QT8: The First Eight is a feature-length documentary on the ex-video store clerk who made good, which made all less-successful video store clerks resentful… Quentin Tarantino. The documentary has been in legal limbo for a while due to the whole Harvey Weinstein scandal, since the Weinstein Company bought the film sight unseen. Tarantino himself had to break decades-long ties with Weinstein, although it’s been suggested he had already been wanting to move away from that monster for some time, and just this opportunity arrived.
The documentary is a fairly basic rundown of his first eight films as the director, which are actually nine since Kill Bill is two films… but Tarantino says it’s eight, so it’s eight! Tarantino himself is absent from the interviews but like Tara Wood’s similar 21 Years: Richard Linklater, the director’s career is told through talking-head interviews with his collaborators, movie clips, animation and archival materials. The Linklater doc has the edge, because they were able to get almost everybody you would want to hear from, while here due to the vast casts Tarantino’s films contain it’s more difficult. Still, many of the key people show up, such as Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta and Christoph Waltz. The Linklater doc also had far more input from critics and other filmmakers, which is something the Tarantino doc lacks – Louis Black, the co-founder of The Austin Chronicle and SXSW, is the only critic to appear, and Eli Roth, who has also acted in Tarantino’s films, is the only other filmmaker… the fact that there’s no Robert Rodriguez is bizarre.
Fans who have been following Tarantino’s career relatively closely for years won’t gain a huge amount of new information. There are a couple jaw-dropping titbits, and the one that everybody will remember is that the misogynistic bounty hunter Kurt Russell plays in The Hateful Eight is reportedly based on Harvey Weinstein—when you know that, it gives a whole extra layer to that character. It attempts to tackle the complicated relationship Tarantino had with Weinstein, but it’s done relatively clumsily, with Michael Madsen of all people being the person nominated to talk to Weinstein. Maybe nobody else wanted to go there? It’s gone through a couple of edits over the last few years, and mentions of Weinstein were clearly greatly reduced until the very end as much as possible.
The finished product functions very much as a very solid special feature. There was a very similar series of documentaries on the Tarantino XX: 20 Years of Filmmaking boxset. It goes into the always ridiculous claims of Tarantino being “racist” and “sexist” when he is anything but… have these people seen Jackie Brown? Jamie Foxx and Zoë Bell give some personal anecdotes on such matters. Tarantino has also used many of the same female crew members on film after film, you get a good sense a Tarantino set is very much a dream filmmaking experience for everyone involved. It does go into the cock-up with the car crash involving Uma Thurman during the making of Kill Bill, and it’s nothing more than that at the end of the day. Tarantino and Thurman are still incredibly close, and Kill Bill Vol. III is extremely likely, according to recent hints from Tarantino. Thurman, however, isn’t interviewed for this documentary.
The disc itself has no special features, but it does have a clip in the doc of pre-fame Quentin Tarantino as a hillbilly Elvis impersonator on The Golden Girls, which is pretty priceless. Full edited interviews with everybody would be nice, but you can’t always get what you want.