Tarantino In A Can

By Mike White & Mike Thompson

The bathroom is a motif that runs throughout Quentin Tarantino's oeuvre. In RESERVOIR DOGS an entire flashback deals with The Commode Story, a ruse used by at least one undercover cop to provide credibility. The word "commode" is not often used in common vernacular, but it makes another appearance in the first act of RESERVOIR DOGS when Mr. Pink asks, "Where's the commode in this dungeon? I gotta take a squirt." Aren't they standing in one?

In TRUE ROMANCE where does the protagonist, Clarence, confer with the spirit of Elvis Presley? In the place where E met his demise, of course; the bathroom. This happens twice in the film and the second should remind viewers of PULP FICTION in that Clarence is in the bathroom, unaware of the shit that's going down outside.

When Clarence has to find a quick change of scenery he calls his old pal Dick Richie, who is naturally sitting on the toilet when his call arrives. And, where does that firecracker Alabama finally take her stand after getting the shit kicked out her? The bathroom, of course.

If you think you've seen bathrooms so far, PULP FICTION is where the shit really hits the fan.

The first time we go to the bathroom with anyone in PULP FICTION it's with mia. In the can she snorts coke, a sign of her impending doom.

Butch and Fabian have one of the longer bathroom scenes after they shower together. It even seems to Butch that Fabian spent the entire night there brushing her teeth.

Jules and Vincent wash their hands in Jimmy's bathroom. Could it have been the kitchen or even outside with the hose? Not with Tarantino behind the typewriter.

Vincent Vega's life would be a lot simpler (and longer) if he could only avoid the commode. He almost gets wasted by the kid with the "cannon" who hides in the bathroom. If he had never gone to the bathroom, Mia wouldn't have OD'd, the Honey Bunny situation would have been smoother, and he would have avoided his own death.

The use of the toilet spans Tarantino's work from the earliest (in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN the tense border-crossing scene takes place in a Winnebago bathroom) to his latest.

Even former pal Roger Avary got into the bathroom frame of mind when he wrote KILLING ZOE (but who's to say that Avary didn't write every aforementioned scene): Eric Stoltz makes a big deal about showering after sex and there's a long trippy scene that happens in a mens restroom.

Damn! That's a lot of toilets! Where did this predilection for pissoirs come from?

We know by now that we shouldn't look at obvious sources; films Tarantino's given credit to. Instead we have to delve farther into his secret stash of unmentionable influences. To find out the origin of the bathroom in Tarantino's films we turn our attention to FLIGHT TO FURY directed by Monte Hellman, executive producer of RESERVOIR DOGS and subject of a February '93 article by Tarantino in Sight & Sound.

In FLIGHT TO FURY all of the central characters are involved in an airplane crash. When the plane has engine trouble, however, Hellman handles the situation in a unique way. He introduces the plane's engine trouble by showing a sudden, violent jolt from the point-of-view of a secondary character. Hellman follows a character who was completely peripheral to the narrative into the bathroom where the character is suddenly thrown about the room by the exploding engine.

A turning point of a movie within a bathroom, huh? Between that, the nonlinear narratives (RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, the screenplays for TRUE ROMANCE and NATURAL BORN KILLERS) and opening scenes set in a diner (RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, TRUE ROMANCE), it looks like Tarantino's lil' bag o' cinematic tricks is becoming apparent.

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