Recently I was having a discussion with some cinematically inclined friends of mine and we were talking about seeing promise in young filmmakers. The conversation was all about figuring out when somebody has it, and when you can see that ‘it’ even through poor production values and borderline technical competence.
Quentin Tarantino always had ‘it.’ And that’s borne out by the video below, 36 minutes of his first film (he directs and stars), a lengthy short (it was originally 70 minutes) called My Best Friend’s Birthday. Tarantino made it over the course of a couple of years while he was still working in a video store, and supposedly half of it was lost in a fire (or it was never completed - stories vary). Watching My Best Friend’s Birthday you might think that the QT we know today was hatched complete from the forehead of a god, ready to be one of the greatest directors of all time.
My Best Friend’s Birthday starts deep in Tarantino territory, which a monologue about pop culture (in this case about ‘the day the music died,’ when Buddy Holly’s plane went down), and it’s filled with QT’s obsessions. “They should pass a law that says Nancy Allen has to have sex with me anytime I want it,” Tarantino’s character Clarence (who is a DJ at K-BILLY!) says at one point. It’s also got elements that would show up in future films, especially True Romance.
More than ever this makes me excited for what Tarantino has lined up next (and I’m sure he’s got something lined up next - my despair that the loss of Sally Menke could forever sideline him has evaporated). It’s great to look at a director’s work and to be able to chart their progress. This is like Tarantino’s Who’s That Knocking At My Door, where the DNA is present… only much more so than Scorsese’s early film. My Best Friend’s Birthday is almost wholesale QT.
Hat tip to Movieline for the link to this wonderful piece of history.