Phil on Film Index

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sally Menke: 1953 – 2010

The name of Sally Menke might not be as widely known as that of Quentin Tarantino, but the director himself frequently acknowledged the enormous debt he owes to his editor, who died yesterday. Menke edited every one of Tarantino's films, from his blistering debut Reservoir Dogs to last year's Inglourious Basterds, and her influence cannot be overstated. While it was Tarantino who devised the dynamic sequences, wrote the crackling dialogue and selected the memorable soundtracks, it was Menke who took all of that material and shaped it into the finished product. She and the director seemed to click instantly, and her ability to express his vision on screen resulted in some extraordinary sequences. Think of Reservoir Dogs' opening and closing scenes; think of the way Vincent's ill-fated date with Mia plays out in Pulp Fiction; think of the pivotal mall sequence in Jackie Brown. Even when I disliked Tarantino's films, which I often did, there was rarely good reason to criticise the technical aspects of his pictures. I hated much of his Kill Bill diptych, but Tarantino's flair, Robert Richardson's cinematography and Menke's superb editing ensured both films were as vibrant and vivid as could be. Quentin Tarantino has lost a great friend and collaborator, while cinema in general has lost an editor who was truly a master of her art.