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Tarantino heads West

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Quick, name your top-five filmmakers of the last 25 years: Coen Bros, Bong Joon-ho, David Fincher, Alfonso Cuaron, Wes Anderson...it's not an easy list to make.

But for most discerning film fans, there is one name to rule them all: Quentin Tarantino. And, lucky us, his ninth feature film, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, opens Friday at the good old Whistler Village 8.

Tarantino, a film-lovers filmmaker, shot to infamy in the '90s after Pulp Fiction showcased his knack for mind-bending narrative structure and unparalleled dialogue. Since then, he's unleashed a barrage of envelope-pushing pictures that draw heavily on everything from Asian Kung Fu flicks to American crime. But Tarantino's favourite genre, the one he's spent the last half of his career playing around with, is the Western.

The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained fit in the genre quite easily while Inglourious Basterds is a war film shot with Western sensibilities (and arguably the high-water mark of Taratino's career).

For this picture, Quentin goes as far West as you can get and sets his opus in the birthplace of the Western during the final days of its most golden era: Hollywood, 1969.

I've yet to see this one (my invite to the premiere in Cannes must have fallen behind a table at the post office) but nearly all critics agree the less you know heading in the better time you'll have. With that in mind, we can say that Once Upon a Time... is Quentin's most mature and joyful work to date—a love letter to the movies, set in the centre of the cinematic universe, made by a guy who grew up there.

It's also a hangout film in the Jackie Brown tradition, full of comedy and fun (for at least half the 160-minute run time). Leonardo DiCaprio stars as an aging TV/Western star trying to break into big time Hollywood while Brad Pitt plays his longtime friend and stuntman.

Margot Robbie plays DiCaprio's up-and-coming neighbor Sharon Tate, living the star-studded life Leo's character wishes for himself. (By all accounts all three actors turn in the performances of their careers, with Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Emile Hirsch and Margaret Qualley filling out the cast.)

Told effectively in two parts, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood a reflection on growing old in a golden age, an elegy to simpler times, and a horrorific look at the greed and existential violence of humanity that can, inevitably it seems, ruin a good thing. This is a personal film, a painstaking recreation of simpler times just as they begin to fall apart. Tarantino asks, 'What it if we could have had it this good forever?'

The Village 8 is also premiering another film focusing on the late '60s: Echo in the Canyon is a documentary about the '60s folk rock music scene in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon. In just a handful of years, a cross-pollination of musical creativity unfolded in one small rural gulch just outside the city as bands like The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas and the Papas jammed together, smoked pot, and wrote the music that set the stage for psychedelia.

Told primarily through interviews with the musicians of the era (conducted by Jakob Dylan) cut with concert footage of a new generation of musicians discovering and playing those songs, this flick highlights key songs and bands that were perhaps taken for granted due to the popularity of their music.

A veritable treat for music fans, Echo in the Canyon is not getting a wide release (we are lucky to have it) and it's also a solid companion piece for Tarantino's flick so get ready to hit the Village 8 at least twice this week. Get some!

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