Sunday, 9 August 2009

"Are movies too small for me?"

I'll be posting my thoughts on Inglourious Basterds in the near future but for now The Observer's Sean O'Hagan has interviewed Quentin Tarantino and raised many of the issues I had with the film. That's not to say it's not, at times, terrifically entertaining and inordinately suspenseful, but O'Hagan is with me in pinning the lost of the filmmaker who made Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown.

Inglorious Basterds has been ten years in gestation and was originally planned as the follow-up to 1997's Jackie Brown which is now generally regarded as the last truly great Tarantino movie. "Back then I had all the same characters but a different story," Tarantino says. "I followed the story and it just grew and grew. I guess I was a little precious about it because it was my first original script since Pulp Fiction. Then it just got bigger and bigger in my head. It became about the words on the page rather than the film."

So he didn't have writer's block so much as writer's overload? "Yeah! If anything I was, like, too inspired, right?: He laughs a frantic chuckle. "I couldn't turn my brain off. I couldn't stop coming up with new avenues, new ideas. Suddenly it was like, what the fuck? Am I too big for movies now? Are movies too small for me? I mean, what's that about?"

Tarantino thinks it would be impossible to make The Dirty Dozen now. "We just don't have those kind of actors anymore. Ernest Borgnine. Charles Bronson. Those guys were real men. They were a different breed. Many of them had been to war. Today's young actors are soft."

Does he accept that the plot tends in places towards the implausible? "No, I've set it up as a kind of fairy tale, but that's not where I'm coming from. Where I'm coming from is that my characters changed the course of history. Now, the characters didn't exist so that didn't happen. But if they had existed, what happens in the movie is plausible." The problem here though is not so much the sliver of plausibility that the plot rests on, but the whole tone of the movie. It never seems to have entered Tarantino's mind that the notion of a bunch of psychopathic American Jews who set out to main, mutilate and kill German soldiers might, in itself, be offensive, not least to Jewish-American soldiers and the entire French Resistance.

"Well, if people are offended by it, I don't care," he snaps. "I'm going to do what I do." The implication being that this is a Quentin Tarantino film, it's going to have violence, be tasteless and offensive. What the hell do you expect? Like Kill Bill volumes 1 and 2, Inglourious Basterds may indeed deliver enough gore, ultra-stylised violence and clever pop culture references to satisfy his hardcore fan base, but for the rest of us, it is further evidence that he former enfant terrible of American cinema has waylaid his mojo.


Gerard said...

You know, I thought Basterds was surprisingly teriffic. I'd been expecting something entertaining yet disposable along the lines of Kill Bill vol 1 and was a little taken aback by how, well, good the thing was. Of course, anything with a concept as bold and heightened as Basterds will definitely be a case of you-go-with-it-or-you-don't, but working within the (admittedly very silly) parameters he sets in place, I think QT's delivered his first truly excellent film in some time. That's not to say I think it's on par with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, but Basterds for me felt like a popcorn blockbuster made by the Tarantino who notched his nook with the aformentioned - more focused, more restrained and finding a genuine purpose for all of the cinephilic bowerbirdism, as opposed to the Bills and Death Proof which were nothing if not self-indulgent (although, as you know, I enjoy those films regardless).

Mark Salisbury said...

See, I would disagree that it's "more focussed or more restrained". I would argue to the contrary. QT used to make films that were for himself but also for an audience. Now I think he makes films for himself and it's a case of sod the audience. As much as I enjoyed parts of it, it's self-indulgent and way too long. Glad you liked it, but I want the old Tarantino back.

Steve said...

i doubt that we'll ever see that QT again, unfortch. maybe it's the budgets. movies are made on huge budgets giving directors their wildest dreams. maybe, in order for directors to become more cinematically creative, the cost of making the flick needs to be cut dramatically. make them do more with less. it'll never happen, of course. no one wants a smaller budget, shorter timelines and lesser known stars when the director has worked with the best and made boat loads of money.

idk. at least he's not apologetic about offending anyone. give him time. maybe he needs to go back to writing more and directing less (like true romance). okay, i'm done rambling.

Mark Salisbury said...

Which, of course, leads me to quote: "Okay ramblers, let's get rambling..."