Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Memoriam: Sally Menke

Menke with her two children and husband, Dean Parisot

I’m not sure why, but the death of Sally Menke has hit me harder than I would have thought. Of course, I didn’t know her and never met her. That’s not the point.

However, I find myself almost obsessed with the details surrounding her death, not out of morbid curiosity but out of genuine concern and care for those she left behind.

It’s been a rough week for Hollywood deaths: Tony Curtis, today, and Arthur Penn and Gloria Stuart earlier in the week -- these among others.

But, I feel personally affected by Menke’s death.

If you hadn’t heard, authorities found Menke’s body near a hiking trail in Los Angeles on Tuesday. A victim of the record heat, her faithful dog never left her side, and it appears that this was simply an unfortunate accident.

Menke was an editor most famous for her collaborations with Quentin Tarantino. Her biggest break came in working on Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino’s first feature. They worked together on every film he did after that.

I was quite young when I first saw Reservoir Dogs, probably too young. It was the first film I had ever seen to feature a fractured narrative -- the timeline jumps back and forth to various points surrounding a diamond robbery.

Non-sequential storytelling is a bit of a cliché now, but that is largely thanks to Reservoir Dogs. And, as great as Tarantino’s script and direction are on that film, it is Menke’s deft cutting together of the story that makes the film work.

Without her, Tarantino’s story would have been a fine read but an impenetrable film. It is her style as much as his that makes their collaborations classics.

I can’t quite process what I am feeling right now. I’m not sure that one is meant to fully understand his feelings about another’s death.

What I do know, however, is that a cinematic future without Sally Menke is just a little bit bleaker.