A glourious return

August 24, 2009


I had low expectations for Inglourious Basterds. I despised Death Proof and the truly abominable UK trailer for Tarantino’s latest film positioned it as some kind of terrible farce, with attention drawn to Mike Myers’ absurd cameo and Brad Pitt’s camera-mugging.

But it isn’t. It’s really quite wonderful. I should start by saying that if you’re not a Tarantino fan, you won’t enjoy this at all as it is, I believe, the apotheosis of his style. Like Kill Bill, the film is divided into separate chapters that the director claims are each inspired by a different genre of film-making. I could only pick out snatches of spaghetti westerns here and there but I’m inclined to believe him. Naturally, this practice does serve to stifle the narrative; in some cases a vignette seems to be developing toward something grandiose, only to be stifled by a sudden cut. Over the course of two and half hours, it is entirely understandable that some attentions may wander.

Furthermore, most of the film is in German and French. A brave decision and one that pushes it further from the realms of mainstream cinema. However, the director’s fondness for dialogue and wordplay translates seamlessly into other tongues. Tarantino’s passion for non-diegetic music is back in abundance, with blasts of Ennio Morricone and David Bowie to punctuate many scenes.

The final point worth noting is that Brad Pitt is barely in the film. He leads the eponymous “Basterds” of the piece but the film is more concerned with the life of Shosanna, played to perfection by Melanie Laurent (pictured above, preparing for battle). Sadly, she barely speaks a word of English in the entire film so has been kept out of the weak marketing effort.

Like Kill Bill (which I believe to be Tarantino’s greatest work), Inglourious Basterds is a film of vengeance. I wonder also if it’s meant to ape Nazi propaganda but from an American perspective (central to the plot is a fictional Nazi propaganda film). It’s also a comedy; some scenes are absolutely hilarious. But is it mainstream? Absolutely not. However, whatever your taste for film, I urge you to see it. I haven’t seen anything else like it.


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