The look of 'Basterds' puts costumer to the test

There’s reality. 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.

Signings & Bookings

Bojan Bazelli has signed to shoot helmer Steve Antin’s “Burlesque,” with Cher and Christina Aguilera; Martin Ruhe will lense the next George Clooney vehicle, Focus Features’ “A Very Private Gentleman,” helmed by Anton Corbijn. Both d.p.’s are repped by Dattner Dispoto…

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WME’s production department has signed d.p. Florian Ballhaus, editor Dody Dorn and production designer Rob Pearson. The firm has also booked production designer Toby Corbett on “The Details,” vfx producer Kurt Williams on “Medieval,” editors Dorn on “London Boulevard” and Jim Page on “Life as We Know It,” d.p.’s Steve Fierberg on “Love and Other Drugs” and Alik Sakharov on “Straw Dogs,” costume designer Catherine George on “Red Dawn” and second unit director E.J. Foerster on “Twilight Eclipse.”

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Paradigm bookings: d.p. Amy Vincent on “The Experiment”; editors John Wright on “Secretariat,” Jeffrey Werner on “The Kids Are All Right” and Craig Alpert on “Your Highness”; production designers Maher Ahmad on “Life as We Know It,” Gary Frutkoff on “The Experiment,” Patti Podesta on “Love and Other Drugs,” Joseph Nemec on “Ironclad,” Clayton Hartley on “B Team” and Steve Geaghan on “V”; costume designer Johanna Argan on “Life as We Know It”; and second unit director-stunt coordinator Alan Graf on “Due Date.”

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Cinematographer Ben Seresin and editor Robert Duffy are attached to Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable,” starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, for Fox; Robert Richardson is shooting “Eat, Pray, Love,” with Julia Roberts, for Columbia. Both d.p.’s are repped by the Skouras Agency.

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