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 I 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.
On the superficial level of plotting, Raman Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo (Lionsgate, $28) sounds like the setup for a student film or a revisit of “Collateral”: in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a Senegalese cabdriver named Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané), working hard to make money for his family to subsist, picks up a fare, William (Red West), a rough 70-year-old white Southern loner. William proposes a ride to the nearby mountaintop of Blowing Rock in two weeks, where he intends to leap to his death. But Bahrani, as he’s proven in Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, goes beyond cliché, working with and against archetype, showing a genuine drive to understand behavior in its intimate and momentary particulars. Solo befriends William, taking him on taxi rides, hanging out in bars, checking out women. Bahrani’s written that “ultimately Solo must find the courage and strength to love his new friend selflessly in order to help him do something seemingly horrible, or leave him to face it alone.” There is so much about friendship and loneliness and hope and despair in Goodbye Solo, from the very opening when the deal is proposed. The drama that develops between William and Solo—between West and Savané—is nothing short of astonishing. Bahrani observes these two men’s faces and suggests worlds—two small ones, two modest lives, filled with blood and heart and simply alive. It’s a thrill to see performances this accomplished and a film, shot by Michael Simmonds in fine, rough form that lives up to their work and the characters. Bahrani’s sense of both city and mountaintop is also uncommonly expert. With director’s commentary. [DVD trailer below.]
Premieres, premieres everywhere: In Nashville, Al Gore turned out to support Lawrence Bender, who was producer of An Inconvenient Truth. Also: Eli Roth in snappy suit and Mélanie Laurent.
[Photo: Bev Moser via The Weinstein Company.]
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Which is easier, writing or directing a film? Those are two totally different things. Writing is slightly easier because you can do it in bed.
~ Ben Wheatley To The BBC
You can neither make beautiful, great movies without risk as you can make babies without sex. Risk is part of the artistic process. That’s why I like performance, because performance is walking a high wire.
~ Francis Coppola