Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Our Quentin - response to Inglourious Basterds.

Quentin Tarantino is a special type of boy. I reckon he's probably the large version of a kid only a mother could love. You can tell he would be annoying as shit socially, professionally and if you were unlucky enough to happen to be in some kind of intimate relationship with him.

Scene 1: red carpet, cocktail party, awards night.

Quentin: So, you know, huh, what's your favourite movie?

Me: I don't know.

[insert one hour diatribe of his top 10 of the best and the worst movies, ever, in the whole world.]

Me at intervals of 8 minutes: Where's the drinks waiter?

* * *

Scene 2: on the set

Actor 1: So, I think I got it. You want me to [insert interpretation of script here, character attributes, foreshadowing of plotline, consideration of subtlety of facial descriptions] and you want my tits out, when I die.

Quentin: NO, NO, NO. NO TITS!!!!! MUMMMMMMEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actor 1: Sorry. I thought you said you wanted boobs.

Quentin: No. I. Said. That. I. Wanted. You. To. Die. In. Bits. That means when the soldier shoots you, there will be alot of bullets. A humungous lot. But no tits. IN BITS.

Actor 1 to actor 2: God he's a fucking pain.

Actor 2: That was short, Diane, what are you talking about? He storyboarded me dying. He's got my head getting stomped and beaten with a bat by "The Bear Jew", the baseball wacko, I get shot, and before that I have dialogue so I have to, you know, foreshadow my death.

Actor 1: Yeah, I know. Subtly.

Actor 2: No. Not with subtlety. Fuck, is this your first Tarantino movie?

* * *

Scene three: with a girlfriend, or a goat, in bed.

G: So, what's your thing, babee?

Quentin: You know what I really dig? If you talk about movies while we do it. But it has to be one of my movies. And it has to be a really intense scene, you know, like when John and Uma are eating burgers or when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are about to do the holdup. I wanna get some of that tension going, right here baby.

G: ...


* * *

I think Quentin would be fun to be around for about five minutes. Even if he was being fun and loose and not all intenso-man-about-film, I'd probably still get sick of him pretty quickly. When we were kids, my brother had a friend who was so in your face, so annoying. He would get in front of us and the tv we were watching, to annoy us. He would be really loud, using "funny" voices, mucking around. The thing was, he was amusing for a short while. Then he got annoying and he wouldn't stop. As an adult, he was obsessed with movies and emailing forwards all the "funnies." He didn't know when to stop. I get the feeling Tarantino is a bit like that.

I love Quentin Tarantino's movies. If it's made by Tarantino, then rest assured, I will be buying a ticket and sitting there to squirm and peek through my fingers. Even my mother went and saw Pulp Fiction.

"It's very good," she says. "Violent, but very good."

Reasons I loved Inglourious Basterds:

1. the opening scene is filled with tension. He plays with the audience, he really does, and you know something is going to happen, but not what. It's agonising, and sad, and tragic.

2. that a character who kills Nazis with a baseball bat has said this about the backstory:

My guy is a guy from Boston who gets every Jew in his neighborhood to sign his baseball bat with the name of somebody they're worried about in Europe. The thing is that he doesn't want a machine gun, he doesn't want to shoot Nazis, he wants to beat them to death with a baseball bat. He wants to feel it in his hands when he's busy pummeling them to death. This character thinks of himself as a Jewish warrior, who is fighting on the behalf of those who can't fight and for everyone who can't be there. When I kill that guy, I didn't want people to think, "Oh, this is Eli being a psycho with a bat," I want you to really feel that pain and that rage, which is very real. There were branches of my family that were wiped out in the Holocaust. My roots are from Poland and Austria, Russia, that's where I'm from, and my grandparents who got out and survived, all the other relatives didn't and got killed, so it was very real to me. It was a very real, very personal role, and I held a great sense of responsibility in doing it. It wasn't just an acting job.

3. Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa. This is the guy everyone is raving about. He is amazing in this movie. He is the most sinister villain for years. What a dab hand he is. How cruel he is and the strangling scene where he rides Kruger like some demented jockey as she bucks and splutters under him; he shows how personal it is.

4. Melanie Laurent who plays a French girl whose family are slaughtered by the Germans. She has the opportunity for revenge later on in the movie.

5. Diane Kruger. The fact she doesn't have the requisite retrousee nose-job nose. Refreshing. A good portrayal of an actress-spy under pressure.

6. The cinematography. Beautiful. Just exquisite, particularly in the opening scene.

7. The music. An overlay of spaghetti western music. It worked.

8. The use of German and French, and subtitles. For such an American guy, you might have expected them to all speak with American accents, or bad European ones. Not so. The change to English in the opening scene at first seems like a convenience.

Oh, let's get rid of the subtitles. They've had a taste, we've made a point, but now let's do it in English.

No no.

There is a reason for the change to English. Fucking brilliant.

Subtitles appear in the rest of the movie.

9. It goes for 2 and a half hours and my arse did not notice.

10. Sylvester Groth as Joseph Goebbels was very good. He is a Nazi film buff and there is a scene where is he excited about the screening and he does something with his hands that is very comical yet touching. He is a baddie, but he's obsessed movies. Very Tarantino.

11. Brad Pitt and his jaw. Nice to see this matinee idol was happy to distort his face for the sake of art. A tick from me.

12. The shoot-out in the bar. I love Tarantino's extended scenes. Some might get bored with them, but he just builds tension, layer upon layer, and you can appreciate the actorly skills as he probably shoots them in one shot? That's a big assumption, maybe I'm wrong, but it would be a Tarantino thing to do, n'est-ce pas? I can't be bothered researching. At the end of this scene, there's only one survivor, and she doesn't last too long.

13. Having the idea to have two plots to destroy the cinema and everything in it. And neither group knows what the other is doing. In the end, the Basterds get to them before the fire does. Have they cheated Shoshanna out of her revenge? Little matter, she is being dispatched upstairs.

14. The scene where The Bear Jew and his sidekick break into the upstairs box. They prepare in the bathroom, strange weaponry strapped to their hands, and the slo-mo action of them getting past the guards is very Tarantino; his mark is all over it. Or his spray.

15.The fact that there is now a movie where Jewish people are not portrayed as victims; they are the aggressors, they are someone to be feared. These basterds have the Nazis scared, wtih stories getting back to Hitler, making him concerned. And then they kill him, and Goerring and Goebbels and

Things I could pick at if I had to.

1. Brad Pitt. Let's face it, the man is a distraction. It was fairly difficult to see him as Jewish and as a Nazi-killer. He is always Brad Pitt which is a bit hard for him to get away from. I think he was the weakest of the main characters. A pitty.

2. Hitler. I guess he had to stay in the stereotype range of how Hitler has to be portrayed. Anything less and there is the risk of being accused of showing him in a human or even sympathetic light. Better to stick with the parody, I understand it, and the dude did well. He was only a small character anyway, a small but central character.

3. Mike Myers plays a general who is obviously an uncle of Austin Powers. I wonder if that was deliberate or the only way Mike can "do English." Knowing Quentin, and the crazy guy that he is, it was possibly an intentional reference.

4. The scene at the showing, beforehand where the Basterd crew pretend to be Italian friends of Bridget von Hammersmark. It was a comical scene with underlying tension because you know Landa is a master at sniffing out the falsities.

5. We don't see what happens to Shoshanna's man. He heroically tossed his smoke onto the pile of celluloid at the back of the screen to start the fire. Did he go down with the ship? Not important? Probably.

6. The way von Hammersmark and war hero Fredrick Zoller come to an end. I would have liked to see her seduce him, or allow him to take her instead of them killing each other. But that would be against the NO TITS rule, and also would mean a smaller body count. Also against Quentin's code of operations.

* * *
Things that unsettled me:

The violence. To have it shown, a man's head being beaten with a bat, bodies being pummelled by bullets, a woman strangled most graphically. And at the end a close-up of a swastika being carved into Landa's forehead.

At times I couldn't look, I had my hands up and peeped. The old cushion on the couch trick from my childhood. To think that impressionable young people (and they are fucking impressionable, they just don't know it nor how much) are seeing this movie. It's a bit of a worry, but that's just me being old and motherly and teacherly I suppose.

The trickiness of the subject matter: Nazis and Jews. While I love the idea of rewriting the Second World War, there would be some (and not just on the Jewish side of things) who might see this is sacrosanct, not in a good way, but somehow untouchable, and that it shouldn't be tampered with even in fiction. Everybody wishes that Hitler could have been killed or taken out of the picture, and the war ended earlier, or not happened at all, that the Holocaust hadn't happened. I looked around to see what the Jewish commentary might be.

There's a page here where someone has gone through a range of sources which have published articles.

And this article which refers to the problems of revenge. There was a screening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, attended by the Weinstein Brothers (makers of the film) along with director and major actors. Some people in the audience commented on feeling satisfaction when they saw the cinema being burned down with Hitler et al locked inside. "With Hitler there, and all those high Nazi officials—how great would it have been?" one said.

But the final word best goes to Tarantino's producer, Lawrence Bender, who said that he read the first draft and then told Quentin:

As your producing partner, I thank you, and as a member of the Jewish tribe, I thank you, motherfucker, because this movie is a fucking Jewish wet dream.

Taken from this article here, Hollywood's Jewish Avenger.


The Man at the Pub said...

Danny Katz from The Age wrote a funny piece about this movie too...

Melba said...

Thanks Man. I did read that when it was in the daily newspaper, it was pretty funny.

I think there's the tendency for people to feel really uncomfortable with this film. The violence seems more than in past movies, and there's the Nazi thing, and some people won't even go because of the violence.

It's a shame because I think it is a movie that should be seen. I think I've talked my dad into seeing it. He did want to see it, then read the reviews (which have been good, but emphasise the violence.) I told him just to see it.

Have you seen it?

MG said...

Hey it's now 16 Aug 2011 and I just re-read this. This is awesomely funny, I find it hard to believe I wrote this.