Happy hump day LemonWire readers. Today, we’ll be continuing our look at various musical moments throughout Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. Our song of the day today, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”, is by none other than the late, great, David Bowie, included on the “Inglourious Basterds” soundtrack.
With the recent release of “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” still in our rear view, it’s a good time to take a step back to remember some of the more iconic moments in Tarantino’s career. When song and scene have met and merged together particularly well.
So far this week, we’ve looked at two of these moments. On Monday, we talked about “Reservoir Dogs”, as well as the Stealers Wheel song, “Stuck In The Middle With You”. Yesterday, we looked at the climax to “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”, where “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Esmeralda Suite” by Santa Esmeralda sat front and center.
As always, we’ll start off with a brief discussion of the use of music in the film, and its soundtrack overall, before moving on to the scene where our song of the day fits in.
In the soundtrack for “Inglourious Basterds”, Quentin Tarantino uses the music of a longtime contributor, Ennio Morricone to once again bring out the spaghetti western tones of the film. “The Verdict” balances hope and foreboding on a razor’s edge, using the two voices of flamenco guitar and piano to characterize them, respectively.
While Tarantino uses the placement of some of Morricone’s work to great and dramatic effect (especially in scenes featuring Christoph Waltz), he also isn’t afraid to include a tune or two for comedic relief. But, Tarantino’s kind of comedic relief, which is inherently violent and abrupt.
The scene I’m thinking about in particular, is when the Basterds have captured a Nazi officer and are interrogating him. Once they realize he won’t give anything up, they call in Sgt. Donny Donowitz to bash his brains in. Morricone’s “The Surrender (La Resa)” from “Once Upon a Time in the West” plays as the two regard one another for an uncomfortably long moment of intense eye contact. It’s a song you can imagine is playing in both of the men’s heads, but is cut out once Donny takes his swing and the focus is back to the objective. That quick transition tends to have this kind of whiplash effect on us, except instead of making your neck hurt, it makes you laugh.
Okay, might’ve gotten a bit carried away there. That’s not the scene we’re looking at today. It’s this next one. The one where we hear, amazingly, one of the few pop songs of the soundtrack.
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
One of the most surprising song choices in “Inglourious Basterds” might just be the use of David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”. The scene in which it’s used comes in toward the end of the film, as Tarantino’s heroine, Shoshanna prepares to host a group of Nazi’s at her theater. But she isn’t buttering popcorn or sweeping the floors. Instead, she dons her lipstick as war paint, and gets ready to burn the whole place down.
David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” mostly plays as Shoshanna prepares her appearance for the theatrical release. But it also fades into the background as we’re shown a short scene of her and her boyfriend taking more extreme measures to get what they need.
The lyrics to “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” don’t mention cats once, surprisingly. They do, however, go hand in hand with the Shoshanna’s plan. One pair of lines speaks to her rage at the Germans, “Feel my blood enraged / It’s just the fear of losing you”. And the repeated chorus speaks to her current goal to fight back. “And I’ve been putting out the fire with gasoline”.
Once again, Tarantino shows that, when he sets his mind to pairing a song with a scene, he goes all the way with it. While “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” does at first come across a bit questionable, there’s no doubt that it matches the tone, energy, and actions of the characters on the screen. And if that isn’t the mark of a quality mix of audio and visual, I don’t know what is.
That about finishes up our discussion of David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”, from Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our walk through iconic music moments in Tarantino’s filmography.