Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Inglourious Basterds Review

I loved Quentin Tarentino's debut film Reservoir Dogs. His subsequent films have all been increasingly disappointing. I was once trying to find something on satellite TV to watch at 3 AM, and saw that Jackie Brown was about to start, so, being the only alternative to nothing, I gave it a try. I terminated it after about 30 minutes. Kill Bill was devoid of entertainment value unless you're an arrested adolescent addicted to chop shlocky films. Death Proof was shockingly bad, just pointless and stupid. Even the physical action was unexciting.

Due to the mixed reviews for Inglourious Basterds and my personal history with Tarantino's oeuvre, I had no expectations for Basterds. To my surprise, I was engrossed by the film, or at least portions of it, until the scene in the basement beer hall. That exempified the best things about the film, how Tarentino built tension through dialogue in cat-and-mouse situations. But when the scene ended up in a shoot out reminiscent of the end of Reservoir Dogs, the picture started running off the rails. It becomes increasingly absurd and molests plausibility, culminating in the idiotic plot turn where Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who is portrayed as a dedicated Nazi who relishes his task of ferreting out Jews hiding in Nazi-occupied France, does a 180, striking a deal to allow Hitler and the rest of Germany's leadership to be killed in French movie theater while watching a German propaganda film about a German sniper who killed 300 Americans in Italy, in exchange for post-war immunity from prosecution and various rewards, including a Congressional medal of honor. The movie theater massacre is a rip-off of the finale of the Dirty Dozen (a coarse, ugly, dreary film that has an undeserved classic status) and watching the Germans in attendance being machine gunned while fleeing the burning theater induced revulsion in me, not any sense of villains getting their just desserts. I flinched at the spectacle of trapped people being massacered. I felt nothing while watching two of history's greatest villains, Goebbels and Hitler (unconvincingly portrayed by an actor with no resemblance to Hitler in appearance or demeanor), being shredded by machine gun fire.  This is capped by a gratuitous, repulsive scene where Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) carves a swastika into a screaming Landa's forehead, then proclaims, "That might just be my masterpiece." In Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino didn't show Michael Madsen sawing the cop's ear off. He didn't have to. It was a shocking revelation of the psychosis of Madsen's Mr. Blonde. When Raine mutilates Landa, even after we've been exposed to Landa's sadistic inhumanity, we don't enjoy the comeuppance he gets, we merely feel sick. Such is Tarantino's artistic and ethical regression. 

Steven Santos ably sums up more of my feelings about the film.

"I almost tempted to call the film a tedious build-up to nothingness, although I will admit that the film is not completely pointless, but its ultimate theme is completely superficial to me and somewhat self-serving on Tarantino's part. 'Basterds' is not even worthy of the controversy surrounding its portrayal of Jews, as well as its rewriting of history. It is an exploitation movie operating on the belief that it is art, while never fully committing to being either. It is a movie that believes that it is clever, when it is shockingly dull. So, how's that working out for you?"

Daniel Carlson's and David Denby's reviews are also notable. 

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