Tarantino’s Latest Pic Refits The 40s

Cannes Film Festival

Universal Pictures

There’s reality.  And then there’s Tarantino reality.


The crisp uniforms of German military officers, the glamorous gowns of women attending a Paris film premiere, the furniture and cutlery of an elegant restaurant — all these visual details seem to accurately reproduce the look of Nazi-occupied France in "Inglourious Basterds."

But do they?

According to the creators of that look, mimicking the past is not exactly what helmer Quentin Tarantino had in mind.

"When Quentin first called me, I knew this was the chance of a lifetime, but my objection was that I would be doing yet another ’40s film," said costume designer Anna B. Sheppard.

Her earlier work included "Schindler’s List" and "The Pianist," so Tarantino’s choice of Sheppard seemed obvious. "But," she added, "after I read the script, I realized this was a completely different ’40s."

Sheppard played with the past. She dressed actor Daniel Bruhl in a "cream-colored jacket that never existed in history." She altered the designs of the Nazi uniforms. And in the film’s final, climactic scene, she out-Tarantinoed Tarantino by convincing the director that Melanie Laurent should be dressed in bright red so she wouldn’t disappear in a sea of black dresses and tuxes.

While "Basterds" was Sheppard’s first outing with the helmer, production designer David Wasco and set designer Sandy Reynolds-Wasco have worked with Tarantino ever since his feature debut, "Reservoir Dogs."

"We always wove in ambiguous period elements," Wasco said. "Like the ’70s cars in ‘Dogs.’ ‘Basterds’ may be a period movie, but it’s a Quentin period movie, with a degree of looseness where he wanted to do his thing and twist it a little bit."

One major visual source for the Wascos was a recently released set of rare color photos shot in Paris during the German Occupation.

The pictures, taken by photographer Andre Zucca for the German propaganda machine, set off a bitter controversy when they were exhibited in Paris last year because they contradicted France’s collective memory of drab days of poverty during the Occupation.

"They show a France enjoying life," Reynolds-Wasco said, "with people eating even though there wasn’t a lot of food" and smartly dressed citizens mingled with their occupiers as banners with swastikas hung from public buildings.

That’s the altered reality that Sheppard, the Wascos and Tarantino captured in many of the film’s Paris scenes. Of course, the real WWII was very different. It would have ended sooner if Tarantino had been its director.

(from Daily Variety)