Sunday, June 5, 2011

Inglourious Basterds - A Tarantino Delight

Quentin Tarantino has to be the most daring filmmaker of significance today. Crafting a career out of bold works such as 'Reservoir Dogs', 'Pulp Fiction', the dual volumed 'Kill Bill', he has mastered every aspect of filmmaking and storytelling through the ages and genres and then devilishly twisted them all, to blaze the film scene with an originality hitherto unseen. We know him as an autodidact whose position as a video store clerk served a fertile learning ground. 'Inglourious Basterds' is a glorious continuation of Tarantino's mad mix of genres and styles of film making. Let's face it, who else would have dared a setting as sombre and disturbing as the Nazi infested World War II and then made a spaghetti western of it, throwing historical events for a toss and concluding the most significant chapter of 20th century history as only Tarantino can. History has been writ all over.

The movie plays out in five acts in occupied France between 1941 and 1944. It opens in French country when a dairy farmer is greeted by german troops led by Col. Hans Landa, played to amazing accuracy in a career defining performance by Christoph Waltz. The scene is of a typical western complete with Ennio Morricone's soundtrack, which plays out through a good part of the movie. What follows is one of the most thrilling interrogations that movies have seen. The farmer is suspected of harboring Jews in his dwelling. Needless to say, the Jews are discovered and slaughtered with a lone escapee, Shosanna (French actress Melanie Laurent ). The scene moves to a band of American Jews formed for the purpose of massacring the Nazis, called the 'Inglourious Basterds', the reason for the misspelling never clear. Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt in superb form) they scalp the nazis, pulp them with a baseball bat and what not.

Everything comes together when a nazi movie is to be premiered in a local Paris cinema owned by Shosanna, who has managed to change her identity, the details are not important. On one hand the basterds have a plan to annihilate the nazis attending the premiere and then Shosanna has revenge up her sleeves. And thus Tarantino changes the course of WWII. The plot is intelligent of course. But what is typical of a Trantino film, 'Inglourious Basterds' being no exception, is the playing out of the individual scenes. Each one is lovingly fleshed out, with detailed, multi layered, sinuous dialogues, delivered and played out by talents chewing on their parts, knowing the relevance of each line rendered, every movement made, into making a scene worthy of individual glory.

Three sequences stay in mind. The opening interrogation being the first. There is then an elongated sequence in a basement tavern where a plan is to be laid out only to result in bloodbath. It is brilliantly played out with Diane Kruger portraying a German actress, who has now changed sides to help the basterds. And then there is a Kill Bill like sequence with Shosanna getting ready for her big revenge. Filmed in typical noir, we have the allusive lady in red with the red lips and an automatic in her purse to the strains of David Bowe's 'Putting out the fire'. Memorable! A good movie is when the entire story works with good performances, technical soundness. However, it is when you can take back individual sequences and carry them with equal verve, great cinema is made.

The performances all carry weight. Brad Pitt as the southern accented Nazi hating leader is brilliant and gets the comedy in his dialogues and delivers them with sly fun. German born Diane Kruger shows a side of her which is a departure from her big hollywood eye candy roles. Laurent's lead performance of Shosanna comes out trumps especially in the final sequence showing off the maniacal revenge hungry side of a bottled up, wary heroine, on film. In a movie where every performance big or small is nailed accurately, only peans of the highest order can be sung for Austrian born Waltz's tour de force as Col. Landa aka 'The Jew Hunter'. The impeccably polite, gracious nazi with hidden steel and cunning is a charm and evil act unmatched and is worthy of every award garnered, starting with the Cannes and ending at the Oscars. In my view asides from Uma Thurman's spirited bride act in Kill Bill, this is the best written part in a Quentin Tarantino film, which is saying a lot because I am picking from a plethora of memorable characters.

Inglourious Basterds is not another world war movie. Nor is it just a western revenge drama. Tarantino doesn't believe in formulaic cinema. As I had started out with, his is always a delightful, mad mix of genres, styles that transcend the staid diet of movies we are fed on. It tears the moral fibre leading to vastly unpredictable, ingenious characterizations. Even at its lengthy two and a half hour runtime, we crave for  more delicious scenes to stretch out. This is a movie best seen a second time. The first time, you want to do away with the plot and then revisit it, to linger over each scene, enjoy the effects of razor sharp wordplay, meticulously crafted characters. And then sit back and take in the fact that this is a piece of the best, cinema will have to offer in today's time.

Originally released in 2009
Available on DVD
In English, French, German with subtitles
Oscar award winner for Best Supporting actor (Christoph Waltz)
My Rating: 5/5


  1. So glad you wrote a review on this masterpiece. Your writing does justice to the piece of brilliance that this movie is!

  2. Thx Gee! Thx for recommending this to me:)