Friday, 4 September 2009

District 9 and Inglorious Basterds

For District 9 I have to say I wasn't too keen on this one. I've just seen it and found it to be disappointing due to the hype and basic script and film-making flaws. While its one of the better films I've seen released the past few months, that's not really saying much. The characters were base at all times without really being elevated by detail or world ideas that weren't just ripped off better movies. The lead character was essentially a remake of the typical plucky, a bit eccentric and conservative trying to make good under horrible circumstances Peter Jackson character (Brain Dead and Bad Taste to Lord Of The Rings all have that at the centre) but kinda watered down without the horrible details Jackson does. The alien monsters are essentially Dr Who rejects who start off scary but turn out good. (how many ET 80's clones did that in a dull fashion) And then they had all these dull action scenes with cliche-ridden moments or capture and sacrifice that are horribly corny and Black Hawk Down music in the last half-hour to suggest soul. All you get really is racism is bad and corporations are scum. Big deal. This one really needed more work in the planning stages.

Inglorious Basterds meanwhile, is a riot. Its a movie-mad orgy of odd scenes and characters, grand gestures and twisted logic, where Nazi's can be scalped by vengeful Jews, where hunted women can calmly burn down a cinema with Hitler inside while dying from gunshot wounds and where there can be a healthy obsession with German movie propaganda. There are a few off moments (the opening is too on the nose for the first minute in its spaghetti western influences while a Cat People song insert is just a mess)
Some of the best moments came when people were at tables. Firstly we had the German "Jew Hunter" interrogating a farmer hiding Jews, which lasted about twenty minutes and was very tense, while another had some of the Basterds hiding as Germans in a bar surrounded by real Nazis and trying to fit in to avoid being killed. Finally we had a terrific scene where the Jew Hunter tries to sell out Hitler to the Basterds to ensure his own survival. There are other wonderful moments throughout but the table moments stick out.
I read the script in a moment of weakness when it leaked on the internet but it didn’t ruin anything as I had forgotten many details. That script didn’t suggest the mood or tone of the film at all, feeling brutal, without the details of the close-ups and pauses. I don’t know if bits were cut but in the script the first Jew-Hunter scene seemed over-written but was prefect on screen. (It’s that Hawks comment, if it reads well it won’t play well). The script was solid and interesting but the execution raised it.
Of huge importance is the DePalma influence. I was emailing this to a friend how the final section felt completely under DePalma’s influence, from the strangling (which also feels a little Fritz Lang in execution, and that’s a big compliment), the vaguely 60’s paranoia of cynical deals being made by unseen voices (Harvey Keitel if I’m not mistaken) and the sacrifices of many major, sympathetic characters, the Carrie burning section (with a very Hi Mom style of arts being dangerous) and the Scarface like massacre at the ending. I don’t think this was in any way a rip-off, just conscious/unconscious influence within his own ideas (and I’m probably reading too much into them but I’m a massive DePalma fan and I enjoyed spotting the influences)
The other two influences I think were Sam Fuller and his fifties movies (also check out Pitt’s big red one on his uniform (although that was a 1980 film)) and Jean-Pierre Melville films, which were either Resistance or gangster films, the subtle paranoia and pacing of both types were felt throughout Inglorious Basterds.
So Inglorious Basterds is terrific and District 9 is only slightly better than Terminator Salvation, which is no sort of state for the hip sleeper summer hit to be in, is it.

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