Friday, 24 July 2015

Comic Con 2015: The Hateful Eight panel

Doing things his way has often meant Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) doing the things his revered filmmaking forebears did back in the day. Things that have been mothballed by modern studios with their obsession with 3D, eye on new markets and digital technologies. Things like giving their new movie a US roadshow theatrical release on Christmas day, complete with 70mm projection, interval and prelude music. Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained), absent with filming commitments but appearing via the magic of pre-record, revealed that, like in the days of Spartacus (1960), El Cid (1961) and Battle Of The Bulge (1965), The Hateful Eight will be released in the most spectacular format possible. Continuing that sense of movie heritage was news that the great Ennio Morricone (Once Upon A Time In The West) will be scoring the film, his first Western score in four decades.

So it was that Hall H found itself treated to The Hateful Eight panel that was part footage premiere, part history lesson. The director and his director of photography Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds) have dusted off Ultra Panavision lenses to shoot their snowbound Western in 65mm. Hailed like a returning hero, Tarantino took to the stage to show off first ever footage of the movie. Seven minutes of it.

Captured at a moment ten years after the Civil War, each of the characters are given their own introduction, beginning with Jackson's laconic ex-cavalry man. We find him blocking a road, sitting atop of a pile of bodies. Then a stagecoach rolls up carrying Walton Goggins' (Lincoln) shady sheriff, Kurt Russell's (Death Proof) bounty hunter and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Spectacular Now), a bruised and battered – not to mention slightly demented – Wild West lady of ill repute. Then, holing up in the saloon that will host the meat of the drama, we meet Tim Roth's (Pulp Fiction) bon viveur, Michael Madsen's (Kill Bill) 'cowpuncher', Demián Bichir's (Machete Kills) Mexican pianist, Bruce Dern's (Nebraska) racist Confederate general, and a barkeep.

It's all set to a tense, insistent percussive score and, with big characters and scenery chewing performances, it certainly looks like a whole lot of fun. As usual, the director's singular vision found favour with the cast. "When you see five frames, you know who's doing it," said Russell. "I'd recommend for any actor to work with Quentin once. It's a circus you want to be a part of." Added Dern: "Quentin has an attention to detail in a scene unrivalled by any director I've worked with, apart from perhaps Luchino Visconti."

"I'm not a fan of shooting on digital," said Tarantino of his pick of film format, "but I'm not a fan of digital projection either. If we project it on digital, we've already given up too much ground to the barbarians. That's not the movie business I signed up to." Shooting it on 65mm was, he wryly pointed out, a way of twisting distributors' arms to ensure a 70mm airing. "[There's this idea that] 70mm is for travelogues or Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)," he said. "No, if you use it to shoot indoors it can be incredibly intimate. It's for shooting great drama."

So with this and Django Unchained (2012), can we expect more Tarantino Westerns? "These days you have to make at least three Westerns to call yourself a Western director," he grinned, "otherwise you're just dabbling in the genre. So I have to make one more Western."

And where (and when) does Tarantino see himself finishing up his directorial career. "I quite like the idea of ten and done," ruminated the writer/director, now on number eight. "There's a neatness to that. But even if I do end on ten, that's still a decade away," he added, a reminder that his handcrafted films don't show up with quite the frequency of, say, a Woody Allen movie.

Then there is the broader and, for Tarantino, frustrating question of cinema's shift to digital. "Digital projection is just HBO in public and if that's what movies become, I can just move to television." This approach may one day see a him make a shift to the smaller screen (a move recently made by Steven Soderbergh). "I can make miniseries' – these mini-novels for television. Except for Kill Bill, all my scripts get cut back. I can do an eight-hour script and it's all good."

You can watch the full Comic Con 2015: The Hateful Eight panel below.

The Hateful Eight should ride into US cinemas later this year, but there is no word as yet on a UK release date.

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