“Wow, you look really cool. It looks great. You wear that suit in a business meeting, and you’ll be the badass in the room.”
Jackie Brown, my favorite film in Tarantino’s oeuvre, has an understated visual quality; as if it romanticizes violence where his other works fetishize it. The relatively modest aesthetic means that unlike his other films, there are no particular shots or scenes that have entered the collective psyche. Sure, there are memorable moments like the sight of Jackie sliding across the blue-tiled wall in her blue suit, or Melanie touching the rim of Louis' glass with her toes. But they're not immediate standouts in the way Vincent and Mia's dance sequence is in Pulp Fiction, or The Bride wiggling her big toe and fighting the crazy 88 is in Kill Bill, or Aldo Raine pretending to be Gorlomi is in Inglourious Basterds, or... you get the idea.
The standout in Jackie Brown is not a scene or a shot. It's Jackie. She rules the film. Her presence is felt even when she's not on screen, which is unique for a director who's always the star of the show in all his films. But Tarantino knows that this one is the perfect marriage between artist and the material; and the artist here is Pam Grier. There's so much of her history and older pictures in this that it's unbelievable the final product still comes out a wholly original piece of its own.
So it was that every shot I shortlisted for this post featured Pam Grier, and immediately after I settled on this one, it hit me that there really wasn't anything else I could go for. It culminates everything I like about Jackie Brown. The lighting showcases the understated aesthetic Tarantino employs throughout the film and that image of Grier, coolly smoking her cigarette, brings back the memory of the salesgirl's comment on her suit earlier in the store. She's boiling on the inside. She's run through her lines, her every move, countless times to perfect it. But no one else will know it. The only thing they see is the badass in the room.