Tarantino’s pride – Inglourious Basterds DVD review

Inglourious Basterds – Starring Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Rated MA. By Simon Miraudo.

The following is not a formal review, but instead a casual conversation about what I believe to be the best film of 2009. That being said, I have still awarded it 5/5. Go figure. Please let us know your thoughts on Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in the comments section below!

Inglourious Basterds is a modern-day classic, whatever that means. Is a classic film one that adheres to a certain criteria? Or is a classic film one that defies any predictable criteria? Well, Quentin Tarantino’s Basterds does both; it’s a tribute to cinema and a commentary on cinema. It is inspired by the greats, whilst also being great on its own unique terms. It features performances, sequences and fleeting shots that deserve to enter the pantheon of classic movie moments. It’s also one of those rare films in which a film critic is portrayed as a cucumber-cool badass. Clearly, this film holds a special place in my heart.

In my original review of the film, I wrote the following cringe-worthy paragraph in relation to the meaning behind the film: “I’d be lying if I said that Inglourious Basterds has a lot to say. It does not try and explore the themes of cruelty during wartime, nor do The Basterds act as an extended metaphor for something in today’s society”. What terrible film criticism. Although I awarded the film five stars and tentatively called it my favourite film of the year, I was not yet aware of how truly great this film was. At the time, with only a few hours to write my review before it hit cinema screens, I could not yet comprehend all that Tarantino had packed into his two-and-a-half hour opus. I knew that I loved it, but I hadn’t quite figured out why. That review was hyperbole without reasoning and I’ve regretted publishing it more than any other review I’ve written. Allow me now to right this wrong.

Inglourious Basterds was advertised (often by Tarantino himself) as a ‘men-on-a-mission’ movie; a western set during World War 2. Well, the ads were half right. The film did feature men on a mission, and the Western inspirations were clear (Ennio Morricone is all over the soundtrack). But this was not the action movie we had been promised; in fact, the film’s brief moments of action are so abrupt, immediate and bloody you might as well consider them tableaus. The film is far bigger and better than that. We had all waltzed into the cinema expecting to see Brad Pitt collecting “nah-tzee scalps” in a wonderfully inglorious fashion. Tarantino had sold us a propaganda film in which good-old American soldiers would save the world by massacring cinema’s favourite (and let’s face it, most deserving) punching bags: the Nazis.

But the Nazis (for the most part) aren’t as despicable and dishonourable as we expected. Several German soldiers face death at the hands of the Basterds with grace and politeness; meanwhile, our “heroes” are unrepentant, vile and unforgiving. They are bastards. The film’s real hero might in fact be Col Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), or as he is commonly referred, The Jew Hunter. He’s a regular Sherlock Holmes with a swastika on his cap. Every time he is on screen, the film is electric. He’s funny, charming, terrifying and a genius. Waltz’s performance is going to be remembered forever.

2009 was supposed to be the year that motion-capture swept the world. The year that decades-long productions would kick off a revolution in cinema. At the time of this writing, I am yet to see James Cameron‘s Avatar (the supposed saviour of cinema). I have seen Robert ZemeckisA Christmas Carol however, and it did not live up to the hype. In it, solid performances are choked to death by technology that was indeed precise and impressive, but antithetical as to why we enjoy watching people act. Conversely, Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was shot, cut and released unto audiences in less than twelve months. It featured a whole slate of impressive performances; some that chewed scenery and some that were so subtle you could barely notice them. Its budget was a minuscule $70 million (that seems like a lot, but it was about the same as Judd Apatow’s Funny People). Having seen about three quarters of the touted Best Picture contenders for the 2010 Academy Awards, I can say without hesitation that Inglourious Basterds is the only film that warrants victory. As I plough through the remaining Oscar bait, I’m sure deserving nominees will be revealed, but surely none could top Tarantino’s achievement.

Tarantino is often criticised for being something of a “mash-up” director; a filmmaker who takes all his influences, throws them into a blender and emerges with a film of his own. We could devote an entire encyclopaedia to the references in Inglourious Basterds. The first scene alone, in which Landa confronts the dairy farmer Monsieur LaPadite, is a direct pastiche on the opening dinner table confrontation between Angel Eyes and Stevens in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. If we were to read into it even further, the actor who plays LaPadite (Denis Menochet) is a dead ringer for Stanley Kubrick. A mere coincidence? Perhaps. Kubrick purists will know that he passed away before he could bring his screenplay The German Lieutenant to the big screen. The premise of The German Lieutenant? It follows a group of German soldiers in the final days of World War 2. We could go on for every scene in the film. But this is not a “greatest hits” compilation; this is not QT’s driving mixtape; this is a recontextualisation of every war film, every western, every movie that has come before it.

They often say you have to know all the rules before you can break them and this is exactly what Tarantino has done. Scenes go on for what seems like forever; not too long, but certainly long enough to make you aware of its length. Cartoon caricatures like Pitt’s Aldo Raine and Mike Myers’ English commander are spliced into reality; we are made aware of the fact that we are watching movie characters in a real situation. But this doesn’t destroy the reality of the film, because the reality of the film is that it is a film. Inglourious Basterds not only knows that it is a fictional movie, but also that it is being watched by an audience, and herein lays its greatest achievement.

SPOILER ALERT

In one of the final scenes of the movie, an audience of Nazis (including Hitler) sits down in Shoshanna Dreyfus’ cinema to enjoy Goebbels’ latest propaganda flick Nation’s Pride. The film is a non-stop evisceration of Allied soldiers; as the body count racks up, the audience hoots and hollers in the most disturbing and disgusting of ways. Suddenly, the film cuts out and Shoshanna’s face is projected onto the screen. She informs the Nazi audience that they are about to be murdered … by a Jew no less. The cinema bursts into flames (thanks to some strategically placed and highly flammable film stock – yes, film literally kills the Nazis). Meanwhile, a couple of the Basterds burst in and begin to shoot round after round into the backs of the hundreds of burning Nazis. Hitler himself is given the brunt of the force in the film’s most hilarious piece of revisionist history, with Donnie Donowitz (Eli Roth) shooting bullets at such close range into his head that it can do nothing else but explode.

The audience reaction to this slaughter is one of elation. I remember sitting in the cinema watching the Basterds and Shoshanna demolish these Nazi cretins and joining the audience in their sustained celebration. I myself could only laugh … laugh! … as the Nazis got their just deserts. And then, I realised what Tarantino had been playing at all along.

SPOILERS ENDED

Without lecturing the audience a’la Michael Haneke, Tarantino comments on the power of cinema (specifically, the effect of violence) in a frank and incredibly effective manner. It isn’t subtle, nor does it require years of university education to decode. But, Tarantino is making a statement; an important one at that. It is not that violence in cinema is bad, or even that audiences should feel bad for enjoying violence in cinema. Instead, it encourages the audience to acknowledge that movies have a power over us. It can turn the most sweet-natured and meek into rowdy audience members. It elicits responses from crying to laughter and renders them beyond our control. The power of cinema is a difficult concept to express. Col Hans Landa tells Monsieur LaPadite in the film’s opening the reason for the Nazis hatred of the Jews: “You don’t like them. You don’t really know why you don’t like them. All you know is you find them repulsive”. In a similar manner, we don’t really know why we like cinema, but we do, and it does things to us. The finale of Inglourious Basterds expresses this concept as concisely as I’ve ever seen it. Be you Nazis or Allies; good or evil. On an emotional level, cinema is the great equalizer.

Inglourious Basterds is nearly three hours long, with the majority of the dialogue in either French or German, and is almost the opposite of what was advertised. Word of mouth was expected to be poor. But audiences returned week after week, with the film eventually grossing $300 million worldwide. It is Tarantino’s most successful film financially. It proved something that film pundits continue to rebuke; that film-goers want intelligent films. We’ve seen some incredibly stupid films make a lot of money this year. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and The Ugly Truth are the two worst offenders in my eyes; two movies fuelled by rampant racism, sexism and general disrespect for the audience. But Inglourious Basterds, the most subversive film of the year, remains one of the biggest hits. Sure, some critics will challenge the film for not being particularly thoughtful (which I myself had done originally) while others will criticise the ending for being silly with its historical revisionism. I respectfully disagree. Quentin Tarantino has long been our generation’s most talented filmmaker, and he has finally delivered his masterpiece.

5/5

Check out my other reviews here.

15 Responses to “Tarantino’s pride – Inglourious Basterds DVD review”

  1. Oh dear where do I start.Inglourious Basterds was the movie that proved to me the QT is the Emperor who has no clothes. This movie was a masterpiece only in the sense that a rapid talking verbose director can talk people into believing the hype.A story line that was full of inconsistencies, failures of internal logic and general lack of any form of sophistication. It was raised from being a 0/5 movie to a 0.5/5 by its mildly amusing references to real cinema classics which in themselves served only to demonstrate how much QT likes to demonstrate his own erudition in matters of film history.IB is in fact one of only 2 movies I have ever seriously considered walking out on. (the other was a turgid pot boiler with Bruce willis in foul mouthed mode opposite Demi Moore in murderous mode)Definitely, for me, the worst movie of 2009.Dale409

  2. I honestly hate it when people say they hate tarantino films because of plot holes and internal logic. if u want a story with a perfect story arc, read a biography, but if you want to be entertained and surprised, you go to a tarantino film. i think this movie is best viewed with the grindhouse films he made with robert rodriguez in mind, because it follows a similar principle, that sometimes people just want to see a bit of blood and gore, (and one of the best car chases in film history, but i digress), ad the best thing was that he did surprise everyone with this film, because it wasn't just a grind house flick like i, and i suspect many others expected, but it was for the most part, an intelligent and though provoking film, and it had possibly one the best qualities that any film like this has, and thats the sense that it was laughing along with the audience, and there was a sense of humour about the whole thing.If you're going to complain that a movie was stupid, don't target one of the most intelligent, and passionate filmmakers in the industry.

  3. Oh dear, I hate it when others read into a comment about one film meanings that were never there.I did NOT say I hate Tarantino films. I didn't even say I hated IB. I said I did not like IB. However, for the record of the 2 Grindhouse films Rodriguez' film was the better one.Neither did I say the film was stupid, it did have an interesting premise, although not new, there are plenty of 'alternate history' stories out there some of which deal with WW2. However just because a film maker is intelligent and passionate does not mean that when he produces a turkey as big as IB that that turkey can not be doused with sourberry sauce.My comments all relate to the film, not to QT, other than my reference to a lack of clothes and that in relation to this movie. I admire QT for his knowledge of movie history and his passion however I truly believe in this case much of the positive reviews IB received are due to QT's passionate barnstorming of the movie rather than its inherent quality – or in my eyes at least, lack of quality.Neither did I say I wanted a perfect story arc. I do want internal logic, that is logic that follows the premise of the film, no matter how outrageous the story might be if transferred to real life. Rodriguez' From Dusk Till Dawn is a perfect example, completely over the top, outrageous premise completely impossible and yet hugely entertaining and with plenty of blood and gore to boot. But it followed its own internal logic.Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown all deserved the praise heaped upon them. Kill Bill V1 & V2 not so much. Sin City, QT's part included, excellent.I am pleased that JackTheRipper enjoyed the film as much as he did however where he saw QT laughing along with the audience, I saw QT laughing at the audience. So please allow me the right to not enjoy a film no matter how intelligent or passionate its maker might be.CheersDale A

  4. Jaydon, thanks for you comment. I do so love a smart intelligent argument. I begin to understand the intellectual capacity of those who think IB is the best of 2009. Dale A.

  5. Don't write us fans of IB off Dale A. I did just write a 1600 word essay on why I think it deserves the praise it does. But you are right, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You'll allow me to respectfully disagree.

  6. Dale, you're welcome. I'm sharp enough to know not to waste my time engaging intellectually with someone who gives Inglourious Basterds a 1/10. I don't respect your opinion a bit and just based on it alone can already glean that your worth as a human being is a 0/5. My apologies to Simon for taking the low road, but Dale, you're a self-satisfied troll with little to no critical thinking skills. Exhibit A, you give the movie a 0.5/5 and then have the troll balls to moan about how, "I didn't even say I hated IB. I said I did not like IB." As a treasure troll living under a bridge, I can see how that makes rational sense in your community. If you really hated a film you wouldn't give it 0.5/5, upgraded from a 0/5. No. In Trollsylvania when mongoloid trolls hate a movie they plot to castrate the filmmaker responsible and make a broth of his vas deferentia. It's actually a fantastic break for us human beings that a hunchbacked leprous troll like yourself simply "didn't like" the movie. We don't like our auteurs needlessly neutered.Exhibits B and C. Since you haven't made a good case for why you didn't like the movie, choosing instead to mouth-breath abstractly about "failures in internal logic", while citing no examples, I can only assume that you didn't "get" the movie. I know that's an annoying charge to render against another lover of film but to chalk the positive reception of the non-troll community to another empty abstraction like "QT's passionate barnstorming of the movie" demands such an aggressive reaction.I submit to you or your local troll chieftain to provide some actual coherent criticism before you can even think of having your opinion be respected. Just remember friend, I don't hate you, I just think you are a 0.5/5 as a person/troll and exist as a result of the passionate anal pregnancy of a rabid dog and the remains of propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.Like I said the first time:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDW0ZnZxjn4&feature=related

  7. Poor Jaydon seems to have lost, if he had any, his faculty for reasoned discussion.I didn't like IB – didn't hate it, why waste that sort of emotion on a movie?Heck I don't even hate Jaydon despite his tirade against me. He seems to subscribe to the 'shoot the messenger' theory of criticism which probably indicates who is and who is not a Troll.I understand that others like IB and that's fine. I never claimed to be the ultimate arbiter of taste for any one else than me.I would much rather indulge in an exchange of ideas with someone like Simon Maraudo who at least shows some respect for a dissenting viewpoint,Cheers to all and keep watching those movies, who knows which ones you are going to like ;-)

  8. Dale, that was a very reasonable response. You aren't a troll. I take it all back. I still don't respect your opinion because you gave it a 0.5/5, called it the "worst movie of 2009", and inexplicably maintain that you simply "didn't like" the movie when objectively such a score and sentiment reflects hatred. It seems this particular disagreement between us is a function of what each of us believe that rating reflects. In the future please recognize that a score below a 2/5 and calling something the worst of its kind for the year it was made will represent to most people loathing for the rated item.That said I do respect your attitude and agree with, and welcome, your right to dissent. I just wish you presented it in a less oblique fashion and had more salient points. I'm not saying it's impossible to substantively dislike Inglourious Basterds, you just haven't satisfied my own criteria for criticism with your vague and peculiar turns of phrase, not to mention a total lack of specific evidence. A case can be made, I just don't think you've made one.I really respect that response though and feel sorry for my ravings. I hope I've restored my faculty for reasoned discussion in your eyes with this response. In the earlier rant, I made clear that I was not, at that time, aiming for reasoned discussion. My aim then was ridicule. I no longer think that was called for. Again, I respect and embrace dissenting opinion. I have little tolerance for an opinion of any sort that is rash and unsubstantiated. I class your opinion of Inglourious Basterds as an example of this and as such interpret it ridiculous. This has been really interesting. The movie is my favorite of the year and your least favorite. I don't think that matters and we can get along just fine. In fact, I'm now interested in some of your other opinions on film, particularly of those from this year, and would like to engage with you further if you are at all up for it. I realize this might not be the right space for that and I'm open to suggestions.

  9. Thanks jaydon, apology accepted, and yes I would be happy to discuss other movies with you. I also accept my rating of 0.5 was more than a little harsh and that maybe 2 would be a better figure.The reason I did not go into specifics was that it is quite some time since I saw it, very soon after release. I have lost track of the details that I found not to my liking and rather than go from memory on specifics and be rightly shot down because my memory was wrong in some of them, I confined my comments to my reaction to the film. I can assure you my feeling was one of disappointment and not pleasure that it was so lacking, or even a case of poppy lopping. I had looked forward to seeing the film from the time I first became aware of it in early 2008 or so.Who knows, one day when, and if, I sit down and watch it again I might surprise myself and find I like it after all, stranger things have happened. I must admit to a little twinge of disappointment at your most recent response as I had looked forward to more Troll talk which I could respond to with some talk of Billygoat Gruff and even some references to the personal validation that is sought by having ones opinions accepted by all. I guess I will have to wait for another place, time and person. Bugger!Change of subject entirely. I just got back from the 3D version of Avatar, which I thought was great, despite a few clunky bits – Unobtainium? Oh please, how did that sneak through the script vetting process from the early story boarding stage?The screen was a new set up at the Cameo Cinemas at Belgrave in Victoria and the image quality was absolutely first class with a crystal clear image from top to bottom and corner to corner. None of that slightly out of focus imaging at the extremities so common with film projection and some lesser digital set ups.Technically this has to be the way of the future. I can't wait to see QT's first go at it! ;-)CheersDale A

  10. Did the both of you just technically apologise to one another? Wow, an internet first!Way to keep it classy guys; I'm very proud of our readers!

  11. Hahaha, Billygoat Gruff. An essential component to the Jaydon Trollbridge Saga from here on out. I also saw Avatar and thought it was pretty amazing. Unobtanium is a real phrase despite how silly it sounds. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UnobtainiumWe really should leave Simon's comment board alone now.

  12. Hello,This is my first time using a message board. So, you'll have to excuse any technical errors on my behalf.I agree whole-heartedly with Simon's review of Inglourious Basterds. I have never, in recent memory, had so my fun in a theatre.On a merely technical level, I found there to be no distracting lapses of internal logic. I identified and enjoyed many theatrical flourishes and melodramatic devices at work, forcing Tarantino's marvelous plot foward. I think IB is best enjoyed when it is read not according to the genre of its content. It is not a war film, with a desperate attempt at some kind of psychological vraisemblence. I think the film is much more fun when watched as a melodrama. It makes perfect sense.I find a lot of cinema goers are locked in to a single and debilitating mindsetL: They can enjoy a film if the film's content and the genre coincide. I feel Dave A's reading of the film is guilty of this. "… a general lack of any sophistication". Please. The whole film is an excercise in aesthetic subversion that invites a way of reading, contrary to hald a centruy of American cinema.And it does it in such a rocking way… If you want to get away from the film wank…Dale, if I can call you that, I sincerely recommend that you give the film another go and watch it without your genre expectations stifling your already loaded viewing practice. It could be why you didn't like the Kill Bills as well.If you are at all interested in expanding the way you enjoy cinema, you might like to check out Christopher Fraylings audio commentary on Fist Full of Dollars. He goes into much more detail than I can.P.S. Never give something 0.5/5. Demonstrative rating is lame. It makes you sound like a troll.Love,Andy H

  13. @Dale A and… are you guys about to fuck or something? It seems like it. 0_o Inglourios Basterds 5*

  14. I agree, great flick. One of the best of 09. I was freaking laughing my ass off the entire time! Plus, there was some serious intense scenes: i.e. opening and the tavern basement. Seeing Hitler’s face get chewed up by a Tommy gun was pretty sick too. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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