Alison Willmore in BuzzFeedNews:
The Cannes Film Festival has been an adoring showcase for Quentin Tarantino ever since he was anointed with the big prize, the Palme d’Or, for Pulp Fiction in 1994. That only made the discomfort of his tense exchange with New York Times reporter Farah Nayeri at this year’s event more telling. Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, made its world premiere at the festival in May, where it received a six-minute standing ovation. The filmmaker and his cast were holding court at the subsequent press conference when Nayeri pressed Tarantino about why the movie’s woman lead, Margot Robbie (playing real-life Manson family murder victim Sharon Tate), had so little dialogue in the shaggy 1960s-set showbiz comedy.
“This is a person with great acting talent, and yet you haven’t given her many lines in the movie,” Nayeri said, citing Robbie’s roles in I, Tonya and The Wolf of Wall Street. “I guess that was a deliberate choice on your part. And I just wanted to know why that was that we don’t hear her speak that much.” Tarantino didn’t reply to Nayeri so much as refuted her whole line of questioning. “Well, I just reject your hypotheses,” he said, leaving Robbie to smooth over the awkward moment by speaking about the challenge of playing a character who’s mostly by herself in her biggest scenes.
It was, to be fair, an oddly phrased question. Tarantino didn’t write the script around the cast; Once Upon a Time features a range of famous faces in much smaller roles than Robbie’s; and even with a writer as verbose as Tarantino, counting lines is not a surefire way to measure the quality of a part. But his curtness in dismissing the concerns of a woman journalist (dredging up memories of his painfully testy exchange with critic Jan Wahl in 2003) made the exchange explode across the internet. And it reignited a conversation that’s dogged the director for years and that has, post-#MeToo, risen in volume: As a filmmaker, is Tarantino bad to — or for — women?