In a way, the way Quentin Tarantino makes movies can be resemble the way of operating a DJ. It can be applied both to movie buffs, which he rescues from the immense collection that he will have archived (mentally or physically) and interconnects it in the most sublime way so that the session is enjoyable. Although it also applies to how he chooses songs to sound in the movies, rescuing forgotten classics or giving new meanings to more popular ones to accompany the narrative.
When the song is played in one of his movies, feels like a moment, as if the dance floor held its breath for a moment to experience the hit. Tarantino begins to prepare the session with the scenes already written, beginning to dive into his catalog of “Super Sounds” from yesterday and today to find the great song that accompanies or ironically underlines what is happening. Even in a work as difficult to insert pop songs as ‘Inglourious Basterds’, he insisted on introducing someone that would break the period setting in order to give that great moment.
One of his most curious choices comes precisely from a different film, with nothing to do with his gritty review of World War II. David Bowie was experimenting as an actor in the early eighties, acting in plays such as ‘The Elephant Man’, with music taking a secondary role. But a couple of film commissions brought him back into the fold, the most notable coming from Giorgio Moroder.
The italodisco genius was once again collaborating with Paul Schrader to make the music for one of his films, this time it was the remake ‘Kiss of the Panther’. Bowie was called upon to write the lyrics for the main theme which, like the film, tries to make metaphors about passionate and irrepressible sexual urges, almost even condemnable. The chameleonic musician ended up singing the piece and even releasing it as a single and entering several hit lists (although he was not entirely pleased with the final result, re-recording it with nile rodgers for his album Let’s Dance).
“I always loved the song,” Tarantino said in an interview with Rolling Stone about how he chooses music for his movies. “It’s one of my favorite David Bowie songs from the ’80s” but he disliked that Schrader didn’t use it within the film, he only used it in the end credits. He remembers from his video store days how his classmates shared his disappointment and how they would like to build a whole sequence in a movie around that song.
That’s pretty much what happened in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ [spoilers de la película a partir de aquí]. In one of his multiple decisions that show how the director seeks to rewrite history, ‘Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)‘ begins to play while the Jewish protagonist, Shosanna Dreyfus (played by Mélanie Laurent), takes advantage of the fact that almost the entire Nazi party is going to go to her modest French cinema to make a great premiere of a propaganda film. With even Adolf Hitler himself appearing in the room, the French seeks to complete his revenge.
Rewriting history with a perfect snap
“I try not to make things too obvious,” Tarantino explains of his process for selecting songs for outlets like Dig!. But here he made an exception, with Bowie’s lyrics anticipating the fire that is about to break out in the cinema and twisting the sexual fantasy he is describing. In a way, it’s really exciting for the protagonist to take down a bunch of Nazis, and to do it through the medium of film is a perverse enjoyment that the director allows himself.
It is a moment where images and music are quite cool from the superficial, but it really is the kind of moment that ends up rounding out the intentions it has at the story level. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is Tarantino going completely out of rigor and rewriting history to give victory to the victims, and he does it through a song that deserved more cinematographic glory than to be a brooch. With her irreverent flair, she manages to breathe another life into the song, making it seem like it was meant expressly to describe Shosanna’s emotional journey.
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