Friday, November 20, 2020

Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish and Four Rooms: Eek!

Okay, so: the last time I watched Four Rooms - a Miramax film in which Quentin Tarantino and his chum and collaborator, Robert Rodriguez, were both deeply involved - I had not read that trashy article about Quentin Tarantino and his foot fetish; which is to say, I was not AWARE of Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish.

It is, truly, a trashy article (I will leave you to find it yourself, folks, should you have missed it; it no doubt is still out there, somewhere, and called something like "Quentin Tarantino Sucked My Toes" or such). It does more to turn you off the author than it does Tarantino, since she performs some fairly low-class moves (including an unflattering description of Quentin Tarantino's "choad," if I recall), though it is, undoubtedly, also amusing (in its tawdry, trashy way)... I would perhaps have found it more disgusting than I did, if I didn't find Tarantino at times a bit hard to take - or if he seemed more concerned with keeping his foot fetish private. Also, I don't mind if Quentin Tarantino digs feet, and having read the article has only served to further enhance my enjoyment of his films (or the ones that I enjoy). Like, before reading it, I made nothing of the feet in Jackie Brown; then after reading it, it was like, "Oh yeah..." 

There are plenty of articles online that address Tarantino's interest in feet - for example, Sleek Mag's "All of Quentin Tarantino's Filmic Foot Fetish Moments." (They don't include Four Rooms, which I will get to presently). That article was published, clearly, before the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is the film that really ups the ante, with so many female feet in it that even the least observant cinemagoer, who had somehow missed all the previous foot-worship in Tarantino's cinema, will be going, "What's with all the feet?" It becomes a bit irritating, actually - about the only thing I didn't enjoy about the movie, since even signature riffs only need to be used sparingly. It get to be like, What if Alfred Hitchcock had inserted himself not just once in every film, but in every second scene? Had I been his producer, I might have said something like, "Yes, yes, Quentin. The whole world knows now. You have nothing to lose or hide. You still don't need feet in every second scene!"

But you know what I wasn't prepared for - the previous film associated with Tarantino where the foot-stuff gets insanely overt? Four Rooms, from 1995 - made after Pulp Fiction, before Jackie Brown, and released a year prior to From Dusk Til Dawn, which was directed by Robert Rodriguez, but co-written by and co-starring Tarantino (the image of him sucking Selma Hayek's toes at the top of the page is from it). Four Rooms is a not-entirely-successful film, but rather, one of those ambitious, excessive, self-indulgent, "woo, we're rich, let's have a party"-type movies that sometimes get made when filmmakers have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, as Tarantino and Miramax had with Pulp Fiction, and suddenly they find they have a budget, a lot of people who want to work with them, and complete authorial control. It is the same sort of soil from which sprang Alex Cox's Straight to Hell (which I find delightful, and talked to Cox about here), but the final product, amazingly, fares even worse, critically, than Straight to Hell (compare that film's 33% on Rotten Tomatoes with Four Rooms' 13%). But it's still full of fun things - from animation that riffs on the Pink Panther films, to a ridiculous (but at times effective) Chaplin-cum-Keaton performance from Tim Roth, as a bellhop whose presence unites four separate short films, which the film stacks from the weakest to the strongest. 

Occupying the weakest slot, Alison Anders offers an over-the-top "lesbian Wiccan" parody sketch built around a blowjob joke and Madonna dressed in rubber. Alexandre Rockwell (best known by me for In the Soup, a really fun Steve Buscemi-Seymour Cassell film that he'd made a few years earlier) makes a slightly more effective short that contains Roth's funniest moments in the film (the first being where he is forced at gunpoint to confess to having fucked a man, but only because the man forcing him to say this has an imperfect command of English grammar; the second involving a window that he gets briefly stuck in). Skipping over the third room for a moment, Tarantino gets pride of place, at the end of the film, making the most fully-realized, longest, and entertaining sketch in the film, "The Man from Hollywood," a more or less straight adaptation of a Roald Dahl short story with an uncredited Bruce Willis cameo. But before that sequence - the one that actually makes Four Rooms worth watching - comes the film's true WTF moment: "The Misbehavers," written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. 

Did Rodriguez know, before participating in Foor Rooms, that Tarantino had a foot fetish? Had any pre-production taken place on From Dusk Til Dawn when Four Rooms was made, that might have made Tarantino's foot-worship a bit obvious? ("And in this scene, we have a close-up of Juliette Lewis' toes..."). I don't know, to be honest. Maybe this is something Rodriguez has talked about elsewhere - I didn't find anything about it on Google, but this may be known stuff I am writing about, having come late to the party. Still, Rodriguez goes to town on foot stuff in his segment in Foor Rooms, called "The Misbehavers," in which children being baby-sat by Roth's character, Ted the bellhop, wreak havoc on their parents' hotel room. And crazily, it is children's feet that Rodriguez focuses on: girl's feet, boy's feet... it's almost like he is teasing Tarantino, trying to get his friend into trouble:

Feet are central to the story, because the two children keep saying something in the room smells like dirty feet. They inspect each other's feet, accusing each other of not having cleaned their feet, which gives Rodriguez license to include shots like this (which I made nothing of when previously watching the film, but can't help do a double-take on now): 


The overall context is pretty innocent, actually - at least until the children discover the dead prostitute hidden in the mattress, which is the real source of the bad smell - but looked at now, its hard not to read at least a couple of images as sexualized.


And when young actor Danny Verduzco starts sucking on his own toes, apropos of pretty much nothing, it actually brought the Dicks' "Little Boys Feet" to mind (a punk song written by Gary Floyd as a provocation to homophobes, it's about a kinky shoe store employee with a passion for children's feet. Googling it so I can provide you a link, I get a warning that "Child Sexual Abuse Imagery is Illegal," but relax, Google: it's a SONG I am looking up. Am I now flagged, or something? Note to self: do not Google phrases like "dicks little boys feet" from now on). 



I mean, if you knew your filmmaking collaborator had a foot fetish that was not yet public knowledge, would you go to town on putting images of children's feet into a film you were co-authoring with him? Is Rodriguez teasing Tarantino, here? How did Tarantino take it? How do these young actors - Danny Verduzco and Lana McKissack - feel about the segment now? I see there was a 2017 screening of Four Rooms with McKissack doing a Q&A. Did anyone ask her questions about having her feet represented thus - or about Tarantino's interest in feet, or about Harvey Weinstein, involved in producing the film? (Looks like that Q&A took place shortly before Weinstein was outed; McKissack may have dodged a bullet, there!).   

I guess I have to go see if the blu-ray for the film  has a commentary track; my DVD doesn't. Meantime - I'm intrigued and disturbed to have "discovered" all of this, in revisiting Four Rooms, and am enjoying sharing the film with my wife, even if, indeed, something smells a little funny here. 

It may be the children's feet, after all.


Postscript: 

Watched the final segment of the film, the one directed by Tarantino, tonight. Hadn't appreciated how much it can be read as a time capsule of the mood around Miramax when the film was made, with Tarantino and Bruce Willis maybe playing (or satirizing) themselves...? Not sure who Paul Calderon is supposed to be playing. It's brilliant, and has no foot-fetish element whatsoever.

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