Thursday, February 25, 2010
Inglourious Basterds : Cinema for the Movies
By David Giarrizzo
Imagine yourself in Nazi-occupied France circa 1942; Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) has pulled together a team of Jewish soldiers to systematically annihilate as many German troops as possible, interrogating first, scalping them afterwards. “I got a word of warning for all you would-be warriors. When you join my command, you take on debit. A debit you owe me personally. Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps. And all y'all will git me one hundred Nazi scalps, taken from the heads of one hundred dead Nazis. Or you will die tryin'. Working through the country killing Nazis and collecting intelligence, the “Basterds” find their way to spy Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), who tips them off to a Third Reich film premiere to be held at a remote Paris Theater, the Le Gamarr owned by Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young Jewish woman who witnessed the massacre of her family by “The Jew Hunter,” Nazi officer Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and is living incognito under a non-Jewish name. When word of the premiere reaches Raine, and the VIP list of Nazi officials including; Hitler (Martin Wuttke) himself, officer Col. Hans Landa, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl;, Joyeux Nouell), a German soldier and war hero who’s stars in the featured propaganda film and its director Joseph Goebbels himself (Sylvester Groth: The Reader), the plan is set into motion to access and blow up the theater.
Inspired by the 1978 Enzo Castellari film, “Inglorious Bastards,” the crudely re-titled “Inglorious Basterds” offers Tarantino a new film genre to taint with the Tarantino black humor. One can sense the vein-popping determination from the filmmaker to make sure every single frame of this film remains to his liking; it’s a picture of intricate cinematic details and cold, chilling responses. Tarantino uses men-on-a-mission plotting to spin off into wildly different directions, some richly theatrical, while others remain potently visual, gleefully imagined by a resourceful filmmaker who loves the electric charge of subversion.
Turning his twisted spin on Film Noir, “Basterds” falls in line with the rest of Tarantino’s un-orthodox cinema, returning stunning discourse, solid plot development, effective and unconventional soundtrack, and methodical performances to the screen. Perhaps not as tumultuous as the advertising suggests, “Basterds” goes elsewhere to find inspiration, finding the art of intimidation and espionage even more thrilling than straightaway slaughter. It’s a patient, layered, cinema graphic creation. Once again Tarantino has come to push the envelope of cinema, and the results are characteristically spectacular.
Basterds is so superior to much of Tarantino’s previous work because he’s not just being a smug geeky basterd himself here: all the corny movie jokes he deploys -- from the 1970s-era Universal logo that opens the film and the old-fashioned “guest starring” credits to the film-within-the-film to that final parting shot -- aren’t just nerd enhancing cinema. Unlikely many of his other films, this isn’t about feeding the inner geek: it’s about why and how movies can inspire such devotion in the first place. If many of Tarantino’s other films have been incestuous preaching to the masses where he and his fans get off on one another and how clever they all are, this film was made more as homage to the Movies themselves. A+