We’re skeptical of his 10 films-and-done plan.
Quentin Tarantino has insisted for years now that he will make only ten films. The auteur director repeated these claims last weekend at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Tarantino had been invited to introduce Pulp Fiction and discuss his career as part of the Festival’s opening ceremonies.
During the wide ranging talk at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, Tarantino repeated his previous claims that he would be retiring after his tenth film. It must be noted, however, that he does count both Kill Bill films as one film; this leaves only two films remaining. In prior conversations about his imminent retirement, Tarantino said that he did not want to be an “old man filmmaker,” and that he does not want to “stay on the stage until people beg him to get off.” He has stated multiple times in the past that the quality of a director’s work declines over time and that he did not want to be one of those directors who keep working when they are “out of date.”
During his speech at the festival, Tarantino did not back down from his promise of a ten-film filmography, but left the door open to a possible comeback after retirement. “Even if at 75, if I have this other story to tell, it would still kind of work because… it doesn’t contaminate the other 10.” Apparently, Quentin Tarantino the fifty-three year-old feels totally comfortable complimenting but still disparaging his own work twenty years before it is produced.
That Tarantino feels compelled to end his directorial career after only ten films is obviously his own business and his decision alone to make. There are plenty of directors who maintain successful prolific careers and do not lose their luster over one or two bad films. If he feels that he cannot maintain the quality of his work and that it is better for him to end it, that’s on him.
However, it would seem that Mr. Tarantino is suffering from a misconception. Any work that he produces after retirement – regardless of how old he or the subject matter of the film are – will absolutely be compared to and run the risk of “contaminating” his original films. We’ve seen this happen very recently with literature. When Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was released last summer, fifty-five years after To Kill a Mockingbird, it was not weighed only on its own merits. It was considered to be little more than a disappointing sequel to Mockingbird. Anything Tarantino releases at any point in the future will suffer the same fate.
Tarantino wants to leave his fans wanting more after his retirement. We will. There is absolutely no question of that. Tarantino fans will love and study his work whether there are a grand total of ten films or one hundred. Part of me is bitter that he takes such an austere view of aging artists. Part of me is bitter that there are only two more films to look forward to. He’d better believe that he will not live down his words if he does choose to deviate from the ten-film plan.