Hidden Meanings Behind the Movie,
"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
Reviewed by Joy Ramos Davis

Synopsis: "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is an action and adventure drama based partly on historical events.  Directed by Quentin Tarantino, it is a fictionalized account of the Manson Family murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her three housemates on the night of August 9, 1969.  Their deaths marked the end "Old Hollywood" for many.  The film follows actor Rick Dalton and his stunt-double Cliff Booth as their lives intersect with Tate's own as neighbors in a showdown against Manson's followers.

Warning: Spoilers within the Presentation

Subconscious Mind Records Reality

Welcome to "Conscious Movie Reviews".  I'm your host Joy Davis and here to review "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" that is an action and adventure drama.

Directed by Quentin Tarantino, he offers a revisionist history about the grisly murders of the pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her three housemates by the Manson family that marked the end of the "Golden Age of Hollywood" on August 9, 1969.

At the time, the filmmaker was only 6 years old and living in Los Angeles. 

As a fictional story, every major character in the film is really Tarantino when looked at from a subconscious level.  That's because our subconscious mind is a built-in and very sophisticated recording device that records every experience, whether it physically happened, was imagined, heard about, read, or watched on the screen as the same reality without any judgment or resistance. 

Therefore, Tarantino subconsciously accepted the tragedy since childhood, as if he were each person going through it.  I'll give examples throughout this review to explain the association.   

A Traditionalist Nature

Within the film, veteran actor Rick Dalton came to realize that he's a has-been in Hollywood.  Offers to play a cowboy on TV have dried up, so he drinks out of misery.  Viewed from the subconscious, Rick is really Quentin Tarantino for not liking change.  As a traditionalist by nature, he prefers the classic way of doing things, like his tendency to revive an old film genre.  In this case, American Westerns.  And by buying the New Beverly Cinema, a historic theater in Los Angeles, Tarantino has preserved the showing of movies that were shot with 35 millimeter celluloid film.

Cliff Booth faithfully served as Rick's stunt-double and sidekick doing odd jobs for him.  This is Tarantino again for his loyal support of many actors who've been labeled has-beens by resurrecting the careers of John Travolta, Pam Grier, David Carradine, and others.

From Old to New Hollywood

As a young starlet, Sharon Tate was part of the Golden Age of Hollywood through work and play.  She took great delight in being with movie-goers who laughed out loud from watching her do comedy in "The Wrecking Crew" at the local theatre.  Being the actress in his subconscious mind, Tarantino as Sharon has had an ongoing love affair with Old Hollywood and relishes in being able to "move an audience".  

On the flip side, Tarantino represents the vanguard of New Hollywood - similar to the emergence of Spaghetti Westerns as a subgenre of Westerns during the mid-1960s.  One movie critic wrote that he "single-handedly redirected the future of independent cinema while making a new standard of "cool" in movies", calling his body of work "a new era of artsy, small budget films with the potential to become massive pop-culture phenomenas." 

The Manson murders marked the end of Old Hollywood.  Films by Tarantino that present an alternate history are often at the cusp of something big, like the Antebelllum South before the Civil War in "Django Unchained" or the final days of Nazi rule during World War II in "Inglorious Basterds." 

Many transitional periods in history are filled with major events that cause collective shock or disruption to usher in a new era.  This is also Tarantino in the way he likes to provide shock value on the screen that's disruptive. 

Drama on the Set

When martial arts great Bruce Lee instigated a fight with Cliff, Tarantino reveals that he can be arrogant in a mouthy way to defend his artistic freedom against those in the media who don't like his style of filmmaking.

On the set of a show called "Lancer", Rick seated himself nearby Trudi, his 8-year-old co-star.  "Whip smart" and precocious, the method actress intellectualized about taking their craft seriously as a know-it-all.  Being Trudi, Tarantino shows that he's made a long and careful study of how movies are classically made to have an encyclopedic knowledge about them. 

A Commune of Killers

Cliff was both an intrusion and curiosity at the Spahn Ranch that housed a commune of hippie squatters -  mostly young women known as the "Manson Family".  He brutally decked Clem of the group for slashing his front car tire with a knife. 

The hippies are Tarantino for being on the fringe as a director with a filmmaking style that's very counter-culture.  He's also Manson for his cult-like following by his fans who regard the hyper-violence as art.  By exaggerating it in a cartoonish way, he makes us laugh at the absurdity to quell any feelings of horror about the murders.  As for Tarantino's own screen family, they are women, trained to kill.  He can direct them to enact vengeance from being a master manipulator.   

Revenge of Tarantino

Manson's group carried knives to go after Rick Dalton at his home, instead of Sharon Tate on the night of August 9th.  When the thought of real-life murder is too stressful, you can change it in an imaginative way as a self-soothing exercise, similar to replaying a bad dream in your mind's eye so that it ends in a better way.  By doing that, you're taking charge of your inner worlds, including the subconscious.  Tarantino alternated history throughout his movie to have his preferred ending where the bad guys get their due.    

Under the influence of an acid-laced cigarette, Cliff defended himself against their knife attacks to kill two of the Manson followers with help from his pit bull.  And, with a flame thrower in hand, Rick incinerated the remaining one by the pool.     

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