Tarrantino had the #1 movie in the country. It has been a few weeks and it is still near the top of the box office leader board. For a director known for his edge, it seems an unlikely position.
Having finally taken the plunge and received my California Physician’s Recommendation, I decided to try a hash snicker doodle and head to the megaplex. Sure enough, Inglorious Basterds was playing on the biggest screen they had.
A short disclaimer, this marinaut is an unashamed Tarantino fan. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about QT’s films is his languid story telling style interspersed with counter punches of the visceral. This disjointedness should make his films niche endeavors, but his film nerd obsessions somehow make the hackneyed collage a catalog of cool.
With Inglorious Basterds, the story telling starts inside the credits. Not in the way that some movies show credits over introductory film sequences. QT sticks to the tried and true monochromatic yellow names flashing on the screen. Brad Pit. Mike Meyers. and introducing MÃ©lanie Laurent as Shoshanna. Excellent! After all these male names, we know there will be a woman named Shoshana and I won’t know what she looks like. As the movie unfurls, each female character stirs the question, is that one Shoshanna? I won’t give away the plot, or spoil her identity, but she does appear in the movie. And that is the depth to which QT strives for in the film. It is packed so densely with details, that I’m certain I only found a few, but I could feel them.
The general arc follows the Basterds, led by Pitt, who are a remorseless violent Nazi killing (pronounced gnat-sea) terrorist cell. Using the moral justification of the millions of Jews heinously dispatched by the Nazis, their mission is to strike fear into the occupying forces in France through their sheer brutality. And they are brutal.
The more enjoyable arc follows Cristoph Waltz as Hans Landa. His precise awkwardness and misplaced confidence lays hold of every scene he is in. Cristoph Waltz. I just want to put his name in their again so you will remember it on Oscar night. Col. Landa is sent to France with the charge of locating Jews. The perversity, which is unpalatable through healthy minds, indicts Landa as morally defective. Waltz’s performance stops well short of empathic or understanding, but brings a thrill of proximity to true madness.
And then there is Shoshanna…..(redacted)
Many have focused on the excess of the film, especially as a revenge fantasy. That certainly is the primary motivation. The dispatching of fear through rage. There is another subtle thread, the one my elevated senses think Tarantino truly wanted to express. His blood lust fantasy includes a heavy dose of references to Nazi cinema, including their own ‘Hero’ war films. This subversive introspection, the condemnation of glorified violence in the darkened movie house hits hard… while watching glorified violence in the darkened movie house. As all of the allied characters’ twistedly creative plans reach a climax, QT drops the most psychedelic scene of destruction I’ve seen since Luc Besson burned Joan of Arc. I was fascinated and disturbed. I returned to the thought that this was a mainstream film. People of all walks of life were seeing this warped film. And that is the genius of it all.
Col. Hans Landa (Cristoph Waltz ), with his devious ways, proxies for the filmmaker’s own darkness. And in that darkness, there seems to be a warning. Not an anti-Nazi message. Those are well understood. It settles more as, violence, both real and cheered from the sidelines, rots the soul. That’s right Ice, Man, I AM dangerous. Joy wrought from hatred fills the flask with poison. Some pay the price, and we honor them, but not for their glory. We honor them for their sacrifice.
But, maybe I missed the mark. Maybe, the lack of Fourth of July verbal pizazz had me digging too deep. Maybe, I should follow Col. Hans Landa’s lead. “Do you mind if I also smoke my pipe?” Either way, Inglorious Basterds will see the theater burn around you. A bloody revenge fantasy for most, but a thoughtful examination for fellow snicker doodles.
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