INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009)
Running Time: 153 mins. Rating: xx Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Distributor: Weinstein Company
Cast: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Jacky Ido, Mike Myers, Rod Taylor, Bo Svenson, Enzo G. Castellari
How I Won The Weird
INGLORIOUS BASTERDS might be the weirdest big budget studio released film I have ever seen. Though it looks like a WW2 movie Tarantino disagrees and says that it isn’t a WW2 movie at all, I guess in the same vein of Magritte’s painting of a pipe C’nest pa une pipe. This is not a documentary Tarantino says relieving him of the burden of historical authenticity, anachronism and accuracy. There are many arguments in Tarantino’s favor (he ends the war and kills off Hitler in Paris nine months early). Most films are unhistorical in direct proportion to the remoteness of the subject. Recently I saw this Hallmark version of MARCO POLO and it was like an insane man’s version of reality. But who knows or cares. ONE MILLION B.C. move to the front. Westerns are notoriously anachronistic, even recent ones like Blake Edward’s SUNSET which perversely turns all of the facts 180 degrees. These are not documentaries after all. IB has been preceded by Jerry Lewis’ codeine drenched WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT (1970) and WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR DADDY? (1966). This film was written by one of the worst comedy writers ever, whose scripts must have looked hilarious on the page to executives with no sense of humor. These films are basically time travel films where modern day people are thrust onto a period set in rented costumes and play out a made up story. Everybody speaks in English and putting on a Nazi uniform and pretending to be a high ranking officer is the de rigor scene in every film. It’s not about WW2, it’s about two hours. It’s only a movie. As long as you can get punters to accept the premise you’re home free. High school cute kids playing medieval knights with a David Bowie soundtrack, nothing new. The difference is that most educated people know how WW2 ended but few know how the Third Crusade ended. What Tarantino has done is place WW2 in the same remote territory as every other “historical” film.
Most of these films (WHAT, WHICH) are negligible because of the Ed Wood factor, their meanness of spirit matched by a meanness of creation. What’s shocking about Tarantino’s film is that it is fluidly cinematic and masterly made. I recently saw SECRET MISSION (1944) about a clandestine British mission in France. It was a wartime flag waver that everyone took seriously at the time, as if, yup, this is the way it is or near to it. Now of course we’ve all seen better films on the subject, endless documentaries on the Hitler (History) channel and memoirs and biographies and Ph.D. studies and obituaries and we know better. I now realize that a favorite Brit-com of mine ‘ALLO! ‘ALLO, made 40 years later, was nothing but a broad parody of an absurd pretend rendition of reality. It’s set in WW2 but not any real WW2. The ridiculousness is obvious now but today we know better. When it comes to IB we don’t even care anymore. It’s only a movie, an alternative reality anyway so don’t sweat the history.
So the environment occupied by IB is acceptable as a fantasy, a place to play in and to make a movie in. The big problem for me was one of tone. Nearly every extended scene seems to occupy a different logical environment. One scene is played for comedy the next for horror the next for melodrama and each are paced for their singular needs. And some seem to exist solely as a set piece. The opening title “Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France”, coupled with Ennio Morricone’s music evokes not a fairy tale but a continuation of the Maestro’s work, Sergio Leone. One might expect sparse dialog and action sequences or maybe even burlesques of action sequences and a story of emotions driven by image and music. Alas the script features dramatic set pieces consisting of dialog and situation to drive the story. It’s strangely static for long stretches. BTW the music has mostly been adapted from the soundtracks of other films, dozens of other films.
A word about Brad Pitt’s performance – he pulls some excellent Clark Gable faces and I couldn’t but picture him as Dillinger. Lost performance.
I usually am not concerned with such things as opening weekend box office and the like but I wonder how this will go down with the general public. I don’t think the anachronisms will offend the greater audience but they don’t care about period films at all. In terms of commercial bonanzas this might rank with Colorization and synthetic movie stars of the past. Very interesting. But pointless.
P.S. It might be churlish of me to mention this considering how thickly the anachronistic broth bubbles but surely the Jewish “Bear” who bashes out Nazi brains with a baseball bat would seek to emulate Hank Greenberg rather than the goyish Ted Williams.
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