Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Inglourious Basterds and other films...

Saw Nick Cave again this morning, in the same cafe in Hove where I saw him last time, the difference being that since then I have tended to deliberately look inside said cafe on the way past in the hope of seeing him again. Now I have seen him again I feel rather like a stalker, which kind of takes away any possible celebrity-spotting excitement. Then again, I suppose it's more comparable to the various other familiar faces I see on the way to work whom I never acknowledge but am always curious about. I imagine this is a very British way to react to people you see every day on the way to work - maybe I'll start by saying hello to Nick Cave and work my way up to the randoms from there.

Nothing to report on the writing front this week - have mostly been busy doing coursework for an exam for the dayjob which has taken up far too much time. Today was the first day in weeks I actually managed to leave the office on time.

I have managed to see some films.

Last week I saw Inglourious Basterds which at first I kind of resented having to see. The new Tarantino film has become the cinema event of the film enthusiast and is now required viewing as a result. And with good reason - I am of the generation that watched Reservoir Dogs and thought 'I want to write films like that'. More so for me because after seeing that film and Pulp Fiction I went back and watched all the films Tarantino had referenced thus making him responsible for much of my early film education (actually my dad was really responsible for that, but Tarantino definitely boosted my interest). This was fine until I sought out Ringo Lam's film City on Fire from which Tarantino had lifted not just the plot for Reservoir Dogs but whole sequences. I felt a little bit cheated and lost interest for a few years, not realising that I'd kind of missed the point and that what was great about Reservoir Dogs was the writing and the dialogue and the characters and not the framework those things were hanging from.

But rediscovering Reservoir Dogs only increased my disappointment with films like Kill Bill or Death Proof that I neither enjoyed nor understood. When I was in LA I was speaking to someone at a party who was at that time working as Tarantino's personal projectionist, showing obscure grindhouse films up at his house in his private cinema. To me this was kind of what his films had become - private screenings of oddities that had for some reason struck a chord with the filmmaker but went over the heads of everyone else. He seemed to be making films for himself rather than his audience and I'd lost interest.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself really enjoying Inglourious Basterds. There were parts I didn't get along with, particularly the structure and the fact that the final scene is completely devoid of tension as a result of the way it is set up, but generally I found it entertaining and interesting.

Thinking about it the following day I found myself liking it even more. It's a film about language and performance, and about how different people use those things to get what they want about how it translates into film. And it's about how powerful film itself can be, or perhaps how powerful we wish it could be. In this film the greatest weapon available to the Allies is cinema, which I guess is a filmmakers fantasy in that it suggests that art can have a physical influence on the world outside the cinema.

All this rambling is kind of proving my point - that it's a film that made me think and for that reason I found myself really liking it. Plus the German actors are awesome.

I also saw G.I. Joe which also made me think, although mainly I thought about the films I saw in my youth in which I always preferred the bad guys. And it reminded me of seeing big stupid films with friends who then told me I was thinking too much as we left the cinema. Mostly it made me realise that it was for kids and not for me, and made me think of going back to the cartoons of my youth and realising they were the same every episode and a bit too noisy. It was marginally better than Transformers 2, in that it was at least an enjoyable ride, and there were a couple of set pieces that made sense. And it was cool to see Arnold Vosloo and Kevin J. O'Connor in a big screen film again.

For the rest of it I felt like I was being slapped in the face with CGI, although that was partly due to drinking a few too many beers beforehand. As Brother Pete pointed out it also feels a lot like a live action version of Team America. If I can say something about the script without being accused of over-thinking it, it was a bit like being told a story by an excited child - so this happens, then this thing happens, then there's this cool fight, but hang on you need to know about this bit and so on. There were odd moments that seemed so random it's hard to imagine no one pointing it out at the script stage, but in reality I know these things happen for reasons beyond the writer's control. I also found it hard to separate the Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt characters in this film from their psychologically scarred soldier characters in Stop-Loss.

But the best film I saw last week was probably Transsiberian - a neat little thriller on a train in which Sir Ben does an accent and Woody Harrelson has improbable hair. In all seriousness it is a very well-produced and entertaining film with some excellent characters and tense set-pieces - the closest thing to a proper film I'd seen all week.


reelcitizen said...

I've heard Transiberian is good, will have to check it out. Finally got round to seeing Moon last week, it actually made it to the Odeon - although it was the small crappy screen!

It's actually quite a surprisingly simple and understated film but worth watching for Rockwell and the superb effects.

Chris Regan said...

Cool, I need to see that film. Hope it gets a DVD release soon.

Anonymous said...

I watched Transiberian last week too. I'm a big fan of Mortimer, Kingsley, Woody and Mara so would have probably liked it anyway. I liked the way that it would hint at being predictable and then throw you in another direction. Also, it was a film that got on with it - very little padding/bullshit.

I'm waiting for Moon on rental too as I'm a big Rockwell fan.