Thursday, August 27, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (Gilgamesh, 1793)

I'll start with the rating so you don't have to read this if you don't want to.

Yoggoth rating*: ***
Little Earl Rating: **1/2
herr zrbo rating: **

That's right, I reviewed it for the other guys too.

Inglourious Basterds is a collection of Quinten Tarantino's fantasy World War II movie scenes and characters. It's organized into six chapters and isn't long on dextrous segues. I don't know what your opinion of Tarantino is, but mine's pretty damn high. Best living director? When a few more old guys drop off, quite likely.

I was reading David Foster Wallace's article about David Lynch in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again the other day. He said something like, David Lynch did this and it's sufficiently entered the zietgeist that Tarantino et posse can rip it off. Look Wallace, I know you're dead and that's too bad but maybe if you spent more time watching Pulp Fiction and less time watching Eraserhead you might not have hung yourself.

Back on point, Inglorious Basterds is an odd war movie. Not only is it completely ahistorical in the details, it alters the historical timeline drastically. You could call it an alternate history war movie. And in this alternate reality the jews fight back, cinephiles wreak cosmic vengance aginst an uncaring world, and American heroes justify their cruelty with an unflinching dedication to justice. Traditional war movies are justified in their violence for entertainment trade by appeals to attenuated arguments such as: if we just knew the cruelties of war we wouldn't wage it, we must confront the evil done in our names, and we must understand evil to contain it. Ingloriuos Bastards doesn't work that way. Instead we get almost gleeful (yet somewhat infrequent by modern standards) depictions of scalping, bludgeoning, and point-blank-machine-gunning-to-the-face. The morality, you see, is in the differences between Englurous Basdards and reality. Tarantino gives us the action and violence he and we so obviously crave in the midst of fantasy world just a bit more moral than our own. The closest comparison I can think of is Casablanca, another movie that sacrificed historical fact for the sake of morality. So if you see any wayward Nazis on your trip home from work today, carve a swastika into their forehead and tell 'em the world just won't stand for that sort of thing. At least not Tarantino's world.


Little Earl said...

Yoggoth is back baby!

Unfortunately, despite Yoggoth having taken the initiative and providing my own rating for a movie I have not yet seen, I am still wondering if I ought to see this. Would I really rate the film **1/2 stars? If true, then I may not actually want to spend my hard-earned money here. Yoggoth gives it *** stars. For Tarantino that sounds a bit low.

Let's admit it: for all their flash, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown actually had some soul. Kill Bill 2 had its moments of depth but it was not quite the same. My question is: Is Inglorious Basterds more than just an extremely inventive genre exercise? AKA Is Tarantino taking his film at least half-way seriously?

Jason said...

LE, see this movie. It's something you need to watch in a movie theater and not on a TV screen (for a lot of reasons, but 1 in particular)...

My 2 cents: to me the ending was really anti-climactic, which is weird since it's about the most climactic ending you could imagine. (Maybe "cheesy" is a better word than anti-climactic.) Anyway, up until then I loved every minute of it. About 75% of the movie is scenes of people sitting around a table and talking, but unlike My Dinner with Andre they are some of the most tense, suspenseful scenes you'll ever see.

Whether it has soul or not I couldn't say. I guess it's pretty pointless, and offers more of a visceral experience than any kind of food for thought, but it's definitely worth seeing. There's a certain fun in watching a master just go crazy and show off what he can do.

yoggoth said...

Should you see it? Yes.

It isn't as good as Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill(Pulp Fiction gets 4/4 stars on the Yoggoth meter, Kill Bill gets 3 1/2). I don't know if it's significantly worse than Jackie Brown or Reservoir Dogs, my opinion of those two movies shifts based on my mood. When I see it again I'll tell you.

But this is a Tarantino movie and you are a huge movie buff. It's hard for me to believe that you wouldn't have fun, even if you didn't love the movie when all is said and done.

I liked the ending, although I don't know why 2 of the Basterds survived. One of them hand't done anything important in the movie until that point. Maybe this is a reference to some other movie I am unaware of?

Does it have soul? Yeah, it does have some I think, if only in the Nazi villain character.

Jason said...

Does it have soul? Yeah, it does have some I think, if only in the Nazi villain character.

Actually, now that you mention it, the "detective" is an amazingly well written (and well acted) character. Up there with the best.

I'd say Shoshana(sp?) gives the movie a lot of soul, too. I just saw this movie on Saturday night (right before I posted my first comment), so I'm still processing it all.