Tarantino sees "Basterds" saving Weinstein brothers

TEL AVIV Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:31pm EDT

Director Quentin Tarantino gestures during a news conference ahead of the screening of his new film ''Inglourious Basterds'' in Tel Aviv, September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen

Director Quentin Tarantino gestures during a news conference ahead of the screening of his new film ''Inglourious Basterds'' in Tel Aviv, September 15, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Gil Cohen Magen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - The storming success of World War Two shoot-'em-up "Inglorious Basterds" is the ticket out of financial difficulty for its backers, the Weinstein Co., director Quentin Tarantino said on Tuesday.

Brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein have released all of Tarantino's work, beginning in 1992 with "Reservoir Dogs" when they ran Miramax Films. But since launching their new firm in 2005, they have been short on critical or box-office hits.

The New York Times reported last month that the independent Weinstein Co., cash-strapped after seeing a quarter of its releases earning $1 million or less, had sought restructuring advice as well as a bridge loan.

"They were backed up against the wall, and this gives them breathing room. This gets their back off the wall," Tarantino told Reuters during a visit to Israel to promote "Inglorious Basterds", which he said had grossed $200 million worldwide.

"It will give them some cash by the time the whole thing is over with, but it also even helps them inside of the industry and it actually shows Hollywood that they can open a movie."

"I'm actually proud that I was able to do that for them, that I could pay back their faith in me, that I could pay back their support," Tarantino said.

The film, which reportedly cost $70 million to make and which will complete its global screen distribution by November, stars Brad Pitt as chief of a squad of Jewish-American troops who butcher Nazis in occupied France. Their plot collides with that of a Holocaust survivor bent on assassinating Hitler.

The Anglophone, German, Austrian and French cast interact in their own tongues, with some Italian thrown in -- a departure for the 47-year-old Tarantino, whose past films tended to focus feverishly on the style and lingo of American urban toughs.

"One of the things that I think that is very interesting is it is actually putting a lie to the aspect that subtitles aren't commercial," he said.

RISKS OF IMMEDIACY

Though the story is steeped in fantasy -- by Tarantino's own account, it's a spaghetti Western transposed to war-torn Europe -- he said original languages were key for building a sense of immediacy, especially scenes such as a tavern showdown where a faulty accent gives away a British spy disguised as a German.

"This was something I had to offer as far as a World War Two movie was concerned. So it wasn't just to prove to my critics that I wasn't a rube."

Any challenges he had understanding the actors on-set were overcome with the help of dialogue coaches: "It's my dialogue. I know it -- it's just a sixth sense."

"Inglorious Basterds" stirred concern among those who argued it trivialized the Holocaust by showing the fantastical triumph of Jewish brutes and an SS colonel who is both seductive and sinister. Its tone lurches between horror and black comedy.

Tarantino's Israel visit included a trip to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and he said he was keen to gauge his film's reception in the Jewish state, which was founded in the wake of World War Two and has fought regularly with its Arab neighbors.

"That's the curiosity factor involved. American Jews are going to respond to it differently than European Jews, and I have to assume that Israeli Jews are going to respond to it in their own particular way," he said.

The most satisfactory premiere of "Inglorious Basterds," Tarantino said, was in Germany, where he watched the audience.

"Germans are used to cringing in movies, especially about World War Two, and that even happened at the beginning of my movie," he said.

"And then there was this moment in the theater when the Germans realized that they were allowed to laugh with the movie -- not at it, but with it. They were allowed to get into the adventure. So there was this cathartic experience."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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