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Will Macon Blair and Jeremy Saulnier Fill the Tarantino Void?

Will Macon Blair and Jeremy Saulnier Fill the Tarantino Void?

With Quentin Tarantino threatening to quit the filmmaking racket soon, he isn’t so much actively passing a torch as much as leaving a giant visionary vacuum in cinema. But if we were to highlight a pair of artists best poised to fill that space, we’d lay the title on frequent collaborators Macon Blair and Jeremy Saulnier. Through Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room (both of which starred Blair), and Blair’s directorial debut i don’t feel at home in this world anymore., they’ve cut their teeth on taut, engaging thrillers that utilize the language of genre films without succumbing to cliches.

They’ve also utilized emerging, risk-taking distribution companies like A24, RADiUS, and Netflix much in the same way Tarantino drafted off of a young Miramax. They’ve launched into the public sphere at the side of companies willing to champion uncompromising, ultra cool visions. The only thing missing is Tarantino’s early, wild success.

i don’t feel at home in this world anymore. saw Blair making a Ninja star-shaped mark on the face of cinema, announcing himself instantly as a genre auteur worth caring deeply about. After playing the forlorn everyman thrust into a terrible situation far above his moral paygrade in Blue Ruin, Blair has crafted a raggedy, off-kilter everywoman (played to perfection by Melanie Lynskey) who’s sent on a cruel misadventure with her oddball neighbor (Elijah Wood) after the former’s house is robbed. The real joy of the film (besides its absurdly long title) is that nothing in the characters’ lives would have prepared them for the mess they get into. But instead of making them insta-heroes, Blair is brutally honest about how terrible they foul things up along the way.

i-dont-feel-at-home-in-this-world-anymore-elijah-wood-melanie-lynskey

I understand the eye roll that comes free of charge with a potentially hyperbolic claim of anyone being The Next Something, but to make the case for Blair and Saulnier, I’d like to consider J.J. Abrams. Even before Super 8, but especially after it, a cascade of hot takes were calling him this generation’s Spielberg. There may be some merit to that (his commercial success, brand-building, and love of ’80s-style spectacle), but Super 8 wasn’t made with the same spirit as Spielberg; it was directly cribbing Spielberg’s style. Abrams had only proved that he could skillfully emulate another director’s signature look.

When it comes to Tarantino, plenty of other filmmakers have tried that. Too many. But the key to becoming a new generation’s version of an icon isn’t to copy/paste that icon’s work, but to utilize a similar spirit to craft your own unique vision.

While playing in the same narrative sandbox, Blair and Saulnier have almost nothing in common stylistically with Tarantino, which is as it should be. Yet their work clearly stems from a similar, genre-steeped passion for cinema. They are Tarantinos for a generation weaned on Tarantino–storytellers who can stand on those shoulders and speak to those who grew up with jobs gone bad, violence against ears, and tasty burgers. This generation (because of Tarantino and others) has a bone-deep love and knowledge of genre films, which is why we need filmmakers now who can twist those beloved tropes into something new and exciting.

Blue Ruin

Blair’s next gig as a writer is Hold the Dark (which Saulnier is directing), about a wolf hunter tracking a young girl in the Alaskan bush. And his next stint as director (which Saulnier is producing) is The Shitheads. It’s this latter project where Blair just gave a clear head nod toward Tarantino. The film features two idiots who have to escort a teenage millionaire to rehab, and, according to Deadline, the project has found its idiots in Tracy Morgan and Luke Wilson. This type of casting–complex comedic actors turning against type for bloody doom–is straight out of the Tarantino playbook. It’s a fascinating, borrowed dash of flavor in a recipe that’s unmistakably Blair’s.

Tarantino swears he’ll retire after his next two movies. He may or may not stick to that (looking at you, Soderbergh…), but if he does, it’s thrilling to know that daring genre pictures are in safe, nearly-chopped-off hands.

Featured Image: Netflix

Images: Netflix, RADiUS/TWC


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