Question for the Team
What's your favorite moment/performance/anything about Inglourious Basterds?
SPOILERS ahead obviously.
David: Maybe I was just blinded by the beauty. Or maybe it's my secretly perverse soul. But easily the most striking moment of Inglourious Basterds for me is the reciprocal shootings of Fredrick (Daniel Brühl) and Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent). Tarantino has a reputation for finding strange beauty in his moments of graphic violence, and it's no different here. It's the surprising possibility that Shosanna maybe did care about Fredrick after all, trumped by the shock (nonetheless prefigured by Shosanna being decked out in a vibrant blood-red dress) of him turning over and gunning her down. The cliche of the two young pretty leads falling in love overriden by their politics and bloodlust. It's the fall being filmed in slow-motion that does it, I think - she was ready for death, but not in this way. A moment of majesty amongst the madness.
Adam: It's Shosanna's vengeance that lingers most through all the smoldering celluloid. Her triumphant escape at the film's start and joyously maniacal act of resolve by the film's close is ultimately what elevates the movie for me. She's far more clever and efficient at killing those Nazi bastards than any of the Basterds we came here to see. Shosanna's like the French-Jewish Black Mamba. Quiet, calculating, and wholly deserving of the blood she's about to spill. She doesn't need a checklist reminding her to Kill Bill or Adolf Hitler, she gathers all her foes in one locale and does them away swiftly and with cinematic splendor. In true Tarantino style he finds the perfect musical accompaniment, this time in David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)" as Shosanna dons lipstick and warpaint, readying to play host to her prey and bid a fiery, unforgettable farewell. After years of silent rage, Shosanna burns the house down and shares an exuberant laugh with the viewing audience, who've likewise held their breath through hours of tense conversation and Nazi loathing. Oh what a (cinephile's) relief it is...David and Adam both took to Shosanna but I personally have to go with the underground bar and card game scene which centers around Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) and the film critic lieutenant (Michael Fassbender). As noted in the vodcast, there's an undeniably wealth of well edited tension and ingeniously scripted surprise in that particular scene but the cherry on top is that the movie characters are playing a game of assumed identities (the character cards on their heads) over their reel life game of assumed identities (double agents / faux Germans).
BeRightBack and Robert refused to play my reindeer game in the way I intended. But maybe you share their gripes or their hold-out feelings?
BeRightBack: The thing that bothers me, even as I loved every minute of watching it in terms of its energy and humor, is that Tarantino goes out of his way to tell us that he is talking in the language of kitsch, not history. At the end, the movie points outside of itself to history anyway. The clean white sheet invaded by black-clad, menacingly debonair Nazis in the first scene turns into a burning movie screen haunted by Jewish anguish and revenge by the end. But the foregrounding of virtuosity throughout the movie undercuts the power of this cinematic catharsis; if these aren’t “real” Nazis, then these aren’t “real” Jews.
Consider the first scene: a discussion is conducted in a room under which a Jewish family is hiding from certain death. The tension ratchets up with every exchange, every beat. At one point, the Nazi takes out an enormous pipe; it is impossible not to laugh at this. The punchline has been set up perfectly, the performances have been calibrated for maximum effect. None of this would have worked without the Jews beneath the floorboards, providing the necessary tension for the punchline. But the scene is not about the Jews, it is about the punchline. So is the movie, until the end. And this is what doesn’t work for me.
I consider you, faithful reader, to be a part of the larger team too. If you'd like to answer the question at hand or respond to any of these notions, do so in the comments. We'll move on from those highly discussable Basterds after this discussion and get back to Oscar talk.
Robert: Quite frankly I haven't seen it yet. Why not? Because every time a Quentin Tarantino movie comes out, its like the love/hate relationship that the film community has with him plays itself out in my brain. When I'm watching a Tarantino movie I'm entranced by the coolness and stylishness of it all. When I'm not I'm annoyed by the lowbrow as highbrow shtick. I openly despise his cohorts Eli Roth and Robert Rodriguez. And it's difficult to remember how Tarantino has ascended to an entirely different plain than others who do what he does. When Christoph Waltz's name was first floating around as potential Oscar nominee, I thought "yeah right, for a Tarantino movie?" before I remembered that Pulp Fiction garnered 3 acting nods, Jackie Brown got one, and Kill Bill seemed oh so close.
As my id and superego go back and forth it's necessary to take a moment and remember that a film is nothing more than what happens up on that screen when the lights go down. It's not the hyperbolic ranting of fans nor the dismissive musings of academics. And with that in mind I'm starting to look forward to seeing Inglourious Basterds. When opening weekend numbers showed surprising success I found myself doing something unexpected. I found myself rooting for Quentin Tarantino.
And speaking of... since the new Tarantino made such a popular turnaround post-Cannes, do you see any Oscar nods in its future? Besides Christoph Waltz's Supporting Actor bid. Tech nods, direction, screenplay? Oscar is already famously scalped, is he not?