Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: Inglourious Basterds

I understand the consensus buzz for Inglourious Basterds is muddled and noncommital. I blame two things: first, its muted Cannes reception (please note: some people are already changing their minds about it) and second, Eli Roth. What? He's fun to blame. Quentin has thankfully stayed behind the camera this time but he's unfortunately replaced himself with another director who should stay there. Roth's hostile-Hostel presence coupled with the only easy-to-describe part of the film (Jewish soldiers kill Nazis in World War II) assures that people will get the wrong idea about the movie. It's more than a lame exercize in sadism.

Not that Basterds isn't sadistic. Tarantino's films always are. But one of the most amusing and satisfying things about the writer/director's work is that though you can always predict each new movie's mix of elements: vivid performances, instantly memorable characters, long monologues and dexterous banter, Samuel L Jackson, juvenilia, foot fetishes and movie referencing; the way Tarantino arranges, twists and presents these predictable stock elements is always anything but. He's gifted (even if he still can't edit himself).

So, my brief review...

"You're Basterd People"

At first glance it might seem odd to channel Waiting For Guffman’s Corky St. Clair to title a post on Quentin Tarantino’s WW II film Inglourious Basterds, but a closer inspection excuses the odd allusion. Inglourious Basterds lurches toward the parodic on more than one occasion as it veers like a happy drunk from historical drama to espionage thriller to action gorefest to black comedy and back again. And Tarantino is never shy about cinematic referencing so why should we be when discussing his films? Brad Pitt plays the presumably illiterate Lt. Aldo Raine –hence the title, bound to drive spelling bee champs mad – who leads a group of mostly Jewish soldiers on a mission to kill and scalp “Natzis!” in occupied France late in World War II. But that synopsis, and even the understandable marketing of Pitt as the film’s star are somewhat misleading.

Brad Pitt in Cannes with two members of the terrific German cast:
Daniel Brühl (Goodbye Lenin) and Diane Kruger (Joyeux Noël) in Cannes


Like many of QT’s idiosyncratic efforts, this one is overstuffed with memorable characters and sidebar flourishes. The Basterds, as the multi-chapter plot shakes out, turn out to be the least interesting part of the long but never dull film.

Read the rest at Towleroad
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17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brad Pitt??

I would rather see Angelina Jolie in a Quentin Tarantino film. She's perfect for one of his badass female characters.

JA said...

You incur my wrath, Mr. Rogers! Forgive me if I'm wrong, I did a search, but I don't believe that you have seen either Hostel film, and probably should refrain from broad implications like Eli Roth = "a lame exercize in sadism"... JUST SAYIN', MY FRIEND. ;-)

Seriously though - I can't speak for his acting abilities but I will defend his film-making abilities until I am hoarse in the throat. And this trait of mine, this defending of Eli, has made me hoarse many times before, so I am committed.

rosengje said...

Although he is far from the highlight in the film, I found Michael Fassbender totally delectable in Basterds. Excellent complement to his forthcoming performance in Fish Tank.

NATHANIEL R said...

Fassbender was indeed terrific in Basterds... i think the real standouts were

WALTZ
KRUGER
LAURENT
and
FASSBENDER


and of course I'm always in love with Brühl when he shows up.

but there are several fine performances in itty bitty parts.

rosengje said...

The German that facilitates the introduction of Eli Roth's character is very good in a small part. Totally agree on Kruger-- this is the first role in which she has impressed me. (Sidebar: Did you know she used to be married to Guillaume Canet, who I recently fell in love with due to his direction of Tell No One?) The way Tarantino plays with language in this is so much fun. Not only do we have the expected witticisms and provocative dialogue but we have the constant shifting of languages as a weapon of sorts.

glutton4punishment said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
glutton4punishment said...

I agree re: Eli Roth. While I enjoyed the Hostel films in a shallow sort of way, that dude should stay behind the camera. There's something vaguely fratboy-ish about him that makes my stomach churn a bit. Other than that, I cannot wait for this film to be released tomorrow. Tarantino never fails to disappoint -- he's one of the few working directors today whose films genuinely excite me. I don't care what anyone says, the guy is a freaking genius. http://anglesofthecity.blogspot.com/

anna said...

Another fun bit of trivia:
Did you know it was Tom Tykwer who translated the German dialogue? Apparently Tarantino called him (because they're good friends) to ask about a translator and Tykwer offered to do it himself. :)

NATHANIEL R said...

glutton "Tarantino never fails to disappoint"... that's not what you meant right?

i agree about Roth. I don't really get JA's fascination.

anna i love it!

rosengje agreed that the multi-lingual quality of the film is one of its smartest elements

Glenn said...

"WALTZ
KRUGER
LAURENT
and
FASSBENDER"

Oh god YES! All four of them were FANTASTIC in so many different ways. So great. In fact, the entire cast was very good (even Eli Roth!)... except for Brad Pitt, who I found quite horrible at times. His Italian accent was a hoot though.

Really enjoyed the flick. It definitely feels like a two and a half hour movie though. A few scenes (such as a pub scene) could have easily been shortened, but it was still a riot. Great entertainment this one.

Dorian said...

Can't wait to get "basterdized" tonight!

(Ooooh, that was bad. Sorry. I've been waiting to see this film a long time.)

I'd agree that Angelina would totally kick ass in a Tarentino film. There's no reason why she can't have her "Kill Bill" type performance under her belt too. Make it happen for your girl, Brad!

steve said...

ugh, no - Roth should not stay behind the camera

please have mercy on the horror genre

glutton4punishment said...

Nathaniel R -- lol, yeah that's not what I meant!! I love Q.T...one of my favorite contemporary directors. "He never disappoints" is what I meant.

Steve -- You could definitely do a lot worse than Roth as a horror director. I'm not a HUGE fan of the Hostel films, but he definitely has a good eye (and if you look beneath the gory surface of the Hostel movies, there is kind of a fun/sick wit to them). Now Darren Lynn Bousman is one director I could do without. And the Saw franchise in general (puke)

steve said...

^ "Now Darren Lynn Bousman is one director I could do without."

did you see that "Repo" mess?

*shudder*


anyway, re: Roth - i dunno, he definitely has a good eye for shots, but his films never work on a visceral level for me

i remember being so bloody pissed after the release of "Cabin Fever," as Peter Jackson & several film critics had heralded Roth as some sort of horror revisionist

far better genre-expansive horror films slipped by barely noticed that year ("May" & "Dog Soldiers" are two that come to mind) & i was amazed that this guy was getting so much praised heaped upon him

i think in CF he was trying to emulate 80's b horror while wearing some sort of faux indie garb (it's a studio production through & through

that just started me out with a bad taste of the guy that i haven't quite recovered from

i just always feel that his success lies more in connections than craft

but he's good looking enough

Dorian said...

CHRISTOPH WALTZ! Unbelievable. I think we're looking at our best supporting actor winner of the year. It'll take an incredibly lot to top Col. freakin' Landa.

action movies said...

I think this movie is good enough for a home watching for second time, maybe quite and focused viewing may change the dull effect :)

Anonymous said...

I am truly disgusted by this movie. As a matter of fact, I don't think it should have the title of being called a movie. The violence was to such a high degree, to a point where it took away from the movie. Next, the disturbing "scene". It was out of nowhere! It was loud, inappropriate, uncalled for, and extremely unmovie like. I have never in my entire life of watching movies, viewed such a sex scene. The actress and actor should be ashamed of themselves for agreeing to do this scene. And so should the director, producers, and anyone who put together the movie. The people of this world are so sick! Including people that enjoyed this "movie"!!