Friday, August 21, 2009

First Assessment of Inglourious Basterds With as Few Spoilers as Possible

I really don't want to give anything away from Quentin Tarantino's latest, the World War II western revenge film Inglourious Basterds, even though there are plenty of places on the Interweb where you can find plenty of spoilers (if you haven't found them already). I may write a longer entry on it later (after I no doubt see it a second time in the theatre) chock-full-o-spoilers, but for now I'll just say I loved it. It's Pure Tarantino, so if you love his stuff, it's for you. If you find his work annoying, self-indulgent, excessively talky, too violent, too referential, too whatever, then you won't enjoy this.

The pseudo-controversy surrounding this film is utter crap (especially since the most vocal of it comes from people who, big surprise, haven't yet seen it). But that's a long multi-page rant for another day. Suffice it to say that I wonder if those in a huff about cartoon (albeit extreme) violence towards cartoonish Nazis are also in a tizzy over Raiders of the Lost Arc and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (and, if not, is it just because Spielberg is a Jewish filmmaker, and because of that he gets a [begrudgingly reluctant] free pass, while they quietly grumble)? Besides, there are tons of self-important, somber, Oscar-desperate World War II films out there to enjoy.

(I will say, however, if you're someone who simply believes flat-out that movies shouldn't be made on the subject, in any tone, although I don't agree with that stance, I at least think that's fair.)

Enough on that.

Like Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds wears its influences on its sleeve and serves as a mashup of several genres and styles and offers numerous other cinematic references. But unlike Kill Bill, they're more subtle and seamless. (Which isn't to knock Kill Bill: the stark tonal and stylistic shifts were deliberate there.)

And that opening sequence on the dairy farm? Masterful filmmaking. Tarantino shows off his strengths as a filmmaker right out of the gate in this scene. Again, I may natter on about it in more detail later, but for now, I'll be as spoiler-free as possible. However, I find Tarantino's dialogue here (as I often do) utterly absorbing and hypnotic.

I will admit there was one sequence that I found went on a little too long (in a basement bar for Nazis). But only a little. It's still a pretty kick-ass sequence.

In fact, the whole film really consists of five set piece filled with lots (and I mean lots) of talking (most of it in German or French and subtitled) and bursts of extreme violence.

The acting in this is good, particularly from Chrostopher Waltz as the villain, SS Colonel Hans Landa (a.k.a. "The Jew Hunter"). He's an excellent villain, creepy, brilliant and very charming.

Even though Mike Meyers' presence in this film is a bit weird, the scene he's in had me laughing hysterically throughout.

I think this is his best film since Pulp Fiction. But I think I have to see it one more time in the theatre to solidify that assessment. And, like I said before, I believe I shall.

Killin Gnatsees,

James "Aldo Ray" Comtois



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