Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tarantino's Greatest Scene: Cat People

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS might just be Tarantino’s best film to date, out doing what PULP FICTION. While this is very debatable, it is not debatable that the opening to the film’s fifth chapter, REVENGE OF THE GIANT FACE, is just the best filmmaking he has done, period. Let’s just break it down.

1. Use of a song’s lyrics
You would think that this point is trying to persuade you into thinking that the film was written around this song. That is just plainly not the case, but the lyrics do make you think about some of the stuff…

"See these eyes so green"
Shoshanna has green eyes

"I could stare for a thousand years"
The Nazis always toasted to a 1000 year rule

"Colder than the moon"
Revenge is a dish best served cold

"It’s been so long"
3 years can be a short time and yet a long time

You can see where I am going. The song’s lyrics fit perfectly

2. For the younger viewers
I knew before this film who David Bowie was. I have my mother to thank for that. And of course, David Bowie’s musical styling’s were great. I even liked the "Dancing in the Streets" song he did with Mick Jagger and "Pressure" with Queen. But, I cannot say that I was - at the time of first seeing this film the January of 2010 - able to pick his voice out. If he was to talk to me on the phone without identifying himself, chances are, I would not know who he is. Although, maybe it is just because he sings so low for the first part. That’s actually one of the things which influenced my thinking of who I thought was actually singing the song (and it is laughable):

John Wayne

I remember when seeing this film for the first time that the beginning of Chapter 5 was a very emotional experience for me. It just hit all of the right buttons. Now, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS was quite different than Tarantino’s other films. It was a period piece, it was told chronologically, it was heavily subtitled, and just different from what I was expecting (which is a good thing). However, once the beginning of Chapter 5 came through, I thought two things:

A. Ah yes, a Tarantino moment I was hoping would happen (we all know Tarantino loves to use other people’s music)

B. Wow, is this John Wayne singing? If so, it helps add to the Western feel of the film.

That is a great bit of stuff to feel, but there is more.

3. Music "supports the image on screen"
That is a quote similar to what John Carpenter had put on the black for the record soundtrack for John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS and is one of the things Jerry Goldsmith was well known for - having music wrap around the action on screen so well while having it support and even enlarge what was on screen (hell, Ifukube is known for this was well). It is in this that the use of Cat People in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS has the most striking effect.

Taking into account the instruments and not the vocals, the song compliments and even expresses a lot of what the character of Shoshanna is feeling (Melanie Laurent does a good job too). The drums at the beginning set the slow moving beat of the scene, giving us pace. After that but before the lyrics, we hear this rumbling sound. That sets the mood. It is that rumbling sound that does it. It gives us (or me, at least) a cold feeling down my back. That, playing alongside the footage (and the subtle fading in close up) communicates what Shoshanna is feeling: a mix of sadness, vulnerability, possible unsure-ness.

She is looking down at those Nazis. She is thinking about her parents. She is thinking of how events are going to play out. She knows she might die.

But she then gathers all of her strength, all of her rage, and goes all out when the music increases in tempo, in loudness, and screaming with Bowie’s saying of "gasoline". It is a very personal moment we share with the character. It is almost like a feeling one would want to communicate if one was to use IN THE AIR TONIGHT in some movie (which props go to Tarantino for NOT using the song. He could have easily, the lyrics match us to what happens in the film, but no, he went a more creative route).

That is why the beginning of Chapter 5 of Inglourious Basterds is the best work Tarantino has ever done. Considering that the Academy Awards gave Fincher a nomination just for one scene in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, then INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS should have won for best direction (the story for THE HURT LOCKER was good, but that is more of an area of the script and not direction. I’d take the beginning of Chapter 5 over some nice National Geographic shots any day).

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