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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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Unlike Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012), which were both drenched in violence against whites, Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is a surprisingly wholesome and pro-white film that pays homage to old Hollywood and white male movie stardom.

The main characters are washed-up actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and driver, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The film gives a slice of their everyday lives for the first two hours or so, and then skips ahead six months to the night of the Tate-LaBianca murders, which took place in August 1969.

Formerly the star of Bounty Law, a fictional early 1960s black-and-white TV Western reminiscent of Rawhide or Wanted Dead or Alive, Dalton has now been reduced to sporadic guest-star gigs on obscure shows and has become a moody alcoholic prone to tearful fits of rage. Booth nevertheless remains steadfastly loyal to Dalton and serves as his driver and all-around assistant. The brotherly bond between them brings to mind the friendship between the characters played by Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn in another reactionary film released this year, Dragged Across Concrete.

The real star of the film is Booth, whose physical prowess and taciturn stoicism make him a paragon of old-fashioned American manliness. Dalton plays cowboys on screen, but Booth is the closest thing there is to a cowboy in real life. In a scene symbolic of their relationship, Booth climbs up Dalton’s roof without a ladder to fix his broken television antenna.

Booth’s cool self-assurance comes to the fore when he picks up a flirtatious adolescent female hitchhiker and takes her to the Manson Family compound at Spahn Movie Ranch (he rebuffs her sexual advances – perhaps a dig at Hollywood pedophiles). At the ranch, he receives sinister glares from the women, who are depicted as hysterical, brainwashed zombies and drug-addled bums who go dumpster diving for food (the Manson women actually did this in real life). Remaining nonchalant, he decides to check up on the elderly George Spahn, whom he knew from the shooting of Bounty Law. When he returns to find his tire punctured, he punches the guy that did it (Steven “Clem” Grogan) and makes him replace the tire. Earlier in the film, Booth shows off his chops in an entertaining fight scene with Bruce Lee that also pokes fun at Oriental pseudo-profundities.

Aside from a silly, made-up motivation for the killings at the end meant to lend the situation some moral ambiguity, the film’s message is rather clear-cut. The “goddamned hippies” (Dalton’s words) are the bad guys, while Booth and Dalton are heroic emblems of old Hollywood and white masculinity. Tarantino keeps it simple for the audience and does not explore Manson’s history or his insider ties to Hollywood and the music industry. (Thanks to his access to drugs and pretty girls, Manson was able to hobnob with a lot of famous people, such as record producer Terry Melcher and The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson.)

Manson is a good example of the how the US government subverted the hippie movement, which bore a strong resemblance to the völkisch movement in Germany before it became a haven for radical Leftists and Jews. The evidence suggests that Louis Jolyon “Jolly” West, a psychiatrist affiliated with MKUltra, bailed Manson out of jail and counseled him on mind control techniques, grooming him into a hypnotic cult leader who would recruit impressionable hippies. West conducted extensive mind control experiments funded by the head of MKUltra, Jewish chemist Sidney Gottlieb; the Manson operation was, in effect, another experiment. The LAPD teamed up with the CIA and never once laid a finger on Manson, as Manson himself pointed out. All of this culminated in the murders, which were staged to discredit the antiwar movement by associating hippies with violence and insanity. (The narrative that Manson was a white supremacist who wanted to start a “race war” serves a similar function.) The establishment wanted to suppress the antiwar movement because they saw it as a threat to their globalist/imperialist ambitions.

The claim that Manson wanted to kill Melcher out of resentment for his lack of success in Hollywood is false. Manson was aware that Melcher no longer lived on Cielo Drive by the time of the murders; he and his friends would visit him and do drugs together.

By far the most popular book on the Manson murders is Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter, a one-sided, sensationalistic account that sticks to the official narrative and the tiresome “race war” nonsense. (It’s worth noting that Bugliosi wrote a book on the JFK assassination that likewise endorsed the official story.) See Tom O’Neill’s masterful new book Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties for a far more honest account. The author is an investigative journalist who spent two decades obsessively researching the case.

The film’s reconstruction of 1960s California is very impressive. Tarantino spared no expense on the lavish set pieces, which were created without the aid of CGI. (There is virtually no CGI in the film apart from one scene in which Dalton is inserted into The Great Escape.) He has a keen eye for detail; even the billboards are reflective of the period. One of the highlights of the film is the abundance of handsome old cars. The film is also packed with ‘60s pop culture references.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood feels like an authentic glimpse of Los Angeles before it became a hellhole ridden with Mexicans, trash, and infectious diseases. There are almost no non-whites in the film. Dalton improvises a line about “beaners” on set, and there is a scene in which Booth tells Dalton not to cry in front of some Mexicans. New Yorker critic Richard Brody has criticized Tarantino’s failure to be sufficiently woke, calling the film “ridiculously white” and “obscenely regressive.”

Despite the sunny ambiance, the film is pervaded by a sense of melancholy and the awareness of an era coming to a close. Dalton’s glory days are behind him; Spahn Ranch has been taken over by the Manson Family. Spahn has no memory of Booth, even after Booth repeats his name multiple times. The year 1969 saw the release of The Wild Bunch, in which an aging outlaw gang is confronted with the death of the Wild West; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood echoes some of those themes.

Once belongs to the genre of what Tarantino has called “hangout” films. One spends most of the film getting to know the characters and soaking up the ‘60s vibe. The violence you’d expect from Tarantino does not arrive until the end. As with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, Tarantino takes liberties with history: the Tate-LaBianca murders are averted, the would-be killers dispensed with.

The sequence when Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel encounter Booth at the end is one of the funnier moments in the film. The black-clad Watson pronounces that he is the devil (true to real life), only to be smoothly eliminated by Booth and his hungry pitbull. Atkins charges at Booth with a knife while screaming hysterically and gets a similar treatment. Booth then bashes Krenwinkel’s brains out. Atkins stumbles out of the house, barely alive, and lands in the pool, where Dalton happens to be lounging. Dalton ceremoniously finishes her off with a flamethrower he got on the set of a war film.

The hippies are shown to be pathetic losers who don’t stand a chance against Booth’s unflappable masculinity. Booth laughs at them and kills them with a smile. This is very un-PC, because one can only laugh and poke fun at one’s opponents if one is superior to them.

Unsurprisingly, feminist critics were outraged by the women’s hilariously violent deaths. They also complained about the small number of lines given to Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, whose only major scene features her going to the theater and watching a matinee of The Wrecking Crew (1969), in which she had a supporting role (“Miss Carlson, the klutz”). There is another scene in which she dances seductively to Paul Revere & the Raiders. Robbie’s lack of dialogue befits her character, who functions more as a pristine ideal than a person. Her beautiful blonde looks reinforce the film’s fairytale-like quality.

Tate’s visit to the theater epitomizes the blurred boundary between cinema and reality that characterizes the film – a motif that invites a comparison between the film and the present day. The theme of decline finds parallels in Tarantino’s own career (he has declared that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is his penultimate film), modern cinema, and white America.

Tarantino is a good example of how fidelity to the auteur tradition and the idea of cinema as an art form inevitably leads one to rebel against woke capital. Aspirations to artistic greatness are incompatible with the tyranny of equality and profit. Under woke capital, the two main functions of cinema are to pacify “oppressed” groups and to generate revenue. The destiny of cinema under neoliberalism is an endless stream of reboots, remakes, and sequels capitalizing on the popularity of ever-expanding mega-franchises. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a requiem for an age in which filmmaking was a craft and not a profit-directed enterprise.

Judging by the film’s box-office success ($41.1 million in three days, the strongest opening of all of Tarantino’s films), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has struck a chord with white America. Like Dalton and Booth, white Americans – particularly white men – are sensing that their future is being taken from them. They are no longer certain that modern America represents an improvement over what we have lost. Tarantino is in the same boat.

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18 Comments

  1. A. B.
    Posted August 20, 2019 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    This film can be interpreted as a sublimated anti-antifa film by a non-conservative but anti-PC director who has anxieties about the growth of antifa terrorism and enforced PC.  

    The Manson followers are analogues for antifa goons, both being dangerous elementals.

    I liked it, but had expected more jabs at Hollywood after hearing about Tarantino’s spat with the Disney corporate behemoth around the time of this film’s production.

  2. Posted August 12, 2019 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Great write up!

    I almost want to see the movie now, not in the theater, but eventually when it hits Redbox. The Lincoln letter scene from the Hateful 8 is one of the most red-pilled sequences to ever be captured on film. But, Tarantino just doesn’t have the same existential gravitas for me that a Christopher Nolan film does (excluding Interstellar).

    The noblesse oblige of Bruce Wayne vs. the nihilistic rage of Bane. Tarantino movies are creative, yet totally impotent revisionist fantasies of what might have been. Trying to turn DiCaprio into Hilts from Great Escape or Angel Eyes from For a Few Dollars More is impossible. Those movies have a timeless quality that modern movies can’t achieve, no matter the attention to period correct detail.

    Seriously, think about how good the Sergio Leone westerns were. Even as good as Outlaw Josie Wales was, The Good The Bad and The Ugly was epic. And how could you even compare the villa shootout scene in The Wild Bunch to anything until Black Hawk Down. Now it just feels like every single movie is a lecture or a cinematic directive from the Frankfurt School about intended social more’s. Even Jeremiah Johnson was a bit heavy on the evil and ignorant white man narrative. Which was later echoed in Dances With Wolves and Legends of The Fall.

    Then again, Seinfeld is the most thoroughly Jewish and subversive comedy ever made and I still love it.

    • Lord Shang
      Posted August 19, 2019 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      What the hell scene was that in Hateful 8? Lincoln letter? I don’t remember it at all (and I have been “red-pilled” (uh, us Old Schoolers say “awakened”) for 40 years). I HATED that movie. Aside from it’s being boring, it was also implicitly viciously antiwhite (unlike Inglorious and Django, which were explicitly antiwhite). Remember the scene of the Confederate general’s son sucking Samuel Jackson’s “johnson”? Reveling in insulting White masculinity. Tarantino is a piece of shit. I liked Pulp Fiction, but there were antiwhite undercurrents to that, too.

      What was wrong with Interstellar? I thought that was an excellent film, certainly more interesting than the juvenile Batman films (alas, maybe I’m showing my age).

      And why do you call Seinfeld “subversive”, implying “in a bad way”? I too loved Seinfeld – the only TV show I’ve watched since Cheers went off the air (I don’t own a TV, so I used to watch it with a friend, then years of reruns with a girlfriend). I think Seinfeld was subversive in a GOOD way.

  3. Franz
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Glad to note there’s little of the “loss of innocence” in Tarantino, which would be totally out of place in 1969.

    The Watts riots had been four Augusts before, in 1965, and one of the songs Steppenwolf released about the same time as the Manson murders suggests a much different era had already started.

    From “Monster” by Steppenwolf (1969) —

    “…’Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
    And now their vote is a meaningless joke
    They babble about law and order
    But it’s all just an echo of what they’ve been told
    Yeah, there’s a monster on the loose
    It’s got our heads into a noose
    And it just sits there watchin’

    Our cities have turned into jungles
    And corruption is stranglin’ the land
    The police force is watching the people
    And the people just can’t understand
    We don’t know how to mind our own business
    ‘Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us…

  4. Steven W
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I see it as a farewell to White cinema. Something from a “racist” past that is acknowledged as having existed but a tale of something that is gone and in the past forever as we are now Diversity Cinema.

    I certainly hope people rebel against letting it sink into the position as the untrendy unrecognisable past, like a previous trend/style you’re aware of and content with being over.

    White children need heroes, myths, stories, and relatable virtuous characters, romance, and history to grow well.

    • Otto Magdeburg
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, fat chance. Tarantino the reliable artistic source for White nostalgia, following Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained which were masterpierces of White nostalgia.

      Wishful thinking and projections…

      A more realistic possiblity (I haven’t seen the movie and don’t intent to): Tarantino might wish to refresh the old psyop which tried to blackwash the hippie movement with the Tate murder. This seems to be the view of Mister Graham as well. I was so surprised to see such a review. Normally I don’t agree with the movie interpretations on this site at all. A red letter day, indeed.

  5. Captain John Charity Spring MA
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Tarantino likes to create the ending you’d like. Atonement for the Characters.

    Robbie is so beautiful. I’m glad Tate got to live in the fiction. It’s hopeful.

  6. Otto Magdeburg
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Why is Miles Mathis not credited who is the originator of the theory that the deep state staged the Sharon Tate murder?

    Read for yourselves:

    http://mileswmathis.com/tate.pdf

  7. Happy Larry
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Do you have any recommended works on the early hippies that you describe as similar to the “volkisch” movement?

    • Hibernial
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      I would have thought hippies were anti – volkisch. They did drive kombi vans – there is that.

    • Posted August 12, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Try Gordon Kennedy’s “Children of the Sun.”

  8. Dazz
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Does this Manson conspiracy also claim every other wannabe guru and cult leader in San Francisco (of which plenty existed, and used their status to get between girls legs, and who Charlie would mimic to do the same) were also mind controlled and groomed to subvert the Hippie movement? A movement of mostly degenerates who killed off the Hippie movement long before the Manson killings (in 1977 the center of Hippiedom, the Haight was finished, it was crime, disease and filth ridden with nothing of any of its prior vitality).

    Does this conspiracy admit that Manson was in and out of prison he’s whole life and that his family background is typical for criminals and killers? That he read the likes of Dale Carnegie and L. Ron Hubbub? That due to being in prison he was in close contact with criminals and pimps who would give him techniques on how to control people? That in prison one of his favourite books was Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ which compares pretty well with his later life as a cult leader, and the source of his son’s name?

    None of this denies that likes of CIA/West/pick your figure were unaware of Manson, but far too often people on the right go the route of “its all orchestrated”, rather than a more likely one of “its allowed to happen”.

    • Dazz
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      1967 not 1977.

    • Theon
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      True, why do people so fixate on Manson, and not the hundreds of other bad things that happened, like the zebra murders and related death cults which had much more horrific death tolls?

  9. Theon
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    It’s been getting bad customer ratings on rt unfortunately. I liked the way you found objective portrayal of 60s SoCal as wistful and slightly sad. I have this experience too watching films as late as the 80s, even dorky horror flicks, like this Sssss! I was watching the other night. The tone is not intended but resultant of the altered demographics. Melancholy for a world of sparsely populated whites who care about things like school and ecology. A world gone with the wind.

  10. Peter Quint
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    So does Booth kick Bruce Lee’s ass? I have to watch this, oriental martial arts are over-rated.

    • Brutus
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      During his heyday and at the peak of his career, Jean-Claude van Damme got the shit beat out of him by a stuntman. I forget the stuntman’s name. It was reported in one of the better magazines of the time. The beating took place in a bar. I remember the stuntman saying Van Damme got mouthy and then made an “aggressive move.”

    • Lord Shang
      Posted August 19, 2019 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      The Lee actor – who did a good job in his minor role – was mouthing off about how he was tougher than Cassius Clay (hadn’t he become Muhammad Ali by 1969? maybe not), which got Pitt/Booth laughing. One thing led to another, and the Lee challenged Pitt to see which one could knock the other one down best out of three, while saying he would go easy because his “hands were registered as lethal weapons”. Lee knocks Booth down with a flying kick the first time, then Booth judos/throws Lee smack into a car door the second (I was laughing pretty hard). The Lee character did not come off well, what with the general ineffectiveness of all his Oriental shrieks and mannerisms.

      I must say that Pitt is finally showing his age, but still aging well. He was a pretty boy for so long, but now he really looks like a laconic tough guy (unlike DiCaprio, who will never look or be tough, no matter what films he’s in). He could play movie toughs until he’s 70 at this rate. One of the world’s luckiest guys.

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