Entitled: Jackie Brown

jackie brown

Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino’s first adaptation of another writer’s work (crime novel Rum Punch, Elmore Leonard) nevertheless has that unmistakeable QT vibe, even within the opening titles.

Jackie is a flight attendant, played by Pam Grier. A mature,still striking woman, yet wearying of the her gruelling schedule, she bolsters her retirement fund by smuggling currency for criminal Ordell Robbie (Samuel L Jackson). Tarantino first frames her in in a profile shot, entering screen right on an airport travelator. She remains to the right as the film’s titles appear in yellow to the left, while colourful wall tiles in shades of yellow, blue, red and green roll past behind – colours and typeface redolent of the Blaxploitation films Grier starred in in the ’70’s.

She remains poised and still, looking straight ahead, briefly adjusting her blue uniform jacket. Jackie doesn’t yet know it, but she will soon be caught between ATF agents, eager to ensnare ordell, and Ordell himself, who believes she’s been cheating him. On the surface, the scene plays out as a normal routine, but the late Bobby Womack’s lyrics to Across 110th Street (itself written years before for a Blaxploitation film) tell the real story playing behind her eyes:

Been down so long, getting up didn’t cross my mind,
I knew there was a better way of life that I was just trying to find.
You don’t know what you’ll do until you’re put under pressure,
Across 110th Street is a hell of a tester.

Jackie will do whatever it takes to survive – she wants OUT. Contrast this with another airport travelator opening in Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock is unsure of the path ahead; Hello Darkness My old Friend reinforces his sense of isolation.

In Jackie Brown, we next see luggage X-rayed, but we don’t see through Jackie – she projects behind her smile for the passengers at the gate (“Welcome aboard!“) an impregnable facade of steel.

RIP Bobby Womack 03/03/44 – 27/06/14

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