Quentin Tarantino is a genius. We can argue the details, but as a filmmaker, he is almost unmatched. Pulp Fiction alone changed cinema forever. He can work in any style and deliver a fantastic film. Nearly every film is not only good or even great, but spectacular. Even his weakest effort (and the fact that no one can agree on what one that is) is better than nearly every filmmaker’s best work.
All of which makes My Best Friend’s Birthday a fascinating viewing experience. Co-written by Tarantino and Craig Hamann and directed by (and starring) Tarantino, the film was made from 1984 – 1987 on 16mm for an estimated $5,000 while Tarantino worked at a video store. (The Clerks parallels are pretty astounding.)
It was originally a 70-minute film, but due to a fire only 36 minutes of the film remains, and this cut has been screened at several film festivals. If you’re interested, the screenplay can be found online. Tarantino never attended film school, but he considers My Best Friend’s Birthday to be his coursework:
“Tarantino has referred to this film as his ‘film school.’ Although the film was by his own admission very poorly directed, the experience gained from the film helped him in directing future films. Some of the dialogue would go on to be used in Quentin’s script True Romance.”
It’s a bit of a mess and not just because only half of the film survives. The music is often louder than the dialogue and the editing is far from smooth. Unlike Clerks, it is not a great film on its own, but there are certain scenes and camera angles that show a window into a budding auteur that would soon go on to change the game and the dialogue is unmistakably Tarantino:
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.