Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Let me begin by reminding you that I am not a big Quentin Tarantino fan. This is not what one would infer from my appreciation of most of his films (yes, most of his films get ***+ from me), but there is something off-putting about the careless way he uses graphic violence (though it is clear in many of his films that he could have used much more) and redemptive violence (revenge is a favourite theme) that prevents me from ever calling myself a Tarantino fan. Still, there is a reason I enjoy so many of his films and that reason is what happens between the scenes of violent action. And that is why, even though I am also not a fan of war movies, I enjoyed Inglourious Basterds so much.

Tarantino must be a big fan of Sergio Leone, who was also a master of between-the-action scenes. Inglourious Basterds has the feel of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, right down to what look like rope marks on Aldo’s (Brad Pitt’s) neck (Once Upon a Time in the West, my favourite Leone film). The music, the style, and especially Tarantino’s trademark slow scenes of brilliant dialogue which you don’t see anywhere else these days all owe something to Leone (though Tarantino gives a nod to many old greats in this film). Basterds is, in my opinion, Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction. The acting was generally very good (I wasn’t sure Diane Kruger could act, but she can, and Brad Pitt was … well, Brad Pitt) though not consistently so. Particularly impressive was Christoph Waltz as the baddie (Hans Landa). The film is worth watching almost for his performance alone. The cinematography, always good in a Tarantino film, was gorgeous. The music was excellent. And the German was very good. Yes, most of this film is German or French, with subtitles, and I, for one was suitably impressed. The story was well-written and well-structured by Tarantino (despite its WWII setting, this is most definitely not based on any truth), and like I said, there were a number of great memorable scenes.

If the ending had worked for me, I’d have been tempted to give Inglourious Basterds ****, but it didn’t work for me. And of course the graphic violence was rather offensive, though when you go to a Tarantino film, you have to expect that. But this film was much better than I expected (thank goodness after the disappointment of District 9), so it gets a solid ***+.

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