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Tarantino’s 'Biggest Hit' Ever

In his first U.S. interview about his new war film, Inglourious Basterds, provocateur Quentin Tarantino opens up about directing Brad Pitt and that "God" comment at Cannes.
“It would be wonderful to get nice reviews,” veteran French critic Pierre Rissient, a longtime adviser to the Cannes Film Festival, told Quentin Tarantino as the reaction to Inglourious Basterds started posting. “But you’re a provocateur. Nice is not always best. You need to shake it up, say ‘fuck you.’”
The 46-year-old American auteur took some comfort in Rissient’s words as he found himself the victim of the inevitable: Cannes backlash. No film could have lived up to the hype surrounding his homage to Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and World War II movies, Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino’s fifth Cannes entry after Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction (which won the Palme d’Or), Kill Bill: Volume II, and Death Proof was doomed to fall short of overloaded expectations.
Critics described Inglourious Basterds—starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a renegade Nazi-hunting brigade in German-occupied France—as “an obese, pampered adolescent” (The Guardian), “a distinctive piece of American pop art with a Euro flavor” (Variety), “blithely neglectful of basic storytelling tropes in order to indulge his auteurist peccadillos” (Time Out New York), and “a fairytale of unusual and thoughtful daring, a return at last by Tarantino to his combustible and operatic best” (The London Times).
“This is nothing new for me,” Tarantino says, remembering some of the bad reviews he got on 1994’s Pulp Fiction, especially. But the Cannes reviews were “frustrating,” he admits, because he has always relied on character and dialogue. “Who says a playwright has too much dialogue?” he asks. “The one time I eschewed dialogue with Kill Bill: Vol. I, all the critics complained.”
And Tarantino says he has always given his movies more novelistic than cinematic structures: “Separate film chapters tell our story. I create mosaics, following this story and that story, and eventually they all converge—unless you’re dealing with Reservoir Dogs or Death Proof, which have straightforward storytelling.”

It’s been a whirlwind year for the director, who has long believed in making films slowly to stand the test of time. That is, until Death Proof, which did not benefit, he says, from too much overfiddling. So he put Inglourious Basterds on a tight schedule with a Cannes deadline.
After finishing last July the 165-page script he had been writing on and off since 1999, Tarantino obtained backing for a $70 million picture from loyal patron Harvey Weinstein and Universal Pictures, landed his most megawatt star ever, Brad Pitt, almost canceled the October shoot before he finally found the multilingual Christoph Waltz to star in a pivotal role, and stayed on schedule during 10 weeks of shooting on location in Germany. And after three months of editing, he delivered a dripping-wet print to Cannes—a place he considers “Cinema Nirvana,” where “cinema matters, it’s important”—at a running time of two hours, 27 minutes: 13 minutes less than Pulp Fiction and 19 minutes less than he needed to retain final cut.
Now the director can go back to America and give the movie a proper preview outside California—which was always the plan—and tweak the timing with “an audience pruning cut.” (The movie opens August 21.) He may even add one of several scenes left on the cutting-room floor. While Maggie Cheung as Madame Mimieux will not be restored, Tarantino will see how an additional scene plays that features sexy Irish actor Michael Fassbender as a British film-critic soldier trying to pass muster as a German officer.
Inglourious Basterds is broken into five chapters; much like Kill Bill, each is influenced by a different movie genre. The opening sequence, a two-hander between Jew hunter Colonel Landa (Waltz) and a French farmer (Denis Menochet) seeking to protect his three lovely daughters, was inspired by Leone westerns as well as the opening sequence of Heaven's Gate. (Tarantino thinks his writing in this scene tops his personal best: the Sicilian speech in True Romance.)
The second chapter, which introduces the Basterds, led by hillbilly Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt), is a “Western with World War II iconography,” Tarantino says. The third, introducing French actress Melanie Laurent as a Jew hiding at a Paris cinema, is shot in lustrous black-and-white in French New Wave style. “From Chapter Four on, it becomes like ‘60s World War II guys on a mission, like The Guns of Navarone.”
The trick to keeping Tarantino’s movies modern so that they play well going forward, he says, is to play it risky, not safe. “One thing that makes a World War II movie quaint and old-fashioned is not doing the correct languages,” he says. So four languages are spoken in the course of the movie, much of which is subtitled.
And the women in the movie are as active, fearless and competent as the men, from Laurent’s Jewish French resistance fighter to Diane Kruger’s glam German movie-star spy, modeled on Hildegard Knef. Thanks to Tarantino, says Laurent, "women can be independent in a period film."
Nor does the director care if his reflexive use of titles, musical cues from Ennio Morricone, an unidentified narrator (Samuel L. Jackson), and multiple film references are distracting for audiences. There’s no knowing what he’s going to do, from charming us with heroic, charismatic Germans like Daniel Brühl to killing off the characters we like. “I want to do a movie that pushes you in, and pulls you out,” he says.
Tarantino didn’t set out to produce a love letter to European cinema, he says: “I go where the character and scenario takes me.” With Kill Bill, “I started to write a female martial-arts revenge movie, but that’s not what came out,” he says. “With Reservoir Dogs I wanted to write the best heist film ever and you never saw the heist. With Inglourious Basterds, I enjoy the war-mission subgenre but I want to forward it, make it bigger, broader, more artistic. I don’t want to do an art film meditation either, but when it comes to the last two reels, I have to deliver the good stuff. I got to write a war film and a love letter to cinema. I’m a slave to passions. But I never called it an action movie, ever ever.”
While the movie boasts plenty of violent killing of Jews and Nazis, including closeups of head-scalping and baseball-bat bashing by Hostel writer-director Eli Roth (who calls it “kosher porn”), Tarantino saves his big action set piece for last (spoiler alert) as the world is saved by a cataclysm of flame. In this alternate reality, Tarantino says, "the power of cinema brings down the Third Reich.”
Needless to say, modesty is not Tarantino’s calling card. While he was referring to his power over his characters when he told the Cannes press conference, “I am God,” he insists that Inglourious Basterds is a mainstream movie: “I think the popular response will bear that out. I think it will be the biggest hit I have ever done.”
The Daily Beast
(c) 2009 RTST, Inc.
snide remarks aside, i will wait and see, then judge. sounds promising, even if it’s another post-modern indulgence. at the very least, it will most likely be entertaining.
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So sick of QT
I just saw it at Cannes and it was absolutely brilliant. Hilarious, ass-kickingly awesome. Postmodern for sure, but entertaining and engaging as hell.
He makes good movies, for the most part, his direction style is somewhat unique. But he has too high an ego and I think he’s a bit of a narcissist.
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I think QT has made some cool stylish films,but he’s taking himself to serious[i hope this doesnt offend any QT fans],for what i read so far i feel like he was trying to say"hey listen motherfuckers im Quentin Ta-ran-tino,i made pulp fiction and reservoir dogs,now wheres my Palme d’Or!!!!". lets face it there’s too many great filmmakers and too many great films.
Tom
How can you criticism for being a narcissist? Every brilliant filmmaker (or artist) must be a narcissist to do what they do. It’s incredibly difficult to get their visions on film, and I’m sure tremendous reserves of self-confidence are required to work through it. Of course, I am a huge fan of QT and love his movies precisely because they’re self-indulgent and post-modern. Everyone was influenced, he embraces it instead of pretending he’s in a vacuum – and most importantly the homages are very well done.
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“…It’s incredibly difficult to get their visions on film” you got that right but it is true he does have a huge ego,i’m sure most of the QT haters watched and liked his film’s but once you’ve growned up and learn more about cinema you begin to notice he has no original vision,and I guess that the homage’s is QT style,but hey i respect his love for it,his doing it for the love!.
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everything is almost already done ,so it’s hard to be original,but formulating a personal style ain’t,“its not where you take things from,its where you take them to” godard said.but im still anxious to see his film"inglourious basterds".
Grey
A terrible man that has never made a good film. If he has the audacity to show up at Cannes, how can one claim he is not narcassistic? How can anyone defend his shameless lack of originality and blatant ripoffs as influence, inspiration or homage? I write this here because I fear I would be browbeaten by posters on the forums who blindly lap up QT’s dirtywork. He doesn’t have a creative bone in his body.
I agree with Tom in regards to the “narcissism.” In addition it is by no means his best work, but if you do like QT as well as the subgenres he is alluding to in this film, you will love it. If you don’t like him then you most likely will not enjoy the experience – it played several extra times in Cannes and got great responses from the audiences and at no point was I bored or annoyed (except by Brad Pitt’s “accent”). Waltz won best performance by a male actor for films in competition (obviously excluding the Quinzaine) and put on quite a performance.

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