Lara’s Solo Review of Inglourious Basterds

18 Aug

There are a few major characteristics we Quentin Tarantino fans have come to expect from all of his movies. We go into his films hoping for stylized violence, overlapping narrative threads, certain actors, and clever insights. Does Tarantino’s newest film, Inglourious Basterds, make good on these unspoken agreements? With much discretion, as it has not been released in theaters yet, I will touch the surface on what and what not to expect from his latest feature.

And, so, let’s go through our Tarantino checklist:

“Laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolent”– Oh, Nazis. They murdered six million innocent people. They tortured Jews, homosexuals, Poles, and cripples, because of an irrational hatred. They believed them to be less civil than animals. And because of all that, it is much more acceptable to take pleasure in the torment of Nazis than any other group of people. For example, seeing Vietnamese soldiers be physically punished for their role in a war might be kind of upsetting. Many people would look away and there would be a palpable silence in the theater. Make that person a Nazi, spending his last moments alive to utter the term “Jew-dog,” and you have an audience laughing and applauding as his head gets bashed in with a bat. I do not exaggerate. This is exactly what happened at my screening of  Inglourious Basterds. Was I one of the jeerers? Sure I was. How could I not be? I like my violence like I like my coffee: dark, sordid, and against Nazis. Oh and I like for it to have the Tarantino touch. My only problem with the violence in this movie: there is not enough of it. The advertisements gave the impression that the Bear Jew and his fellow Inglourious Basterds are the central characters of the movie, but there is much more to it than their quest for Nazi scalps. In fact, the Basterds only appear twice in the first two hours of the film, which would be okay were it not for the fact that they are extremely entertaining and the only characters in the film committing acts of brutality.

Intersecting storylines– In true Tarantino form, the film follows several different characters with their own “chapters.” These characters include a French-Jewish woman in hiding, a young Nazi war hero, a German movie star, a British movie-loving lieutenant, and, of course, the Inglourious Basterds, a troop of Jewish-American soldiers who are hell-bent on getting 100 Nazi scalps each.

An “Oh that Quentin!” Tarantino cameo– Unfortunately, as was the case with the Kill Bill films, Tarantino’s face does not appear. Too bad. I so would have enjoyed seeing him speak German.

Mr. Samuel L. Jackson– Don’t worry folks. Samuel provides a few voice-overs in the film so your movie going experience will be all the motherf***ing better. Side note: Am I the only one who thinks he needs to be knighted already, so he can finally start calling him “Sir” Samuel L. Jackson?

Hilarious, yet realistic dialogue– Unfortunately, with Inglourious Basterds there are no confabs comparable to the likes of Pulp Fiction‘s iconic “Royale with Cheese” nor Death Proof‘s ever-insightful “bitch need a gun”.  I suspect the deficiency in this Tarantino trademark is a direct result of two elements of the film:

  1. It is a period piece– Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe this to be Tarantino’s first period piece. This affected the screenplay because he had to adapt pop-culture references to a completely different era, forfeiting the comprehension of most of the modern day audience. Not to mention the fact that Nazi occupied France probably didn’t set an atmosphere for debating the complexity of superheroes.
  2. It is a foreign language drama– Most of the characters in Inglourious Basterds are French or German. As you might have guessed, this means that most of the film is either in French or German. Once again this means that the discussions are mostly lost in translation. I love foreign films, but there certainly is a component lost in reading dialogue as opposed to hearing it. And the flow of discourse is something that should not be broken in a Tarantino movie.

Inglourious Basterds certainly has a different feel from Tarantino’s other films. As I said, it almost fits in the foreign World War II drama genre* rather than whatever you would call the genre of his traditional gritty, arthouse style of filmmaking. Regardless of its differences, it is brilliant. It is a “spaghetti western but with World War II iconography” that you should definitely see this Friday (film.com).

* Specific enough, Canadian Chris?

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3 Responses to “Lara’s Solo Review of Inglourious Basterds”

  1. Canada Chris August 21, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    Lara, I like your reviews so far and I encourage you to keep doing them! This one is good but one thing really irks me: ‘foreign film’ is not a genre, and reeks of American centrism/smugness. Every film is a foreign film to someone, and films made in foreign countries can be any number of genres (comedy, romance, action, etc.) To lump everything that is not American under one label is as lazy as lumping everything that is American under one label. It’s a bad practice and I won’t have it! Nosireebob.

    • cintussupremus August 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

      Too right. Note the edit.

  2. Canada Chris August 30, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    I don’t have a personal stamp of approval, but perhaps I should have one made just for this review.

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