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Mr. Beaks Squares Off With INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS' Christoph Waltz!

Just when you think you've seen every conceivable type of Nazi villainy, along comes Colonel Hans Landa, the calabash-puffing, milk-chugging "Jew Hunter" of Quentin Tarantino's World War II fantasy, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. From the film's very first scene, in which Landa deliberately convinces a French dairy farmer to give up the Jewish family he's hiding beneath his house's floorboards, you can't help but be a little taken with this monster. Though the content of Landa's extended monologue is repugnant (his credits his Jew-hunting success to his ability to think like a rat), the delivery of it is captivating; in another life (perhaps in the one he left behind when his country went to war), Landa might've been the German Sherlock Holmes. This was always going to be the plum role of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, but no one could've expected a performance as dexterous or iconic as the one turned in by Christoph Waltz. This is partially because very few people outside of Europe were aware of his thirty-two-year body of work. But even if we'd been familiar with Waltz's past performances, it's unlikely we could've anticipated the fifty-two-year-old actor giving us one of the most charismatic and complex human predators since Anthony Hopkins's Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Just don't call Landa a sociopath in Waltz's presence; he has no interest in explaining away Landa's twisted deeds that easily. To his mind, Landa is something altogether more noxious: he's a social virtuoso; a man who can thrive in any environment. Waltz is full of interesting ideas like this. I hope you enjoy our lively little discussion. (Warning: Spoilers are discussed throughout.)

Mr. Beaks: The thing that gets me about Landa is that I can't help but like the guy on some level. I'm always most engaged with the film when he's onscreen.

Christoph Waltz: And how does that make you feel?

Beaks: It's very disturbing.

Waltz: Isn't it? That's fantastic.

Beaks: He's just so eloquent. And so incredibly strategic in the way he lures people into his web. In a way, he's kind of like a TV private investigator like Columbo or something. He feigns aloofness or silliness, and that disarms people.

Waltz: Absolutely. I agree. And it is all on the page. I didn't need to build anything. It's all Quentin's invention. It's fantastic. I think you can really busy yourself endlessly with the script. So in terms of preparation, it's butt in seat.

Beaks: I've read that you don't get too method in building your characters. When you get the script, do you pretty much have the character right then and there?

Waltz: That's what I like to do. Technically, it's not the most sensational way, but it's my preferred way of doing it. I don't need to skin beavers to play an indian; I don't need to live in a teepee for half a year. Apart from the fact that playing this kind of character, you'd be hard pressed to find the right thing to do. How do you get accustomed to finding hidden people? You know, humans have this wonderful device: their fantasy. They can go back to that. What would be "if"? The much-quoted, magic "if". But that's already the second step. The first step is to find out what it actually means that is on the page. "What is it?" And "How do I do it?", I'm really not that interested in, because if I really know what it is, how I do it will follow.

Beaks: You've said you just like to get out of the way.

Waltz: That, in a nutshell, is my philosophy. Find out what it is, and then get out of the way. Because I find a lot of acting these days with the emphasis on virtuosity - which I admire greatly, but it gets on my nerves endlessly. Even in musicians. [pianist] Lang Lang has perfect technique, but I kind of get bored with perfect technique. You don't want perfection; you want humanity. You want the old guys, like Leon Fleisher. Or Alfred Brendel playing Schubert. That's probably not perfect technique. I don't know. I really don't know anything about it. But you feel the interest in what the music is supposed to tell me as a human. And where it's coming from. Sitting in a concert, I actually cherish the moment when I detect that something didn't go quite perfectly; it makes me sort of participate in something from one human to another. When Lang Lang plays these immense virtuoso Chopin things, I'm just... (Snores).

Beaks: But in film, those imperfections get cut out. There are no false notes if the actor is doing their job.

Waltz: Exactly. So get out of the way. Don't give me Lang Lang. Give me Chopin.

Beaks: And that's still fun for you?

Waltz: Still? That's where the fun is! Because then you can dance. If you think the culture of the Western world rests on your shoulders, how can you dance? That's too much weight. I like it light-footed. In this specific case, Quentin actually facilitates that. He intends that. Everything is in there. With Landa, this light-footedness is a very, very important quality. I don't occupy myself too much with "Is it bad?" or "Is it good?" That's your job as a critic or an audience. It's not mine.

Beaks: I know that Quentin likes to show a lot of movies or reference them for his actors when he's working on a film. Did he point you in the direction of any specific actors?

Waltz: He asked me whether I wanted to, and I said, "No thanks very much! I'd like to stick with what you've written." And he said (Extremely deferential), "Oh, that's cool." He doesn't pressure you into doing anything. That's not how he works. He inspires you. Now, I'm more compelled to ask him if he could suggest [a movie].

Beaks: Is that just to see how he might've envisioned the character using previous performances as a reference?

Waltz: That's not so much the question. Just because he knows so many movies that I've never heard of, and that I might be interested to see. He's got one of those encyclopedic film minds. I mean, we've seen a few films, too, but he knows everything!

Beaks: I know that your pipe was written in the script.

Waltz: It's a calabash. He wrote "calabash" in the script.

Beaks: So when you've got this wonderful prop to use, how do you not let it dwarf your character? It's so ostentatious.

Waltz: In the script, the calabash appears a few more times. But after we used it, we discussed whether the calabash should come back. Is Landa really someone who'd smoke a pipe like that? Because if he doesn't, the use of it in the first scene makes it something else. And we both kind of liked that. The [farmer] says, "Can I smoke my pipe?" And then [Landa] says, "Can I smoke my pipe as well?" And out comes this calabash with this lofty little sound effect that they put on. And now this poor guy is completely taken aback. "I smoke a pipe, but when this guy smokes a pipe, he really smokes a pipe." Do you know where the calabash comes from? Sherlock Holmes.

Beaks: Which brings us back to the private investigator angle.

Waltz: Exactly.

Beaks: Landa really enjoys the game. Interrogation is thrilling for him. Given what he's going after, do you think this makes him a sociopath?

Waltz: Quite the contrary. He's not a sociopath at all. He just understands how society works. Not everybody who understands how society works - who does not subject themselves to these mechanisms - is a sociopath. He's a step ahead. I'd say three steps ahead. And how he interacts with everybody, how he can switch on a social level from one layer to the next - to talk to the farmer like he would talk to a farmer - to reassure him. And to talk to a movie star like he would talk to a movie star. That is socially adept on a high level. That's not sociopathic.

Beaks: How do you think he came to that understanding?

Waltz: Landa? I don't know. Let's go ask. I know him personally. We can go and ask him!

Beaks: (Laughing) I ask because there's that line in the script where he says, "I'm aware what tremendous feats human beings are capable of once they abandon dignity." How does he know that? Is he speaking to something in his past? Did you think about that?

Waltz: Yes, I did think about it. I have a sort of convoluted theory that, to tell the truth, is too complicated to disclose. In the wake of the emergence of cognitive sciences, this whole thing came in motion that philosophers and psychologists and neurologists started to discuss that there is no defined reality. Reality as we perceive it is actually a construction. And language plays an important part in it. Language has a transformative quality. Language can cause reality into existence. If you think of it, especially we who work in media, how we use language to create a form of reality that is considered the reality. Whereas why would that be reality when something else isn't? This whole thing is a bit complex, but that links a bit to your idea about the sociopath, whereas I say he is a social virtuoso. These quantum leaps he can take between various layers of reality.

Beaks: So he's a master pianist in a way. And this is actually his masterpiece.

Waltz: Well, this is what he does. This is not his masterpiece. This is just one segment of his story. There was a lot before, and there is a lot after. He is coming from somewhere, and he doesn't die. And he now has a swastika on his forehead. That will change a few things. But he will continue. So that is up to your fantasy.

Beaks: What a challenge for him now, to have this stamped on his forehead and then to still be able to proceed in society and... perhaps thrive?

Waltz: Yeah, absolutely. It should be interesting to see.

Beaks: So what do you do now with the acclaim you've earned for this role? I guess it's the old question. Are the offers pouring in? Is Hollywood taking an interest?

Waltz: An interest? Absolutely. And the interest is really flattering. In a way, it's overwhelming. It's left me bedazzled. That is something that I really admire about this culture, this interest in talent. "What can we do with this?" There are now possibilities. "Let's use him!" Where I come from, things like that are rather dealt with in a complacent way. We have what we have, and we protect this. And that's why not all that much is coming out of it. They kind of go through the motions - in general. There are exceptions. But they never really go out of their way to venture into the unknown. Here, it's different. They really lap it up. They jump on it. We'll see. But the fact that they are so interested in possibilities is fascinating.

And with Christoph Waltz, the possibilities seem endless. So go see INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS this weekend and check out the performance of the year. Faithfully submitted, Mr. Beaks

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:04 p.m. CST

    Man, give him the Oscar now...

    by VicenzoV

    He was amazing

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:04 p.m. CST

    First, Yes Im a dick

    by Fisher209

    But I havent had one before :(

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:05 p.m. CST

    And I never will :(

    by Fisher209

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:17 p.m. CST

    If he does not win the Oscar there is...

    by billyhitchcock justice in the world!!!! amazing performance. perfection in acting.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:35 p.m. CST

    Did Tarantino ever direct anyone to an Oscar?

    by VicenzoV

    He didn't, did he?

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:45 p.m. CST

    Where's the B.J. Novak and Samm Levine interview?

    by Series7

    I mean together they almost equal a whole person.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:46 p.m. CST

    Where Til Schweiger interview?

    by Series7

    I want to know what it was like to work for QT on a movie about killing Nazi's, then to turn around and make a movie (Far Cry, by Dr. Uwe Boll) where he was paid in Nazi gold.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:46 p.m. CST


    by Series7

    Mike Myers what do interviews with AICN anymore? Wha happened?

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:47 p.m. CST

    I'm surprised Samuel L. Jackson

    by Series7

    Hasn't been on the late shows (unless I missed it). That guy will promote movies just because he's heard of them.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 1:59 p.m. CST

    The Tree Of Life......

    by Trannyformers_Apologist

    <P>December 25 2009 <P>Spoonen your cornhole ... FUCK YEAH<P>The Tree of Life Makes Avatar look like Steamboat Willie!

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:04 p.m. CST

    "brad pitt is terrific!" says larry king

    by Castiel

    and the last time he went to the cinema, charlie chaplins latest movie was out. if that's your endorsement tarantino, you're fucked!

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Did he violently throttle you Beaks?

    by SoylentMean

    That scene is such an amazing transformation, from conversation to carnage in the blink of an eye.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:18 p.m. CST

    my favourite of his scenes is...

    by billyhitchcock the restaurant. ordering the milk. awesome.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:18 p.m. CST

    The Tree Of Life......

    by Series7

    Like every Mallick film, already overshawdowed by The Fountain. Maybe if he didn't take forever to make his films.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:19 p.m. CST

    Yeah who really cares what larry king thinks?

    by Series7

    Since when did he become a film critic?

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:28 p.m. CST

    Will this TB explode like the las one?

    by DangerDave

    about tales as homosexuality and ban hammers....fuck I hope some.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:36 p.m. CST


    by The_Coyote

    I actually don't think The Tree of Life even covers the same ground as the Fountain does. I think he's taking a lot of concepts from his old project "Q" and applying them here. The title is there for more thematic reasons than anything else. Then again, I could be wrong, cause he's being so secretive. But from what's been revealed, it's apparently more of a suburban drama set within the framework of this sort of metaphysical history of the universe. Sounds weird.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 2:54 p.m. CST

    Truly amazing performance.

    by gnarwhal_evan

    Seriously, so I was so taken aback by him. In a movie of amazing performances, he really shined bright.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 3:34 p.m. CST


    by Series7

    Well Saving Private Ryan was not about the same thing as The Thin Red Line, didn't stop it from being over shawdowed.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 3:44 p.m. CST


    by The_Coyote

    That's a good point. That still bums me out, too.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 3:45 p.m. CST

    thin red line is movie movie

    by maitlanr

    this chris waltz cat is a new papa on my block!<P> who gets my will first? stretch my purse, make my boy buns hurt!

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 3:47 p.m. CST

    I meant to say Series7.

    by The_Coyote

    Not my own name. I'm an idiot.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 3:49 p.m. CST

    Overrated - the movie

    by lockesbrokenleg

    Brad Pitt is barely in it. The movie is NOTHING like the trailers. Just shitty overrated crap

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 4:09 p.m. CST

    I hate nazis but they have the sharpest uniforms ever

    by ZombieHeathLedger

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 4:17 p.m. CST

    Fascinating interview, Clarence.

    by GreatWhiteNoise

    Must be a treat to really sink the teeth into the subject matter with someone who's not only clearly given a great deal of thought to his craft, but who can express the concepts behind that so eloquently. Well done, Mr. Beaks!

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 4:23 p.m. CST

    Nazi uniforms

    by GreatWhiteNoise

    Where do you think Hugo Boss learned to make suits so well?

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 4:27 p.m. CST

    Tarantino directing an Oscar performance...

    by GreatWhiteNoise

    Not quite. He's directed four Oscar-nominated performances (Travolta, Uma, SLJ and Robert Forster), but no wins there. Won Best Original Screenplay for Pulp Fiction, but that's it so far.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 4:45 p.m. CST

    Almost readable

    by The_Ad_Wizard_Who_Came_Up_With_This_One

    which is saying much for a beaks article.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 5:12 p.m. CST

    When did Brad Pitt become such an asshole?

    by johnnyangelheart

    He used to seem like a pretty nice guy, now he just seems to around making asshole-ish pronouncements all over the place. Hope he gets over his bad self.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 5:36 p.m. CST


    by ZombieHeathLedger

    I thought it was "members only," lol.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 5:57 p.m. CST

    All he had to do was order milk

    by biffy88

    and I became instantly terrified. If thats not oscar worthy...

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 7:01 p.m. CST

    Tarantino directed a Cannes award-winning performance

    by Sydney2K

    That certainly is MUCH better than an Oscar...

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 7:20 p.m. CST

    In fairness, Forster is awesome in JACKIE BROWN

    by palimpsest

    That's a performance. Most everyone else in that movie is acting or reproducing their established screen persona. But Forster is splendid.

  • Aug. 21, 2009, 9:04 p.m. CST

    Hans Landa (SPOILER)

    by BDT

    Is an amazing character played to perfection by Christoph. I could watch this movie at least 3 more times (seen it twice so far) to catch a lot more about him. Today my daughter and I were discussing the milk he orders "Emmanuelle". I love this movie!!!

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 8:20 a.m. CST

    Good interview

    by djw1138

    Well done, Mr. Beaks. You transitioned between questions seamlessly. You didn't just read a list of questions, you actually had an organic and informative dialogue with the man. Kudos.

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 10:22 a.m. CST

    Riley - of course I don't know Brad Pitt personally

    by johnnyangelheart

    and when I said "pronouncements" I guess I should have said "public pronouncements" in order to sufficiently clarify my meaning for those who like to shake their heads.

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 11:57 a.m. CST

    Yes, they lap it out... and later they will bury it down

    by AsimovLives

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 11:58 a.m. CST

    Still, it was a good interview

    by AsimovLives

    Christoph Waltz sounds like he's a really smart guy... apart from his misuse of the notion of "quantum leap".

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 6:08 p.m. CST

    great performance

    by misterfurly

    waltz made the movie for me, very very good and glad to see german and french being spoken most of the time.

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 7:23 p.m. CST

    Where did Quentin find him? Waltz is jaw-dropping.

    by Rev. Slappy

    I think an Oscar is a foregone conclusion. Granted it is a great role, but it's one of the most towering screen performances in recent memory. Basterds is far and away the best movie I've seen so far this year--just a great experience in a cinema. I know Quentin likes to cast guys he likes and he often brings careers back from the dead (Travolta, Greer, Forster). And I know he likes to cast a lot of international actors that might not be familiar with American audiences. Give the casting director that got Waltz to Quentin a raise.

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 8:42 p.m. CST

    Thank God for Waltz

    by MacReady452

    Thought the movie was a bait and switch. Where is Samm Levine and the two M60's from the trailer. I felt like my wallet got stolen but the thief left a Rolex on my wrist. That is only cause Waltz delivered an amazing performance.

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 9:54 p.m. CST

    Beaks - wish you had asked him one more thing

    by Kaiser Soze

    I'm curious if he thinks, in the restaurant scene when he is talking to Shoshanna and orders the milk, and before he leaves, says that he was sure he wanted to ask her something else but can't remember, DID Landa know it was her? With the milk, I assumed he did recognize her, but if so, why didn't he act on it? And why didn't he shoot her when she was running away in the opening scene? It seemed out of character for him and I wondered what motivated him to twice let her go unscathed?

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 10:24 p.m. CST

    Why Landa didn't shoot Shosanna in the opening

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    I've been reading the screenplay online, and there's an additional scene following Shosanna's escape where Landa is being driven away, and his driver asks him why he didn't kill her, and Landa basically talks about the extremely unlikely odds of her finding shelter, or someone who won't turn her in, or of her dying of exposure in the woods, then adds "...or maybe she will escape, make it to America, and be elected President of the Untied States", then kind of laughs. He basically thought that she had so little chance of survival, he didn't need to put a bullet in her back.<BR><BR>As for whether Landa recognized her in the restaurant scene, I doubt it. The aforementioned deleted scene depicted how Landa thought she was as god as dead in 1941, so why would he expect to meet her again in 1944, and running a movie theater to boot? Plus, did he even know what she looked like? The only time he saw her was from the back, covered in blood, and halfway across a field as she ran. The whole milk thing...maybe Landa just *liked* milk, and it was a piece of irony. Of course, Shosanna supposedly didn't understand English in 1941 (did she have any English dialogue in the film at all? I forget), so she wouldn't have known about the milk thing anyways.

  • Aug. 22, 2009, 10:38 p.m. CST

    "It's left me bedazzled."

    by CherryValance

    I hope I'm not the only one who pictured him with a jean jacket full of fake gems. XD</p> <p>Seriously, though, he was really really great in the movie. He kind of reminded me of the Merovingian. Where did he go? I liked him. Anyhoo, I hope Waltz at the very least gets nominated. Nice interview, Beaks. </p>

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 7:54 a.m. CST

    sorry guys, but...

    by billyhitchcock

    ...the way i saw it, he totally knows it's her in the restaurant, it's cat and mouse. i know waltz doesn't see him as a sociopath but he totally is, always in control. and the way he says he forgot what he was going to ask her is just another way of scaring the pants off her. he knows she is now hosting the première so there is plenty of time to kill her. another thought but not one i totally believe in is that he may also know that of course she would want revenge on him and is not likely to flee the second she is out the building. almost like it's an inescapable fate they are both resigned to. anyway just my interpretation. i'm sure QT will leave us all guessing, which is of course the beauty of film :-)

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 10:14 a.m. CST

    the milk thing, nasty in the pasty...

    by omarthesnake

    she did know about the milk because he said that in French before switching to English. As for whether Landa recognized her, it's deliberately vague. it could just be him being condescending to a woman, since he didn't even ask if she would like an espresso as well. or it's part of the cat and mouse game. i doubt he would have recognized her from a great distance from behind the only other time he's seen her, but he probably senses that she's got something secret in her life and he's intrigued by that.

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 12:45 p.m. CST

    Seeing it tonight, but....

    by cheyne_stoking_DMS

    the fact that it's either # 106 or # 108 on IMDB really, really turns me off. These days, the classics are dying out! Stop fucking voting these new releases in. Fucking retards.

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 2:27 p.m. CST

    Oh yeah...

    by cheyne_stoking_DMS

    To all QT Haters, Moonface is laughing at you. 37.6 mill was it?...

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Am I the only one who thought of the Merovingian?

    by ShabbyBlue

    Watching Landa in the movie, I was often reminded of the Merovingian character from the Matrix sequels. They both have the same occasional boysterous way of speaking and physical mannerisms, and even the facial features seemed similar. I actually had to look him up on IMDB when I got home to confirm it wasn't the same actor in both roles. Did anyone else think of the Matrix' Merovingian when watching Landa in this film?

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 4:14 p.m. CST

    sorry shabby...

    by billyhitchcock

    ...i've repressed any memories that any sequels to the matrix exist :-)

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 4:21 p.m. CST

    Mountain Climbing? hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahah

    by MacReady452

    Best part. Just laughs right in her face at how lame that cover is. I loved it.

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 4:58 p.m. CST


    by smatt584

    I was definitely reminded of that character watching Waltz's performance. They both had a kind of playful, mischevious attitude to them.

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 4:59 p.m. CST


    by smatt584

    They both had the uncanny ability to "tower" over you while still sitting down.

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 5:15 p.m. CST

    The glass of milk

    by MaxRabes

    I dont think he knew who she was. He ordered milk for her, because thats how you serve Strudel to children in austria and germany, it usually comes with milk. He patronised her and treated her like a child, but he didnt know who she was.

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 7:13 p.m. CST

    Its a lot like Javier Bardem

    by theGoldbergV

    in N

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 7:17 p.m. CST

    So I'll try that again

    by theGoldbergV

    Its a lot like Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men, its a performance so brilliant, calculating and menacing, you simply HAVE to see it twice just to take it all in. But no, I don't think he recognised her in the resterant scene, its just played that way so you feel her anxiety as to whether he has or not.

  • Aug. 23, 2009, 11:57 p.m. CST

    Hey Martin Landau......

    by FilmFan311

    Give Samuel L. Jackson the Oscar. Your Victory was Bullshit. ANYWAYS. Christoph Waltz.........BRAVO! You fucking OWNED in this one man!!! Congrats on the Oscar Nomination that will come and Best Wishes for A VICTORY!

  • Aug. 24, 2009, 12:06 a.m. CST


    by _KOALA______NOT_A_BEAR_

    Hans made Basterds kickarse. In the opening scene when it went from english back to subtitles & Hans called for the farmers daughters to come back in; the dread of the situation was breath taking. I loved how he took pleasure in integating people to uncover the truth. When the missing shoe was pulled out for Bredget von Hammersmark & Hans watched her expression; & she asks "what now?"... he pounced on her & started choking. A TRULY EVIL BADARSE. hands down, Best evil dude created in movies.

  • Aug. 24, 2009, 11:27 a.m. CST

    Mr. Waltz made the film

    by Animation

    The acting of the Hans character made the film for me. I enjoyed the rest of the film, but it was a bit of an unintentional (?) comedy really. However, every scene with Christoph Waltz was breathtaking. I was glued to his every word, expression, and movement.

  • Aug. 24, 2009, 4:13 p.m. CST

    Brilliant performance

    by Goldmagus

    And what an incredibly articulate, intelligent guy. He deserves every award he's going to be picking up in the coming months.

  • Aug. 25, 2009, 8:01 p.m. CST

    Still Think...

    by DrEdwardMorbius

    ...QT's flicks are essentially expensive student films, overusing techniques, just film-making-as-masturbation...give me some Carpenter any day...