He Said, She Said: Inglourious Basterds
By D. James Ruccio III
September 8, 2009
Inglourious Basterds is the newest offering from critically acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino.
The films of Tarantino's improbable career pay homage to cinema, (specifically B-movies), movie history, and oddball characters. All of these aspects are on display in this film. Most of the directorial flourishes that one expects from a Tarantino film are sometimes impressively/sometime indulgently in evidence. It is a competent and sometimes successful entry in his filmography. Inglourious Basterds, from the very title, which is taken from an Italian Dirty Dozen knock-off of 1978, feels like the genre mash up style we've come to expect. It simultaneously and episodically tells the stories of a Jewish girl in occupied France, a band of American soldiers tasked with terrorizing the German army and the opening night of the Nazis' newest propaganda film.
The history of Inglourious Basterds is nearly as interesting as the film itself. It has been in process for many years. Tarantino has creating nearly a trilogy's worth of material with, by all accounts, three finished versions of the script. The production was put on hold so he could direct Kill Bill, and also because there was a slate of other World War II
themed movies being filmed at the time. By 2005 he was ready to pick up where he'd left off. It is his belief that the film is one of his bests. He is quoted as saying, "That will really be my Spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography. But the thing is, I won't be period specific about the movie...I can have rap, and I can do whatever I want."
Inglourious Basterds is sometimes less a whole movie than a series of languid scenes that off feel like short, mostly unconnected movies until later. Most of the time it works, but occasionally the two hour and 33 minute film feels just slightly too long. One of the most impressive talents Tarantino possesses, however, is the ability to start a scene and let it play out slowly, the tension slowly boiling. He then ends with a characteristic orgy of gore and viscera filled violence. There is an early scene featuring a Jewish Family being hidden in an isolated farmhouse that demonstrates Tarantino's ability. It happens again when American soldiers behind the German Lines pose as Nazi Officers only to be questioned by a suspicious German officer with a talent for linguistics. Both scenes methodically build the tension, showing the contest (and triumph) of will and then explode literally into a burst of ultra violence. The characters of all different types of importance are killed unexpectedly and with extreme brutality. He does both of these things several times with maximum effect and clearly has this down. he simply does it better than any one of his contemporaries. It mostly works here but occasionally the movie could have benefited from a few trimmed minutes in several places.