9.26.2009

REVIEW: Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

To say it in a sentence, "Inglourious Basterds" is Tarantino's "There Will Be Blood". For TWBB, Paul Thomas Anderson stepped up his game (which was already in impeccable shape) from Altman to Kubrick territory. "Boogie Nights" is still his best film and personally I do prefer "Magnolia" and "Punch-Drunk Love" (whereas "Hard Eight" - or "Sydney" to the snobs - is decent but more an interesting study for the mere fact that it is PTA's freshman effort than an actually great film) but it is clear with TWBB that every stop was pulled to ensure a barrage of masterpiece quality. Tarantino himself even said in his review of TWBB (a review I took in well after conjuring the theory I just mentioned) that upon his viewing of the film he was inspired to step up his own game for Basterds.

Now, it is no secret that I love a good portion of Tarantino's work. While some is shaky and can miss the mark it is impossible to argue with the Travolta/Thurman segment of "Pulp Fiction", the vast majority of "Jackie Brown", the car chase in "Death Proof" or just about everything from "Kill Bill". IB does extremely well to keep up that pattern and with the opening moments I was already 137% captivated by the beautifully appropriate echo of Angel Eyes' introduction in "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly". Tarantino hits an early high point with this tense conversation piece that seems to be the most carefully crafted writing he has put forth to date with an utterly astounding level of poignancy rarely attained in mainstream cinema, let alone in the filmmaker's previous work.

That said, it is unfortunate to also see the brilliance on the screen punctuated by some of the most sloppy, over-excited tactics I have seen from 'tino. Certain 'Kill-Bill-isms' are more than excusable such as the chapter breakdown and Julie Dreyfus' bit role as a French translator. Not excusable at all, however, is the recycling of portions of KB's soundtrack (which, of course, is already recycled from other films albeit acceptably so in that case) and even some of its scenes. When making "Magnolia", PTA scrapped a scene about 'The Worm' because he felt it too closely resembled the donut shop scene from "Boogie Nights". Perhaps a cue should have been taken by QT when doing, to provide just one example, the lobby scene for Nation's Pride's premiere, seeing that it was quite obviously ripped right from the House of Blue Leaves.

IB's glaring issues, which also include some oddly executed expository breaks, are conflicting but it is difficult to say I did not love it because there is so much greatness present. In fact, it is arguable that certain sequences (particularly those in the final chapter) are some of the very best all-around work 'tino has given us thus far. If anything they are easily the most compelling. Amongst all the greatness, though... the camerawork, the writing, the uncompromising use of varying languages... the aspect that stands out most prominently is Cristoph Waltz' performance. No IB review is complete without a down-and-out cheer-fest about how incredible Waltz is. Sure, he portrays a cold, selfish, Jew-slaughtering Nazi but I could not help but adore him. Yes, there should be an infinite number of things wrong with that last sentence but if you have seen the film you know precisely what I am talking about.

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