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Friday, April 09, 2010

"Wagner," Mark Twain said, "isn't nearly as good as he sounds."

We watched INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS last night. It left me with odd feelings. In some ways it's a terrible movie. It's a gratuitously gory revenge fantasy (though actually much less gory than I was led to expect from reviews). It's hard to take much away emotionally from a movie that's so close to parody. In some ways it feels like it's less about World War II than about World War II movies. You have your wonderful charming Nazis and your gorgeous French Jewess and your scotch-drinking Brit and your tough Americans. None of the characters get much beyond stereotype -- it's all pulp.

But it is probably the most impressive pulp I have ever seen. Tarantino has the ability to play a scene for an incredibly long time without losing you. The first real dialogue scene starts about three minutes in, and ends about fourteen minutes later. Fourteen minutes in a farm house. Just talking. Tarantino really takes his time to develop tension, and does it with superb dialogue. And Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa is spectacular.

And it goes on in that style. The movie is almost entirely set pieces. There's no run and jump. There are no montages. There are a few flashbacks and inserts, but most of the movie develops in these long, long, long dialog scenes, often in French or German, that develop slowly, yet hold your interest, even when you know more or less where they're going to end up. (But that, too, is in the pulp tradition, isn't it, Bill? Corman always had long talky scenes, because long talky scenes are cheap to shoot.)

I'm not sure I've ever liked a Quentin Tarantino movie. But he is a master of his art. The editing and cinematography are masterful and surprising. And the dialog is brilliant. If you don't mind a little on-screen scalping in a movie, take a good look at this one.

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4 Comments:

"There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it."

-- Alfred Hitchcock

QT's dialogue scenes always have something "more" going on in them - visually and emotionally - than just narrative. In the opening scene you mention the dialog and the visuals all take you places - What is the farmer hiding? Is the farmer going to slip up and say something? Is the Jew Hunter going to find them out? Will any of them survive?

The firing of the guns is almost anti-climactic because you've been on pins and needles the whole time... and yet the scene is basically just two guys, one location with cutaways here and there.

By Blogger Cunningham, at 9:49 AM  

I'm convinced Tarantino smokes copious amounts of pot because this film was one gush of logorrhea for 2-plus hours of nonsense.

Overall, it was an ignorant film.

The opening farm scene was excruciating to sit through, and it only got worse from then on.

I expected it to actually be about the group for which it was named, which probably only had 30 minutes aggregate screen time.

By Blogger daveed, at 4:21 PM  

Sally Menke!!!

Having one of the best editors in the world is priceless.

By Blogger James, at 8:19 PM  

Minor spoilers ahead.

Interesting. I thought this was the best film of 2009, and I would've given it the Oscar ten times over. On a technical level, it was just superbly put together, the set-ups and subsequent pay-offs were really fantastic, and the soundtrack was great as well (though I drool at the thought of the all-Morricone soundtrack Tarantino originally wanted).

As far as the revenge fantasy--I don't know. I think it's almost as much an indictment of the revenge fantasy as it is a fantasy in itself. I don't think anyone in the theater felt comfortable while Brad Pitt carved a swastika into the Nazis' heads. I dunno, I also tend to look at the end of Death Proof as being anti-violence too, so maybe I just have a tendency to view Tarantino's films in a light that more fits with my own beliefs. But I don't think we're supposed to be comfortable with the Basterds' behavior throughout, necessarily.

My only real disappointment with the movie is how, toward the end in the projection booth, the German soldier becomes violent and jerkish, rather than merely persistent. Seemed like a cheap way to justify what happened next.

By Blogger Thomas, at 5:59 PM  

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