A date with a beautiful woman wearing a mental ward band on her wrist.
Straight across the board I respect all of Tarantino’s work, all of it, including Death Proof. So it was with no lack of enthusiasm that I drove to my favorite movie theater, mentally salivating for the return of Quentin.
Inglorious Basterds opens with a glorious wide shot of a pastoral French countryside as a stoic farmer cleaves wood with an axe, a foreshadowing to the cutting away of his pride and security as Germanic vehicles draw closer over the horizon. The ensuing scene is pure Tarantino, as a smirking Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) gleefully interrogates the fearful French farmer played brilliantly by (Denis Menochet) The farmers eyes, spew angst, as a family of Jews lie hidden beneath the floorboards of his small wooden house.
One of the smart moves of this film is the native language of each character is spoken without the usual reality crushing need to have native Germans speak with English accents to soothe those easily suffocated by worldly realities.
Tom Cruise’s recent flip flopping Nazi film Valkyrie comes to mind where the entire Germanic race is ranked with eloquent Englishmen, absurd.
Language and how cultures segregate class structures is used well throughout the film as a pivotal plot device boldly pushing cultural racism to the forefront and adding a level of realism that few films dare to exploit.
The frightened Jews lapping dirt ‘neath the wooden floorboard serves the Colonel’s description of them and they have no idea that the sadistic Germans are about to slaughter them, as the dialogue switches from French to English. The kitchen table talk evolves into a terrible deal: reveal the Jews and you and your three beautiful daughters will survive.
It’s a reluctant verbal handshake no father could resist and the moral dilemma is powerfully painful. The Frenchman, steeped in the vile circumstances, beaten in a way that evokes a memory, that even now churns in my stomach.
A fiery pounding of German cruelty, clattering bullets splatter the floorboards and the unsuspecting Jews below are slaughtered…. All but a young girl Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) who flees over the lush fields. The flush of her face, her gasping for life, seems to somehow stop Landa from shooting her in the back, dead.
it’s an interesting contradiction of motive and action, foreshadowing Lando future erratic actions.
You’re in Tarantino’s territory now, its the language of visceral hard slapping, sadistic human throw and catch. Now you’re certain that this unnerving emotional sideshow will continue in the vein of the best Sergio Leone’s bullet flying westerns.
Aldo Raine (Brad’s) jaw jutting appearance almost assures it as he spits out his demands for German scalps to his toothy Jewish squad itching to kill some Germanic scum. You can feel the thoughts of murder and mouth watering mayhem sweep over their vengeful hearts. We gape at Aldo’s scared neckline, was he hung for insubordination, slashed or awoken by an angry lover one morning with a carving knife.
Aldo’s brave teeth gnashing diatribe over the hated Germans promises Nazi persecution to lengths unimaginable, yet his crew remain largely unknown to us: a teasing pan of their well cast jewish faces and they fade into oblivion, reserved for the worst of second string character actors.
I imagine their glee as actors, “Jesus, I’m in a Tarantino movie! Wait.. uhh no I’m not, it’s a ploy, a tease, an empty credit.” Producers will say, “But you weren’t on screen for more than a pan!” … all with the exception of an Ex German patriot turned Nazi killer, played with skillful quiet aplomb by Til Schweiger and a baseball swinging New York, Jew called the Bear, swaggered by Eli Roth.
True, there is thankfully, the prerequisite German soldiers mutilated and killed, all in the trademark Tarantino episodic prescription, but the dosage is neither strong enough nor are the refills high.
Frustratingly the thrill ride ends here, short and without a curtain call. What ensues is a self indulgent poorly timed string of scenes strained to the point of blatant irritation.
Even Tarantino admits that the first two chapters were written separately from the rest of the film script and years later he returned to it and allowed the characters to lead him to the ensuing, alternate reality where, The Inglorious Basterds actually refers to everyone in the film. As though this somehow resolves the missing Basterds that most audiences were waiting for.
Gone are the hopes of an inebriated juggernaut of fevered mental deliberations followed by staccato BURSTS of red gore violence, at least by Aldo’s crew of Basterds.
Instead the Basterds squad take a back seat to other plot threads, following Shosanna and a seldom seen black sidekick forbidden to use the projectors in a theater that Hitler and his crew of misanthropic cronies have decided to use to screen Gobbels newest Nazi heroic snipers escapades as he slaughters about 360 american soldiers as Hitler himself chortles with each snipers hit.
Aldo and a forgotten Basterd squad member do reappearance for brief moments standing around confused in wide shots that leave them bare, their characters shorn of meaning. A theater lobby scene where Aldo (Brad) is waiting to be slaughtered standing in the foray of the theater filled with Nazis in a ridiculous attempt to kill Hitler. HIs slanted jaw turned to a comical device, his accent now only serves as a credential of retardation to have undertaken such a poorly conceived mission.
The film lost all meaning when suddenly in this alternative reality Hitler is killed by a Jewish Basterd. Though I will admit my joy to seeing Hitlers face jerk to the music of machine gun fire, it feels awkward and comedic. If only movies could really change history, we would all have the satisfaction of knowing Hitler was murdered at the hands of justice from one of the races om which he attempted genocide. But this is a child’s indulgence and Hitler died by his own hands, not in a theater by two hastily planned fumbling attacks, coincidentally taking place at the same time. As if our impotence at killing Hitler during WW2 could somehow be relieved by movie making fantasy! It’s an insult that borders on blatant pornographic flagrancy. Contrived to say the least and the scene completely drew me out of the film and into the realm of “What the hell is going on?”
Now as a small exploitation film, something from the seventies, on a B movie budget perhaps shot by Roger Corman, these scenes strung strung together with cheap bailing wire from previous historical references lost on the majority of film goers,
…would have been a tantalizing drive in movie, where the questions of what the hell would have been quenched by sugary slurpees, chemical drenched popcorn and front seat groping.
The Tarantino name burned over the frame demands more.
I felt cheated, because it has so many inspirational moment that are left to alone.