By Fiachra Gibbons, Deborah Cole and Hazel Ward /AFP Cannes
US director Quentin Tarantino stormed into Cannes yesterday with Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, with critics at the world’s biggest film festival hailing it as his best movie in years.
They heaped praise on the dark Tinseltown fairytale set in the Los Angeles of 1969 starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a television Western star on the slide and Brad Pitt as his stunt double.
Twenty-five years after the American director won Cannes’ top Palme d’Or prize, he got some of his best reviews since Jackie Brown in 1997.
Critic Peter Howell of the Toronto Star said that Tarantino wanted “to tell us a story about Hollywood life at the time of the Manson family slayings ... and man, does he ever, going from awestruck to WTF”.
“Brad Pitt the standout, his coolest role yet,” he added.
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was equally euphoric, calling the film a “brilliant exploitation black-comedy” which “finds a pulp-fictionally redemptive take on the Manson nightmare: shocking, gripping, dazzlingly shot in the celluloid-primary colours of sky blue and sunset gold”.
Deadline declared that it was the “film Tarantino was born to make ... gloriously, wickedly indulgent, compelling and hilarious”.
The online film magazine even called for a sequel. “The world is a more colourful place in Tarantino’s twilight zone. Round two, please.”
Critics clapped at the end having laughed throughout, but there were none of the standing ovations at the press preview that sometimes greet films at Cannes.
And not everyone was won over by Tarantino’s genius.
Tim Grierson, of the industry journal Screen, tweeted that “like a lot of recent Tarantino (offerings), this is baggy, self-indulgent, fascinatingly its own thing and ambitiously conceived”.
Yet even he conceded that “it’s accomplished, sometimes dazzlingly so” even if “it ends up being as hit-or-miss as his last few”.
As he walked the red carpet for the premiere, Tarantino compared his film to Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar-winning Roma, saying that it is “a memory piece, the way Roma was a memory piece ... in 1969, Los Angeles was like that”.
The director admitted that “Cannes changed my life” after he came there with his first film Reservoir Dogs in 1992.
“I came here a small independent filmmaker and I left here known by all the critics ... and made myself a name as an international filmmaker. And then two years later, my life changed all over again” when he won the Palme d’Or with Pulp Fiction.
Just before the movie was screened, festival director Thierry Fremaux appealed to critics not to give away the plot.
Tarantino made a similar plea on Monday, writing a letter that was posted on the movie’s Twitter account begging journalists not to let details slip that might spoil the film for his fans.
“I love cinema. You love cinema. It’s the journey of discovering a story for the first time,” he wrote. “The cast and crew have worked so hard to create something original, and I only ask that everyone avoids revealing anything that would prevent later audiences from experiencing the film in the same way.”
Audiences will have to wait until July to make up their own minds about the film, when it will be released in the US.
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