Saturday, August 22, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

It's not often I do a separate post on such a mainstream film, but I wanted to brain dump by initial thoughts and here they are:

I don't think Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino's finest work, but I love anything he turns his hands to, including this. It does have some of the structure of Kill Bill and, like it, its main weaknesses are the indulgences and lack of tight disciple of most of his other films.

The violence is the most explicit of any Tarantino film and I question how often we needed to see a head scalped. Especially the last one, the activity could have take place off-screen with just the sounds and it would have been more effective.

In my mind, Tarantino seemed more than ever to be attempting to subvert genres. The opening credits exemplify that with the western font and Morricone-like score. The credits then changed to a contemporary arthouse-style before changing once again to a 1970's style. Throughout the film, Tarantino would appear to follow one genre convention, but then mix it with another, usually from a different period. This was most obvious with the music choices, but there were other details, which elude me right now.

The music is generally very good, though one track towards the end - I'm not sure who it was, but it sounded a little like Nick Cave - seemed right out of place.

Like any Tarantino film, it's largely dialogue driven, and is always entertaining. I like the way he assembles the chapters, which adds different angles and scenarios to exploit cinematically. The start is quite subdued but effective, and the growing momentum creates quite a lot of excitement as time progresses. Unfortunately, he can't maintain the momentum, and this is where I think Tarantino's indulgences are slightly his undoing (but by no means fatally). I found the last half hour to be a little laborious, dragged on more than necessary, which shouldn't be the case, given the climax scenario.

The performances were strong throughout with some really imaginative characterisations created by Tarantino and well-executed by the respective cast. The multi-lingual aspect is a fresh infusion by Tarantino and works just fine. The details of three fingers is an interesting cultural element that recalls the early dialogue in Pulp Fiction about Le Big Mac.

The climactic ending underscores how much this film is a fantasy, given how much it defies the historical record. But it's a lovely indulgence and I thought the Jewish aspect was real cute, given that the Weinstein producers are obviously Jewish.

All in all, I found the film really satisfying and would be happy to see it again. However, I doubt it will stand up to the multiple viewings that most of Tarantino's other films do. It is definitely one of the most entertaining films of the year, a real 'movie', which is what QT does best. In fact, his films (including this one) are 'hyper-movies', the very best examples of how entertaining movies can be.


Glenn Dunks said...

I believe the out of place song you're referring to is David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)". Generally I love those sort of inclusions in a QT film, but since the soundtrack is full of old Morricone score and the like it DID feel a bit too out of place.

I pretty much agree with you on everything you've written. Not his best work, but since I'm giving it a B+ that just means that his best is usually A (true, I've given all of his films either an A or A-)

One of the things that I'm not sure others will have notices is during the reception at the cinema there are moments that are exactly out of "Kill Bill Vol 1"s blue leaves sequence. The way the camera follows characters up and down the stars to the central area while going passed ceiling fans. Quite clever.

The only real problem besides Pitt was that, for once, a movie by QT actually feels its length. This definitely feels like a 2.5 hour movie and, as you say, that won't help for future viewings.

Paul Martin said...

The track I'm talking about, Glenn, had lyrics about a woman's green eyes, as the camera comes up close to Shoshanna as she's preparing for the big night.

I didn't notice the Kill Bill parallels, but it doesn't surprise me. There must be a zillion filmic references, but it's funny that if he's referencing his own films.

I didn't have a problem with Pitt or his character, which I enjoyed immensely. Up until the 2 hour mark, I didn't have any issues with the length. Even 2.5 hours wouldn't have been an issue except that the last half hour had a couple of flat spots. I think similarly of Kill Bill 2, ie, that it was too long.

dmk said...

Yeah, it's the David Bowie song during that bit, and it was one of my favourite scenes.

I've been listening to that song since I watched it. I like it.

Paul Martin said...

The song's great, and I love Bowie, but I didn't think it matched the film. It just seemed weird to me, because up until then, everything seemed to match quite well, even when it was the Morricone-style score playing over the classic music at the start.

Rups said...

I would be a hypocrite if I made judgement based purely on the trailer, and trailers are not much to go by, but I thought the humor lacked timing and spirit, Pitt I felt was offering his watered down version of something George Clooney would do including the Flynn mustache which Clooney had already used - I don't know, maybe I am speaking out of turn, but I get exhausted by Nazi's being represented as camp buffoons unless spoofed by a master spoofer like Mel Brooks - maybe also I am biased because I don't much enjoy Quentin's work although I enjoy Quentin as a person (That's not a dilemma, it's just human capacity to admire and relate).

I think the film is a bit "Carry on Quentin" and that is only going by the trailer but thought I might toss in my two pennies worth anyhow.

:) Rups

Paul Martin said...

Rups, I didn't have a problem with Pitt's acting or his character. Nor is the trailer particularly representative of the film - and that's not a criticism. The trailer is a teaser, a taste of what's to come. But there's a whole lot more to it, and the trailer is (thankfully) not a spoiler, a criticism I have of 90% or more of them.

Other than Tarantino's films, I rarely see a film twice, and I have seen Inglourious Basterds again. I didn't enjoy it more, but my appreciation increased, and the parts that seemed flawed the first time mostly disappeared the second. I still have an issue with Bowie's music, but it bothered me less the second time.

Rups said...

The best use of Bowie's music in a film I have seen is Life Aquatic with the songs all in Portuguese, perhaps Quentin should have taken a leaf out of Anderson's book - there is a song that Bowie did a German version of called "Love you till Tuesday", perhaps this might have been the answer.

Yes, teaser/trailers are irritating in that respect. What I want to see Quentin turn his hand to is a Victorian period piece.

moon unit said...

no no no. the main reason for the bowie song is the lyrics

"Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)"

See these eyes so green
I can stare for a thousand years
Colder than the moon
It's been so long
And I've been putting out fire
With gasoline

Feel my blood enraged
It's just the fear of losing you
Don't you know my name
Well, you been so long

See these eyes so red
Red like jungle burning bright
Those who feel me near
Pull the blinds and change their minds
It's been so long

Still this pulsing night
A plague I call a heartbeat
Just be still with me
Ya wouldn't believe what I've been thru
You've been so long
Well it's been so long
And I've been putting out fire
with gasoline
putting out fire
with gasoline

See these tears so blue
An ageless heart
that can never mend
These tears can never dry
A judgement made
can never bend
See these eyes so green
I can stare for a thousand years
Just be still with me
You wouldn't believe what I've been thru

You've been so long
Well, it's been so long
And I've been putting out fire
with gasoline
putting out fire with gasoline

Paul Martin said...

They are nice lyrics, Moon Unit, and they match the film's narrative at that point (including the close up of Shoshanna's eyes), but the music doesn't match like the rest of the film's music does.