Monday, May 3, 2010
Inlouriouser and Inglouriouser
[UPDATED 5/4/10 SEE BELOW]
Been meaning to write this one up for a while. There's a feature on the DVD of Inglourious Basterds, my favorite film of last year, about Geraldine Brezca, who operated the clapboard for Tarantino during its making. She apparently enjoys introducing the takes with non-sequitur words and phrases, often with the effect of making actors laugh as the scene starts. Names of arthouse directors from around the world seem to be one of her primary idioms. So if you would find it amusing to hear a woman say things like "Emeric Pressburger" and "Wong Kar-Wai" in a disaffected tone and Italian accent, now's your chance. Thanks, YouTube!
[NOTE ADDED 5/4/10 12:17PM! Reader "Nels" writes to note that every single phrase or word she uses starts with the letter or letters in the SLATE number cell on the slate itself. Dumbly, I wasn't even looking at the numbers. So there is a method to her madness.]
Incidentally, there's another tradition on Tarantino's recent shoots, and that is for the actors to send greetings to Sally Menke, who has edited all of his films. I seem to recall that the Kill Bill DVD may also have had a "Hi Sally" reel on it:
Here's the thing: in the top montage there are at least a couple of shots being clapped that didn't actually make the cut into the movie. There are two in particular that I'm thinking of. The first is of Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, as SS Colonel Hans Landa and August Diehl as Gestapo Major Hellstrom sitting next to one another watching a movie. I suspect that this scene was cut from the "German Night in Paris" chapter, and that they are watching "Lucky Kids" with Goebbels to evaluate Shosanna's theater.
The other is a shot of Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, sitting in a genteel living room in a stupid-looking suit and tie, smiling pleasantly and holding a cup of tea. Now, granted, I thought Eli Roth was the weak link among the cast, and would love to have seen the original casting choice, Adam Sandler, in the part.* But I'd also be interested in seeing this scene that was cut. The rough draft of the screenplay, which is available online, has it: before shipping off to Europe, Donny buys his baseball bat in his Boston neighborhood, then takes it to his Jewish neighbors to have them sign the bat in the names of their relatives still stuck in Europe under the Third Reich. The scene we see here is his sit-down with a Mrs. Himmelstein, played by Cloris Leachman, who also writes, and misspells "INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS" on the bat, giving the guerrilla unit and the movie their title.
There is another entire performance that was apparently filmed and cut, that of Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung as Madame Mimeux, the previous owner of the cinema, ownership of which Shosanna inherits along with an assumed last name. The screenplay draft also includes the scene of their meeting, when Shosanna is homeless in Paris having fled the scene of her family's murder by Landa's death squad.
I do wish Tarantino was in the habit of putting more deleted scenes on his DVDs. He's given us a handful here & there in the past, but he's been weaning us: whereas Pulp Fiction's DVD included a handful of scenes removed from the movie, Kill Bill Vol. 2 included a single additional scene of Bill on an assignment, and now the Basterds DVD includes only extended versions of scenes that were in the final cut of the film. Considering that the cut that screened at Cannes early last year was several minutes longer than the theatrical release, I'd be fascinated to see the other bits, if only to see how shortening a movie can strengthen it. Certainly, reading the screenplay, you get the impression that even the over-the-top final product was an exercise in restraint for the writer/director and his overflowing brain full of movies.
*Incidentally, I'm very glad for the other casting changes that became necessary. Though I like Simon Pegg an awful lot, I'm very glad that his role ended up going to Michael Fassbender, who is terrific. And I cannot imagine Leonardo DiCaprio (!) as Hans Landa. Nor, I suspect, can Christoph Waltz.