Quentin Tarantino praises subversion in Joker and that talk show scene

Joker. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment, HBO Max
Joker. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment, HBO Max /

Vanguard auteur and Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino has good and bad things to say about Joker and its climactic scene that went down on a talk show.

Few people saw Joker coming in 2019. The dark, comic thriller from director Todd Phillips grossed over a billion dollars and won awards for its star, Joaquin Phoenix, to everyone’s surprise.

It also came with a share of scandal. Some feared the plot might inspire violence and the film faced scrutiny for other things, namely the way it lifted so clearly and nostalgically from the cinema of Martin Scorsese. In particular, Joker is a graft of Scorsese cult classics Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.

Both of those movies starred Robert De Niro, who played Murray Franklin in Joker, and they explored similar themes of mental health and social isolation with a near-equal amount of grit.

Many noticed this and director Quentin Tarantino certainly did, remarking his gripes with Phillips’ movie during a three-hour podcast conversation with Shaun of the Dead filmmaker Edgar Wright (transcribed by The Playlist).

What does Quentin Tarantino think of Joker?

Tarantino understands the power of nostalgia; his films are brimming with it. Yet Joker either didn’t blend it well or hit the wrong reminiscing notes, as it left him nonplussed. Tarantino asked.

"“Is this where we live now? Take great movies from the ‘70s and redo them as pop-cultural artifacts?”"

He may feel bittersweet about that aspect of the film but one scene stands out to him immensely due to its impact: The one where Fleck appears on “The Murray Franklin Show” and shoots Murray dead.

Tarantino said he felt “the entire atmosphere in the theater change,” at that point, adding there is an underlying subversion to the scene:

"“The subversion on a massive level, the thing that’s profound is this: It’s not just suspenseful, it’s not just riveting and exciting, the director subverts the audience because the Joker is a [f-king] nut.”"

Defending the character of Murray, he continued:

"“Robert De Niro’s talk show character is not a movie villain. He seems like an [a-hole], but he’s not more of an [a-hole] than David Letterman. He’s just an [a-hole] comedian, talk show guy. He’s not a movie villain. He doesn’t deserve to die.”"

But, like a slasher film that puts you in the perspective of Jason or Michael, the audience roots for Arthur:

"“Yet, while the audience is watching the Joker, they want him to kill Robert De Niro; they want him to take that gun, and stick it in his eye and blow his [f-king] head off. And if the Joker didn’t kill him? You would be pissed off.”"

Tarantino calls that “subversion on a massive level,” adding the film made audience members think like Arthur as they “want [Arthur to kill Murray].” And here he brings the audience to task for their reaction:

"“And they will lie about it! They will say, ‘no, I didn’t [want it to happen]!,’ and they are f-king liars. They did.”"

Though this analysis is one man’s opinion, Arthur Fleck, mentally unstable and compromised as he is, serves as the movie’s de facto hero – the same way Travis Bickle did in Taxi Driver.

Joker is available on HBO Max. You can find Taxi Driver on Netflix and Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, on Hulu.

Next. Justice League: Zack Snyder drops huge Snyder Cut bombshell. dark

Do you agree with Tarantino’s thoughts on Joker? Kindly share your opinion, and possible rebuttal, in the comments.