Auteur Quentin Tarantino is no stranger to controversy as he and his films have basically courted it his entire career. That certainly did not change for his penultimate film, this summer’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The star-studded love letter to the Tinseltown of Tarantino’s youth has been criticized for a variety of perceived sins, resulting in not insignificant backlash to the film. Coming to Quentin Tarantino’s defense though is his Desperado co-star Antonio Banderas, saying:
I think an artist should be free. Then people should be free to agree or disagree. You have the freedom to continue watching his movies or not. [You can say] ‘I will never go and see a movie from Tarantino again’. Or ‘I love his movies and I’m gonna go and see them again’. I think we should respect that freedom.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been criticized for its portrayal of violence against women, the amount of dialogue Margot Robbie gets as Sharon Tate and that character’s role in the film and the depiction of Hollywood and martial arts legend, Bruce Lee. But Antonio Banderas does not weigh in on any of those criticisms or make any judgments about their validity.
Antonio Banderas isn’t defending Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or the choices Tarantino makes in the film, he is simply defending his right to make them. What is perfectly evident in his comments to the Independent is that Antonio Banderas believes strongly in artistic freedom and freedom of expression and a filmmaker’s entitlement to make the movie he or she wants to make.
That’s not to say that those movies should be immune from criticism because of artistic freedom, just that people should be able to make up their own minds. If a person doesn’t like a film, if it offends or disgust them, they can vote with their dollar by not supporting that filmmaker in the future. It’s a sane and nuanced take and I frankly have no idea what it’s doing on the internet of 2019.
And lest you think that Antonio Banderas’ sensibilities are such that he isn’t offended by anything he sees onscreen, he goes on:
There are sometimes things in art that, I have to tell you, they bother me... but I will never, never, never censor them.
Like many people, Antonio Banderas will see things in art that rub him the wrong way and get to him. But instead of adopting what seems to be the modus operandi in the modern age, he doesn’t immediately take to social media calling for the artist’s head and demanding that their career be over. Instead he votes with his dollar and his attention by not watching those things that he doesn’t like.
Antonio Banderas might not like something in art, he may even hate it, but he believes in its right to exist and the artist’s right to make it. The way he sees it, you can judge the art, but you can’t police it. So, to Antonio Banderas, if you don’t like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or have issues with Quentin Tarantino’s art, that is every bit your right, but it shouldn't be censored.
Now obviously Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a thornier film than some because it deals with real people who existed and whose family members still exist. Therefore, it can be more directly and personally hurtful than a situation where someone is just offended by a fictional movie. I’m not sure there is a perfect answer in these situations, but Antonio Banderas’ opinion seems pretty sensible.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is still in theaters so you can judge it for yourself. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule for all this year’s biggest movies.