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Hicox review

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Hicox review Empty Hicox review

Post by Admin on Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:18 pm

Wednesday, February 03, 2010
The Scene I Should Have Sent Home With You
Okay, I apologize. I wrote about the wrong scene. Not that I really wrote about the wrong scene, per se, because I did want to write about that scene but there was another scene that was better, that was better than any other scene, that was better than whole movies in 2009. Why did I forget to write about it? I blame Netflix.

I only saw Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" once in the theater. I desperately wanted to watch it again because it's totally a movie that needs to be seen more than once (at the minimum) and because I wanted to try and figure out whether or not I should purchase the DVD. Therefore the instant it became available on DVD I moved it to #1 in my Netflix queue where for six consecutive weeks it remained there with the status of "Very Long Wait". (The same thing is now happening with "The Hurt Locker" which I also really want to watch a second time. Netflix is starting to piss me off. But that's a topic for another post.) Fed up, I purchased "Inglourious Basterds" on pay-per-view and saw The Scene again and, well, straight away I knew I'd a critical error on my yearly Scene To Go Home With You. I mean, damn, what a scene.

I cannot stress enough the length of Tarantino's scenes in this movie. He is breaking all the rules of modern-day filmmaking. Only a specific few directors in this day and age could get away with such audacious length. The Scene in particular goes on for what must be 25 minutes and it is so old-fashioned (classically shot, no shaky camera at any point). 98% other directors show this scene to the studio moguls and the studio moguls start pissing and moaning and demanding Jump Cuts and Changes In Film Stock For No Discernible Reason and Flashbacks and Violence Appearing Out Of Thin Air. "People will fall asleep!" they'd yell. "This scene calls for patience and, well, for God's sake, we're Americans!" But Tarantino can tell them all where to go and leave The Scene unchanged. That's his power. Bless him.

(Wait, have I offered the Spoiler Alert yet? No? Okay. Spoiler Alert!)

The Scene, in a sense, gets rolling in the scene before The Scene. Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), a film critic in England before the war, is sent to France for "Operation Kino", the aim to infiltrate a Parisian cinema which will be showing the premiere of a new German film titled "Nation's Pride" at which will be present many high ranking Nazi officers, including Joseph Goebbels himself. His contacts in France are the famed German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), a spy working for the Allies, and the basterds themselves, a Jewish American military unit headed up by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt).

Hicox, along with Sgt. Hugo Sitglitz (Til Schweiger) and Cpl. Wilhelm Wicki (Gedeon Burkhard), will pose as Nazi officers meeting the beguiling von Hammersmark, their "old friend". Hicox makes it clear that should anything go wrong and they are unable to make it out that any Germans present at their rendezvous point not make it out alive. This is crucial to "Operation Kino's" success.

Lt. Raine is not so taken with the chosen site of this rendezvous - a basement tavern, chosen by von Hammersmark herself. "She's an actress," explains Hicox, "not a military strategist." "You don't gotta be Stonewall Jackson to know you don't wanna fight in a basement," Raine declares. But Hicox advises the basement tavern was chosen as it was isolated and typically unpopluated by Nazis.

The Scene then begins in earnest inside that cinematically wonderful basement tavern with the shot of, yes, a Nazi. Thus, The Scene essentially opens with a Reversal, which is key as there are more Reversals ahead. The Nazi is drunk and he is joined by several other drunk Nazis since Master Sgt. Wilhelm (Alexander Fehling) is celebrating the birth of his son, Maximilian. Sure enough, Bridget von Hammersmark herself has joined them at their table where they play a card game in which you write the name of some famous person on the card, pass the card to your right, at which point the person places the card on his or her forehead and then has to guess the name on that card.

Hicox and the basterds, masquerading as the Nazi officers, then enter (a sublime shot, the table of von Hammersmark and her new "pals" in a long shot with the stairs showing the boots of the entering trio framed in the upper right hand corner). They take a different table. Eventually von Hammersmark makes her way over to them where they all agree they must stay for one drink as to not appear suspicious. In hushed tones she explains the movie premiere has been changed to a smaller theater. But more than that there is "colossal" news. "Try not to overreact," she says. And then begins "The Fuhrer" at which point, of course, the drunken Wilhelm stumbles up and wonders if von Hammersmark will sign her autograph for his newborn son which she does.

"He may not know who you are now," explains Wilhelm, "but he will." Wilhelm stumbles away, von Hammersmark gets set to explain this "colossal" news again but, again, Wilhelm re-enters the picture. Now Hicox grows impatient. Speaking in German he lectures Wilhelm, telling him this is an officer's table and he is an enlisted man. Perhaps emboldened from all the schnapps, Wilhelm mentions the oddity of this Nazi captain's accent and wonders "Where are you from?" Now Stiglitz grabs hold of Wilhelm and, in his own German voice, yells at Wilhelm for questioning his superior and sends him back to his table. They're in the clear. Or are they? A German voice calls out: "Might I inquire?!"

Now the camera finds Major Hellstrom (August Diehl), isolated at a corner table, reading, smoking, drinking a boot of beer. Another Reversal. The scene begins anew. He approaches this officer's table and notes the oddity of the accent of this Captain he doesn't know.

Hicox cooly explains the location of his German village and how there they all speak in this way. Employing his film knowledge he goes on to advise if Major Hellstrom has scene a particular German film - which he has - he would have seen himself and his family. Von Hammersmark confirms this information. Hellstrom seems to be satisfied (or is he?) and joins them at their table. (Perhaps the funniest moments in the entire sequence involve the glowering looks Stiglitz gives to Hellstrom throughout. He just cannot wait to unleash hell on this guy.) Hellstrom suggests they play the same card game as the other German soldiers and they do. After Hellstrom correctly guesses the name on his card Hicox advises the Major that, as they are old friends, they wish to spend their time alone and without disruption and that he is intruding. Hellstrom asks von Hammersmark if he is intruding. Obliged, she says no. Hellstrom then laughs, affirms he is, in fact, intruding, and agrees to leave them be after be buys them one last drink in the form of some special scotch. He will not have any, though, nor will the fraulein, but the other three will, and so three glasses are requested.

At this instant something is given away. What, the movie never explicitly says (until later) but you can see from the expression of Hellstrom and then from von Hammersmark that something irreversible just took place and, sure enough, under the table, Hellstrom points his gun at Hicox's, shall we say, groinal region. Ah, but then Hicox reveals he had his gun pointed at Hellstrom's groinal region since he sat down. Oh, boy. Hicox finishes his scotch since - in a wonderful line - he explains there are special circles in hell for people who waste good scotch. (Amen.) And then....

Violence erupts. The real Nazis, the fake Nazis, the tavern owner, everyone. Guns are fired, bullets fly, blood is spilled, and all of it lasts no more than 14 seconds. (I know because I watched it a second time and counted out loud.) A scene that has gone for 20 minutes, tension mounting, and mounting, and mounting, and mounting, and then all hell breaks loose for 14 seconds and then it's over.

In a way Tarantino himself was building to this all along. In "True Romance" (which he wrote) and in "Reservoir Dogs" (which he wrote and directed) there are scenes like this but they are more concerned with the explosion of violence. At this point in his career Q.T. has learned the buildup is always the best part and the better and longer the buildup the more shocking the violence, especially if the violence is breathlessly short.

Only one man still stands. The new father, Wilhelm. But then we hear footsteps up above of Lt. Raine and his men. He wants to know if anyone from "his side" has survived. They haven't. No, wait! They have! Von Hammersmark, though injured, is still alive. Raine needs her alive to keep "Operation Kino" a go. But to get to von Hammersmark he has to strike a deal with Wilhelm that neither of them will kill the other which, going back to the scene before The Scene, is no good since no opposing Germans can be left alive. Will Raine have to go back on his word? Will Wilhelm get out alive? And then Wilhelm says disgustedly of von Hammersmark, "Take this f---ing traitor away." And then he gets shot dead. Not by Raine. But by von Hammersmark. The last Reversal. And you realize, Wow, poor ol' Wilhelm was right. His son may not know her now but he will.
Posted by Nicholas Prigge at 9:02 AM

Labels: Dissertations

Wretched Genius said...

Everyone in that scene is great, but Michael Fassbender as Hicox is masterful.

Though I also love the basement scene, I find myself more often rewatching the opening scene with Christoph Waltz, which is another great scene of slowly-mounting tension leading to an explosion of violence.
12:15 PM

Nicholas Prigge said...

Yeah, Fassbender was awesome. Obviously Cristoph Waltz is getting all the attention, and there was a little Oscar buzz for Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, but not many people seemed to talk about Fassbender. It's ashame.
2:15 PM

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Post by MissL on Wed Feb 03, 2010 7:14 pm

a lot people like he in this part he was grate

Stelios' sword

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Post by Admin on Wed Feb 03, 2010 8:56 pm

Yeah, they do like him a lot, which makes us happy.

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Post by Admin on Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:31 pm

From the Cheap Seats – By George! (Sanders)
Blog by James Oliver on January 7th, 2011

The Ghost and Mrs Muir

As you pick your way through Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, through the scalpings and distended dialogue scenes, you’ll meet a character called Lt. Archie Hicox, a British commando dropped behind enemy lines to through a spanner into the Nazi war machine.

He’s played by Michael Fassbender, a good actor but one with a thankless task here. You see, according to Tarantino, Hicox is based on George Sanders. No matter how good Fassbender is, only one person has ever got away with playing a character like George Sanders and that was George Sanders.

Sardonic, untrustworthy but oh-so-dashing, the imperious Sanders was most usually to be found playing the cad. His turn in Hitchcock’s Rebecca provided the template, which he perfected to Oscar-winning effect in All About Eve as the supercilious critic Addison DeWitt.

But there was another side to Sanders, one that has been overlooked for too long. When he was researching his Basterds, Tarantino noticed how often Sanders paired up with refugee directors: many filmmakers fled from Hitler to Hollywood and Sanders seemed to make a point of working with all of them – Anatole Litvak (Confessions of a Nazi Spy), Jean Renoir (This Land is Mine), Robert Siodmak (The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry), Douglas Sirk (A Scandal in Paris) and Fritz Lang (Man Hunt).

It isn’t just that these European filmmakers provided him with his richest roles. Tarantino’s observation is astute because it draws attention to Sanders’ own status as a refugee; he was born in St Petersburg, where his father was an industrialist. But then the Russian revolution came and the family fled, losing their holdings in the process.

Perhaps the disdain that so often characterises Sanders’ performances is a consequence of having his birthright seized by the Bolsheviks. More likely, it was because he knew he was better than the roles he was so often given. Occasionally, a film would stretch him – Rossellini’s Journey To Italy, for instance – but too often, he was obliged only to show up and be urbane.

And the roles got worse as he grew older and those rakish good looks started to fade. The nadir, surely, is Good Times, where he co-stars alongside Sonny and Cher. Around the halfway mark, you can actually see him thinking ‘I’ve won an Oscar for God’s sake. How much longer do I have to do this?’

His last great role took advantage of his wonderful voice; as Shere Khan, silky villain of The Jungle Book, he drew upon a career playing wrong ‘uns to create one of the ultimate movie villains. Indeed, it’s probably the performance that he is best remembered for today.

George Sanders killed himself in 1972. In his suicide note, he stated it was because he was ‘bored’, although long-term depression may be a more likely cause. He is well remembered by film fans; like many actors who were too distinctive and/or awkward to achieve major stardom in their lifetime, his posthumous reputation is far greater than many of the A-List stars of his age.

Sanders is a unique figure. Not, perhaps, a great actor but an indelible presence, a pinch of spice that flavoured the films. There are many things to commend about Inglourious Basterds; that it pays tribute to Sanders is not the least of them.

View MovieMail’s George Sanders section

This entry was posted on Friday, January 7th, 2011 at 4:36 pm

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