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How Quentin Tarantino’s Lost First Film Predicted His Whole Filmography

Before ‘Reservoir Dogs’ there was ‘My Best Friend’s Birthday.’
Quentin Tarantino First Film My Best Friends Birthday
By  · Published on August 28th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores Quentin Tarantino’s first film, My Best Friend’s Birthday.

For almost three decades, no one has cornered the market on bombastic violence, pop culture references, and gratuitous barefoot shots quite like Quentin Tarantino. Truly: what the man lacks in subtext, he more than makes up for in revenge fantasies.

Tarantino makes movies about movies, simultaneously celebrating and defying the medium’s conventions, reveling shamelessly in his passion for all things film. It’s a precedent set by Tarantino’s debut feature, Reservoir Dogs. Only, that’s not exactly true. See: Reservoir Dogs wasn’t really Tarantino’s first film.

No, that honor falls to My Best Friend’s Birthday, Tarantino’s inaugural feature-length film, made with two video store buddies for $5,000 in 1987. A screwball comedy, the film follows a young man trying and failing to do something nice for his friend’s birthday.

Only thirty-six minutes of the film still exist. The bulk of My Best Friend’s Birthday was lost in a lab fire and never released. Much of the script later found its way into the Tarantino-penned True Romance. But, more than that, the film laid out the blueprint for the tone and tropes that would define Tarantino’s career.

As the video essay below highlights, My Best Friend’s Birthday contains many of the trappings that make Tarantino Tarantino, from organic long takes to flashy naturalistic dialogue, to adoring defenses of (who else?) Elvis. The film may lack the polish (and, uh, half the runtime — thanks, fire!), but there’s no doubt about it: even in his first feature, Tarantino’s directorial voice was loud, recognizable, and singular.

Watch “How My Best Friend’s Birthday Foreshadows Tarantino’s Career“:

Who made this?

Alexander Lorain (a.k.a. Dysnomia Films) is an Australian video essayist and filmmaker. You can check out Lorain’s short films and video essays on Dysnomia Films’ YouTube page here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.