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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Tarantino on spaghetti westerns and non-homaging

Tarantino wanted to clarify for Sight & Sound how his films are about language. Not so much film language: “I don’t know if this film does that quite so much. When I read Nick James’ piece in Sight & Sound [in the July issue], obviously inglourious-basterds-02_420.jpgI didn’t agree with where he was coming from in a lot of the aspects of it, but that’s all well and good. The thing I took exception to – and he’s not the only one to do it – is that there’s this aspect when critics write about my work, partly it’s because they know I’m such a film aficionado, where they try to match wits with me and show their own cinema knowledge. I give them a licence to show off their knowledge, and they apply that to me. So the part I don’t like about Nick’s piece is, like, “Oh, here’s a big slice of Leone, and a dollop of Cimino, and a side order of Tinto Brass.” I take exception to that! I don’t think like that. Now, I’m going to address what you’re saying. In the case of Kill Bill, that completely applies. Uma Thurman isn’t just fighting her way through her death list, she isn’t just fighting her way through the Deadly Vipers, she’s fighting her way through the annals of exploitation cinema from all over the world. That actually is part of it. I don’t think that’s necessarily what I’m doing with Inglourious Basterds. Having said that, there definitely is, in the first two chapters, an idea of doing a spaghetti western with World War II iconography. I thought that would work its way through the whole movie, but it actually doesn’t. I think it ends after the second chapter and it becomes something else. But one of the hooks I had to hang that on, as opposed to it just being a groovy idea, is this: one of the things I always enjoyed about spaghetti westerns was the brutal landscape, the brutal world in which they took place. It was much more unforgiving and hostile than most American western landscapes. It’s very violent, life is cheap, death is around the corner at any moment. Well, that describes Europe during World War II – right there in the 20th century, a very close approximation of a spaghetti-western landscape. And something I find very, very interesting about the opening chapter of Inglourious Basterds is that, even with the Nazi uniforms, even with the motorcycles and the car, it doesn’t break the western feel. It almost adds to it in a strange, shouldn’t-work-but-does kind of way. It just feels like a western. And not even just a spaghetti western: it could be Shane.”
But here’s the snappy capper: “The shot through the doorway of Shosanna fleeing can’t help but recall The Searchers.” “I’ll take slight exception to that too – and I’m having a good time clarifying this – in that I think it’s safe to say that if John Ford’s mother had never met John Ford’s father, I’d still have figured out that shooting through a doorway like that would make for a cool shot.” Tarantino laughs loudly.

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