Love him or hate him — or, in the case of many filmmakers, copy him shamelessly — Quentin Tarantino’s nine films have left a giant footprint on the last 30 years of American movies. With this summer’s “Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood” sparking a new round of conversation, adulation and division, it’s a good time for Tara Wood’s documentary “QT8: The First Eight” to arrive.
The documentary screens at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, at New Vision Fitchburg, Marcus Point and Marcus Palace theaters.
If you’re looking for deep insights into Tarantino’s background or personal life, you won’t find them here. Instead, as the title suggests, “QT8” focuses on the movies, a film-by-film breakdown of Tarantino’s oeuvre, full of juicy behind-the-scenes stories from Tim Roth, Jamie Foxx, Zoe Bell, Michael Madsen, Christoph Waltz and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson.
It’s a journey that starts with Tarantino parlaying the $20,000 he earned playing an Elvis impersonator on “Golden Girls” into financing 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs,” and ends with him having the clout to shoot and screen 2015’s “The Hateful Eight” on 70mm film, all but unheard of in the age of digital. Tarantino does not appear in the film, but onscreen quotes from the endlessly quotable director are peppered throughout.
Roth talks about hugging Madsen after shooting their “Dogs” death scenes, their bodies so covered with fake blood that they stuck together. Eli Roth talks about Tarantino keeping him waiting for several days to play the “Bear Jew” in “Inglourious Basterds,” so he could bring all that pent-up energy to the screen in the scene where he takes a baseball bat to a Nazi. Foxx and Jackson talk about a scene where Leonardo DiCaprio badly cut his hand during a scene in “Django Unchained” and kept going, earning a standing ovation from cast and crew.
Tarantino sets sound like a lot of fun and a lot of work — cell phones are banned, and Tarantino never watches the actors on a monitor, instead standing next to the camera to juice his actors along. Waltz said the director’s love of making movies is palpable and irresistible. “There’s no inoculation against the bug. You get infected whether you want to or not.”
But sometimes that enthusiasm crosses a line. “QT8” includes horrific footage of an on-set car accident that Uma Thurman was involved in during “Kill Bill” that left her with permanent neck and ankle injuries. Thurman seems to have forgiven Tarantino for coercing her into driving the car — he gave her the footage knowing it would hurt his reputation — and she remains angry not at him, but at producer and Miramax head Harvey Weinstein for covering up the incident.
Weinstein’s close relationship with Tarantino looms in the background of “QT8,” and Wood’s attempts to address his alleged crimes without disrupting the flow of the documentary feel awkward. Similarly, discussion of the controversy over the portrayal of black characters in Tarantino’s early films, including his prodigious use of the “n” word, feels dutiful rather than sincere, a box that has to be checked off rather than a subject that truly has to be considered. The film gets into greater focus when talking about the run of strong female characters — both heroes and villains — that have been a staple of Tarantino’s films since “Pulp Fiction.”
With Tarantino apparently firm in his plans to make one more film after “Hollywood” and then retire from moviemaking, “QT8” is an entertaining and enthusiastic look back on where he’s been.