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Quentin covered in glory; BigMovie.

Byline: Alison Jones

THERE is a moment in Inglourious Basterds when Jewish officer Brad Pitt, having left his bloody calling card on a Nazi officer, remarks it might well be his masterpiece.

But could this idiosyncratically spelt war film be director Quentin Tarantino's finest hou r? Certainly the critics have heaped it with praise, seeing it as a return to form after the box office failure of bold B-movie experiment Grindhouse, the old fashioned double feature that Quentin and fellow director Robert Rodriguez were eventually forced to split into two films, ruining the gimmick.

However, Tarantino himself is uncharacteristically modest on the question of whether this could surpass his bravura debut Reservoir Dogs, the Oscar-winning Pulp Fiction or the understated gem that was Jackie Brown.

"Not to be coy, it is not for me to say. It is not for the chicken to speak of his own soup.

"If I have an opinion it wouldn't be valid for at least three years from now, when I look back on it."

Certainly the already enthusiastic director is exhilarated by the completion of a project he has been toying with since he was telling people to be kind and rewind back when he was a clerk at Video Archives. He was sidetracked by other jobs as a director - for TV as well as film - writer and occasional actor, all the while collecting so much material for Basterds that for a time he thought he was going to have to turn it into a mini-series. It was a problem he has faced before-with his assassin's revenge tale Kill Bill, which he eventually split into two cinematic volumes. "I had the opposite of writer's block," he says of Basterds. "I just couldn't stop writing. I couldn't shut my brain off and just get on with it. I kept coming up with new things. That is why I had to put it aside. "NowI love Kill Bill, don't get me wrong, but I didn't want it to be Basterds One and Basterds Two. So I forced myself to use a discipline I haven't imposed on myself in a long time. I was very focused. I was a train trying to get into the station.

" He had a copy of the script of Pulp Fiction beside him as he typed to use as a size guide so he could fit everything into the same time frame. Inglourious is a familiar Tarantino mix of uber violence, unexpected comedy and razor sharp, tension-racheting dialogue. Apart from Brad Pitt and an almost unrecognizable Mike Myers, the cast is an eclectic collection of European actors and American actor/writer/directors - including Eli Roth who made Cabin Fever and Hostel. The reason a number of the Europeans were cast was because of their pro- ficiency with languages as the film daringly slips between English, French, German and Italian. Pitt plays Aldo Raine, a maverick lieutenant from Tennessee with molasses-thick accent who leads a guerilla troop of Jewish American soldiers seeking bloody revenge on the Nazis, butchering them and claiming their scalps as trophies. Christoph Waltz won the best actor prize at Cannes for his performance as a sinisterly efficient German Colonel dubbed '

The Jew Hunter'. National Treasure's Diane Kruger plays a German actress and double agent while Daniel Bruhl is a sharpshooting private who is the hero of a propaganda film that is going to be premiered beforeHitler - providing the perfect opportunity for an assassination attempt. FROM PREVIOUS PAGE Though Tarantino admits men on amission movies like Where Eagles Dare and Dirty Dozen were his touchstones, with his encyclopedic knowledge of film he was able to draw nuggets of influence fromfar more obscure sources. "Iwas watching a lot ofmovies that people disparagingly call propaganda moviesmade by directors forced to flee to Hollywood to escape theGerman occupation. "You are talking about Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, Jules Dassin, Douglas Sirk. What is interesting is these (films) were made exactly at the time of World War Two. The Nazis weren't this theoretical evil boogie man from the past but were an actual threat. These directors obviously had people they were conc e r ned about backin their home countries, yet these movies were entertaining, thrilling, many of them with a lot of humour in them. "There is nothing stylistically that linksmine to theirs other than, hopefully, entertainment value, but those were the ones I found myself inspired by.

"I have always been a big fan of German cinema of the 20s and I even had the idea doing one of the chapters of the film as a silent chapter. I got over that." Tarantino also found himself wrestling with the problem of history, the known facts that created a road block on the path he wanted his story to take. But the 46-year-old film maker has never been one to bow to convention, and if he wanted to write a new ending for World War Two he would. "I have never put that kind of imposition on my characters. Wherever they go I follow. I was more or less prepared to honour history until I actually came up against it and I went 'No. I refuse'. My characters don't know they are part of history. They don't know there are things they can and can't do." He hints right from the very beginning that this is not your typical war film. The first words on screen are "Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France.''. "Some people have said 'so it's a fairy tale?' If you want to look it that way feel free.

"The way I look at is my characters change the course of history. That didn't happen because they didn't exist, but if they had, everything that happens is actually quite plausible." There have been rumours that Tarantino could tackle anything from a western to a British based spy movie for his next release. But given that Inglourious Basterds is only the sixth film he has directed in 17 years, it is clear he's happy to put perfectionism above productivity. "I am not thinking about my career. I am thinking about my filmography. A film maker lives or dies by it and if you muck about toomuch you have cheapened your entire artistic standing. "I admire directors who retire at a certain age and don't cheapen their filmography with an oldman movie at the end of it. "I am a student of cinema and I can see where directors have gone off track and there is not that same excitement about their work that there was before. I frankly don't want that to happen." Inglourious Basterds is released on Wednesday and will be reviewed by Graham Young in next week's Birmingham Mail .

CAPTION(S):

Martin Wuttke (Hitler) and Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds . To the point: Brad Pitt as Jewish officer Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds and director Quentin Tarantino (inset).
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Aug 14, 2009
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