|INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)|
|Cinema Signal: Follow the light. Go!|
Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy (2007)
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
Basically, Quentin Tarantino has done it again. That is, put together another film of amusement, style and unforgettable character. The style is the key, culled from his love of and complete absorption in film itself and classic film in particular. Furthermore, his mastery of the art and craft of filmmaking allows him to construct stories and characters that sing with inventiveness, homage to multifarious sources and a constant flirt with comic idolatry. All that is part of this exceptional war fantasy that he suggests (or jests) might be his masterpiece in the last line of the movie. Nothing's for sure in a good Tarantino movie, and no line is wasted.
It's Nazi-occupied France during World War II and Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), An American posing as an Italian, addresses the seven men that form his squad of resistance fighters against Hitler and his gang. The tweak here, as opposed to many another team of resistance fighters in France during this period, is that each Inglorious Basterd, as they are named, is an American-Jew and that they will clearly identify their brutal signature upon the victims clad in Nazi uniform. The idea is to strike fear in the (presumed) hearts of the Third Reich, and the Lt. is very clear about his orders, including the demand for 100 Nazi scalps from each of his able-bodied men on their splendid mission.
Before exacting Nazi justice on Jews and those French who would hide them, for example, he demands a step-by-step analysis of a farmer's weakness's, his knowledge of Nazi policies and the attendant risks involved in his heinous crime against the Reich, and the psychological motivation behind his act of betrayal for harboring the condemned. Then, he offers the shaking farmer a chance to save his life with an immediate confession.
Landa is a spider playing with those who fall into his web before sucking their life's blood. Such a scene as this character's "visit" to a remote farm in the French countryside, makes his MO clear and extends leisurely into such detail that, if it were excised from the picture, what was a 153 minute movie might come down closer to two hours. But, I'm on Tarantino's side in setting up this evil, highly educated, super-controlling sophisticate of a man. The first laugh line of the movie comes when he switches from French to American style English -- after all the subtitles and begging his host permission to do so. We really wouldn't want to be without this display of satire and sanctimony.
The scene comes to an end, significantly, with the escape of a young Jewish girl, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) whom Landa gives a long headway, racing away over a field, before he raises his pistol and shoots, misses and calls out to her by name. He knew she was there all the time. He smiles sardonically. Style.
The decision to do so gets to the still very active Basterds, who now see a possible opportunity to breech the wall of protection around the leadership. Still-venerated film actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) (probably patterned on Marlene Dietrich) is a significant resistance operative not yet known to the Basterds. And, between her team, the Basterds, and one as-yet unknown plotter, the question is how will three disparate assassination squads with mutual aims turn out? Will it be brilliant or a three-ring circus?
Small wonder that Tarantino set up his last-act resolution in a movie theater -- it seems to fits his movie-centric DNA with organic certainty and pays off with noirish, 1940's intrigue complete with double twists in the climax. Another unusual effect, in terms of filmmaking, is that the essential story is so captivating that a lot of material that might be considered extraneous and lopped on for satiric effect is easily assimilated, even enjoyed.
Because of the unfamiliarity Americans will experience with many members of his cast, much first-time attention will be paid to several of them, who are simply fine enough to make much capital out of that very unfamiliarity. Laurent's ("Paris," "Indigenes") and Waltz's work here are destined to earn Oscar buzz. It'll be for Laurent's cool revival of period heroines and Waltz's spectacularly effective Nazi like none we've ever seen. His work, heretofore, has been primarily in German TV, and he's a find!
Pitt is on his solid ground of amusement with, perhaps, the sort of exaggeration that will relieve him of any award receiving duties. You do tend to look forward, however, to his appearances because of the vitality of his role within the story.
Others do very good work here, including Kruger ("National Treasure: Book of Secrets," "The Hunting Party") who bites into her part like it's her last meal. Bruhl is of particular interest in his role as a Nazi paramour of a Jewess because of his instantly sympathetic nature. When you need a good-bad German, or a suspicious one to whom you might give the benefit of the doubt, he's got the creds, as demonstrated in "The Bourne Ultimatum."
The actors who play the Nazi elites do so with clownish zeal, no doubt to the director's direction. The effect, probably intended, is to mask the depth of their inhumanity and make it easier to see them in a possible human context. Fantasy rules.
Frame-by-frame, Robert Richardson's cinematography is rich and deep and a perfect match to the style of the piece while giving it admirable visual foundation. Tarantino's structural pattern, that of major set pieces to fully establish the main players in the yarn and what it is that's going to capture your fullest attention and then to move on, works for me. I take it is as part of the Tarantino approach and I seem to detect a certain Japanese influence in it. These extended sequences, ofttimes without the star of the piece anywhere in sight, certainly make an impression.
I don't know how I feel about the liberties with history but I know they made possible the rush and the satisfaction that come from the inventiveness.
~~ Jules Brenner