ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Cert 18 161mins Stars 5

No modern director can excite and confound an audience the way Quentin Tarantino does, and he returns to cinema in a playful mood with this outrageously confident, tartly funny, and occasionally graphically violent comedy-drama.

As the title of his bold and ambitious self-penned script suggests, this is a fable set in Los Angeles of 1969’s turbulent summer.

It’s an intoxicating mix of history and hearsay along the lines of Tarantino’s 2009 fictitious war drama, Inglourious Basterds, a world where fictitious characters rub shoulders with portrayals of real people.

A typically excellent soundtrack has a cast to match with the ‘A ‘ list double act of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt offering a finely judged chemistry.

The former offers a compellingly sympathetic performance as he sets himself up for another Oscar nomination in his first film in four years, while the latter is equally great in a more relaxed comic role.

DiCaprio stars as a washed-up TV cowboy with Pitt as his longstanding stuntman and gopher, while living next door is real life actress Sharon Tate, murdered that year by followers of cult leader, Charles Manson.

Despite little dialogue, Margot Robbie is electric as Tate, who’s dressed in a costume obsessively reminiscent of Tarantino’s former muse Uma Thurman, in his Kill Bill films.

Tarantino suggests Tate’s murder is symbolic of the point ‘old Hollywood’ died and was replaced by the violent drug-drenched New Wave films such as Easy Rider, as well as actors such as Al Pacino, who is entertaining here in a small role.

But this glorious combination of horror, dance, and kung fu film claims evolution not revolution, should have been the way forward.

Most welcome is Tarantino’s new found humility in recognising cinema can be dangerous and exploitative for all involved, on either side of the screen.

And I loved every richly evocative, shamelessly entertaining and nostalgia-riven minute of it.