August 23, 2009

Inglourious Basterds or Revenge of the Nerds

Ok. Lots of hype. Lots of PR. Quentin Tarantino doing his ADD thing in countless interviews. Brad& Angie on the red carpet. Fine.

Inglourious Basterds. A film in five chapters. Took ten years to write - which makes that one chapter every two years. Even though he stole the title from some movie called Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato. How hard can that be? You´ve already stolen the title. Ok, we know he takes bits and pieces from movies he thinks no one else has seen, but at least improve on the stuff.

Which leads me to the question, if Quentin Tarantino would have known about Austrian multi-lingual actor Christoph Waltz ten years, ago, maybe, it would have been a more rounded cinematic effort. Great even. As "Jackie Brown" and "Pulp Fiction" truly are. The difference between these two films and "Inglorious Basterds" is that they had balance. This latest happening revolves solely around one actor's performance. Christoph Waltz steals the show. Its his film. Entirely.

Not even Brad Pitt could nudge Waltz off center stage.

To be honest, I don´t quite know if this offering is supposed to funny or serious or both. I understand the fantasy bit. Nevertheless, is turning the tables and having a revenge of a slightly nerdy looking groups of Jews scalping and bashing German soldiers supposed to be funny? In my opinion, war isn´t funny for anyone. But ok. I have to applaud Tarantino for taking on this loaded part of history in such a schizophrenic way.

There are two threads: the revenge of the Inglourious Basterds, special secret covert operation and the revenge of Shosanna Dreyfus. An inadvertently combined effort ultimately brings success ie the killing of Hitler along with most of his henchmen. Himmler wasn´t around unfortunately. Wonder why he wasn´t invited to the Premiere?

With the exception of Eli Roth ( he suffers from the same ailment as Tarantino - and should have "I can´t act worth shit" tattooed across his forehead), the cast was forceful and convincing, yet still unable to wrench the spotlight off Waltz. Unknown maybe in the States, but well known in Austria and Germany. The Go-to guy for sly, scheming, conniving, slimeball, complex characters. Or, I will always outsmart you.

Can´t help wondering how much influence Waltz himself had on the role of Col Hans Landa and his uber presence in the film. If he had been a star in the Brad Pitt sense, one could suspect it was his intended vehicle, everyone else just sidekicks.

Waltz's abilities and his complete annexation of the film, however that came about, Brad Pitt seemed to graciously accept it. His from-the-wings performance provided an occasional chuckle, although his antics were smothered underneath the weight of a pillow called "badly written lines". But again, his charm managed to scratch the surface and was a relief to the definitely weighty topic - no matter how fantastical this re-write of history was. Baseball bashing and scalping - even in a Tarantino film - is gruesome. I skipped the Grindhouse series therefore I couldn´t help cringing anew at Tarantino's love of open skulls and such.

One other stand-out performance and actress to be remembered: Melanie Laurant. Her character, Shosanna Dreyfus, is the only survivor of Col. Landa's first scene demonstration of his skill at finding Jewish people being hidden by a local farmers in the idlyic French countryside. This lengthy intro by far the best in the entire movie. Only another two hours to get through.

Quentin did the Quentin thing by adding the cartoonish typos - like with Til Schweiger's character, Hugo Stiglitz. And using the arrow thing to point out various historical figures within the Nazi regime. Goebbels, Emil Jannings, and some other dude I personally never heard of.

The plus points: and again, don´t know if it was intentional or turned out that way because of the European actors mastery of several languages, was Germans speaking German to each other, French people speaking French to each other......that was nice. Natural. So no dopey accents here. The dopeyness meditated toward the climax, with a hastily plan B allowing Brad Pitt and his basterds posing as Italians. Too bad Hans Landa spoke fluent Italian as well.

While it was cool to watch the good guys win in one of the most horrific events in history and get their revenge, I tend to see this as not such a masterpiece as QT himself seems to think. And to be honest, I never took it in that context, referring specifically to Brad Pitt's last words in the film.

Maybe Tarantino should have stuck to the tried and true 5 act Shakespearean drama. "Basterds" climaxes at the end. And then just.........ends. Yeah, kinda rolls over and falls asleep.

Five chapters. Too short for a novel. Too long for a short story. Chapters work better with books.


PiZT said...

and you keep missing out that extra U in the Tarantino title :D

Tatiana Lensky said...

thanks for the link. I usually read her blogs regularly. And listen to her podcasts. thanks" I O U.
; )

PiZT said...

no problems
I read that article in our Newspaper here, I was hoping it was on the web :D

Lily said...

Very interesting review. I have not seen the movie and probably won't.

Your comment on speaking one language: I never thought of it that way. Thanks for the new perspective. I will continue to polish my English.


Tatiana Lensky said...

Lily, thanks for reading my review. And yes, really, you must think of speaking one language, especially when writing, as a blessing. Because any language needs constant care and polishing and learning and just plain massive involvement.

Its never-ending. Especially as a writer.