Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quinglorious Tartare

Inglourious Basterds (2009, USA/Germany/France, Quentin Tarantino)

A WWII fantasy comedic drama in 5 chapters.

Chapter One: "Once Upon a Nazi occupied France.."

Beautiful French country side. A French farmer. A german solider. French dialogues, english subtitles. Glass of milk. “Bravo”. Language switches to english. Where are they hiding? Rat-a-tat. Gun shots. One girl is allowed to escape.

Haaaaa...haaaa..the laugh of evil.

Chapter Two: Inglourious Basterds

Gang of men. Killing is all they do. But since Eli Roth is playing one of the men doing the killing, there has to be an element which will fit nicely within Roth’s Hostel films.

Chapter Three: German night in Paris

This chapter is dedicated entirely to the cinephile. Talk of German directors and even the propaganda cinema that existed under the Nazis. And a brief lesson to spoon feed audiences about nitrate film.

Chapter Four: Operation Kino

Mike Myers makes a brief appearance and delivers his few dialogues with the same dramatic pause that Austin Powers would. And a film critic character is introduced. Hmm.

Tavern in Nadine. Laughter. Das Boot filled with beer. All merry. But the accent throws things off. The film critic comes to the rescue but the lying can’t go on for too long. Gunshots. Rat-a-tat.

Chapter Five:

Lady in Red. Cue music. Revenge. Burn. Bullets.

Before fade to black: "I think this just might be my masterpiece".

Majority of the critics and Tarantino’s fans will probably nod their heads in agreement at those words. For the few critics who disagree, well Tarantino lets us know what fate he would like a film critic to get as per the example in his movie. And if there are audience members who don’t agree with Tarantino’s gospel, the fans boys will take care of them, as I found out when I dared to suggest that Tarantino should have edited Kill Bill 2 a bit more. The angry abuse I got suggested his fans believe that every scene he shoots is the greatest and all the dialogue in his film drips with intelligence. There is no doubt that Tarantino can write great snappy dialogue and he knows how to shoot a scene, but that does not mean that every scene should be present in his movie especially if it does not contribute to the overall structure of the film. Why are writers, be it short story, novel or screenplay, asked to re-write and edit repeatedly? Because abstract or intelligent ideas may be great on their own but sometimes they don’t contribute anything to the overall work. If every director was allowed to have all their favourite scenes in a film, then each film would be longer than 3 hours. But Tarantino is allowed a greater degree of self-indulgence than other film-makers. The harsh opening lines of this review for The Fall by Ed Gonzalez come to mind as an example. Gonzalez blasted Tarsem for being self-indulgent. Yet whatever Tarsem did fit within the framework of his film’s structure but his usage of exotic locales & props were slammed for being selfish. Tarantino does not do locales but uses his dialogue as a canvas for his inner ideas. Gonzalez does not have such harsh words for Basterds but his opening line from The Fall's review could easily apply here as there are plenty of self-indulgent scenes in Basterds (and in all Tarantino movies for that matter) which don’t fit within the film's framework.

The overall framework of Basterds is a beautiful French language film garnished with a bit of German and Italian. Tarantino should get a lot of credit for keeping his film mostly non-english as that gives it a wonderful atmosphere. And his overindulgent dialogues are toned down a bit thanks to Christoph Waltz, who does a brilliant job in expressing Tarantino’s words and is a delight to watch. Unfortunately at times the French film is almost squeezed over by a Kill Bill style movie complete with dramatic soundtrack, bold yellow titles, colorful background introduction of some characters and quick cuts to spoon feed audiences or to add humour. Brad Pitt is fun to watch but I wish there was a way to have Pitt’s character included within the framework of the French film and not be pushed aside along with Eli Roth in an almost separate segment, even if that segment is not longer than 30 minutes. The counter argument is that if this second style movie didn’t exist, then Basterds would have had trouble in getting marketed to North American audiences; the weaker english language film is probably needed to support the superior French language film otherwise the overall movie might have ended up in art house theaters and not in multiplexes.

Rating: 7.5/10

Even though Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds are original movies, they are works which are completely aware of other film genres and movies. Part of the joy in watching these films is to see how they build up on past films and incorporate newer elements while remaining completely unique and fresh. It wouldn’t surprize me if Tarantino will put his unique imprint on another genre next. But I am waiting to see if Tarantino will go back and make a unique genre free film again, a film free of the past.

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