The Apology of Socrates was written by Plato between 393 and 389 B.C. It was intended to vindicate the name of his teacher, executed around 399 B.C., who had been accused of introducing new gods and corrupting the morals of young people (as if that were a challenge). At least, that was the excuse. Socrates, despite having fought for Athens during the Peloponnesian War, was perceived as “close” to the Thirty Tyrants (so was Plato, but apparently he wasn’t fast enough to find his guardians and refused the offer to belong to the bloody oligarchic government). Socrates could have fled Athens, but he bravely accepted his fate (Stoically? Not just yet).
Spring was beginning in 1963 in what was once “the underwear capital of the world.” From the womb of a young, naïve mother, writer/director (the soul behind my favorite break-up movie, Death Proof) Quentin Tarantino was born. And just like that, the world was a little bit better.
I can understand the reader’s confusion at the immense geographical, temporal and almost thematic leap involved in going from Socrates to Quentin Tarantino. I can understand it, but not validate it. For starters, there is certain physical resemblance between the philosopher and the director, especially at the level of the eyes (it is pertinent to take a look at the YouTube channel JudeMaris, specialized in facial reconstructions).
There is, moreover, a murderous incomprehension that unites these two indispensable figures. I am sure that the people who despised Socrates are the same people who today, in a kind of cosmic recycling of stupidity and boredom, disown Tarantino as “violent.” We all know such people: people who have never had a single day of fun in their whole lives. People who don’t laugh, who never go out without an umbrella, who have never been fined, who don’t use every cylindrical object longer than fifty centimeters as a lightsaber.
Quentin’s metahumor is his “I only know that I know nothing”; and the blood, his Socratic method. Every gag is a rebuttal to what is and never should have been, or to what perhaps would be better as a mere wisp of the will. This misunderstood, broken and capricious man resists and feeds his demons in the name of a puerile but constant obsession that doesn’t fear its darkest shadows. Aren’t I describing us all?
Socrates walked around Athens berating every citizen who crossed his path. There were those who laughed at this rather ugly man of questionable hygiene. The genius of Aristophanes, the foundation stone of comedy, dedicated to him the very cruel The Clouds, which portrayed the philosopher as a demagogue who abused the naivety and fanaticism of his disciples (The Clouds is a brilliant piece of the old comedy that should be celebrated not for its mockery of Socrates but because it had the freedom to exist, something unthinkable in times of a rotten political correctness that pretends to bore us all to death).
Quentin Tarantino walks around movie theaters, the ones he fights to Disney, the monopolistic and frigid bully with whom we share a table (and whom we put up with only for The Mandalorian). Quentin, who like all of us has a complex emotional baggage, opens the doors to the world of the unthinkable, of the “what if…?”, of blood that defies gravity just to make us laugh.
These paragraphs are not intended to be a review of the American director’s career (there are people better equipped than me for such a task) but (and may Zeus forgive me) to be a vindication of all that is good. Tarantino is fine because he is pure, because he is painfully funny, and because he is a victim of the same indescribable pain that led Socrates to accept the unjust condemnation that fell upon him. And I repeat: perhaps that should be the fate of all men.