarely at Hollywood Boulevard.

“Cliff Booth Drives Home,” the latest video essay from FSR favorite Philip Brubaker, unpacks how the character’s journey uses cinematic language to get him from Cielo drive to the San Fernando Valley in under three minutes. The video demonstrates how Tarantino messes around with everything from the 180-degree rule to diegetic sound cues to not only collapse Cliff’s journey for practical purposes but to convey that fuzzy sense of lost time so bound up in the experience of driving in LA.

You can watch “Cliff Booth Drives Home” here:

Who made this?

Philip Brubaker is a nonfiction filmmaker and video essayist based in Gainesville, Florida. He has made a heck of a lot of video essays for Fandor, Vague Visages, and MUBI, in addition to short documentaries. You can browse Brubaker’s video content on his Vimeo page.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.