Monday, September 07, 2009

I finally saw Inglorious Basterds over the weekend, and a couple of people asked me what I thought of it, so… Spoilers/plot discussion follow!

It dragged a bit, mostly at the beginning. The opening sequence with Nazi officer Hans Landa and the French farmer, for example, could have been tightened up considerably. Still, there was always a payoff at the end of the scene. Was I the only person who watched Landa drink that glass of milk, and remembered Samuel Jackson drinking the Sprite of the boy he’s about to murder in Pulp Fiction? In Tarantino movies, people who come into your house and suck down your beverages are most likely about to kill someone.

The actor, Christopher Waltz, has won awards for the role, but I actually found Landa a little too cheerfully, charmingly evil. He needed a touch more menace for my taste – a little more Christopher Walken, or perhaps John Malkovich.

Loose end: Later, in the strudel scene, did Landa realize that Emmanuelle Mimieux was actually Shoshanna Drefuss? I was unable to tell. I thought he did, when he drank another glass of milk, but it was never made clear.

Emmanuelle Mimieux was, of course, a tragic heroine. And beautiful - Tarantino made Melanie Laurent look like a gorgeous young Ingrid Bergman in the shots of her preparing for the premiere. But will those girls ever learn: once you've plugged the villain and he's down, go shoot him again in the back of the head! As soon as I saw the oh-so-smug Frederick Zoller fall, I thought “He’s going to sit up in a minute, all bloody, and shoot her.” Which was sort of academic, since (I think) she and her lover were planning on dying in the fire anyway. But still – if you’re going to kill the bad guy, kill him very, very thoroughly.

Brad Pitt and his Basterds, on the other hand, were nothing if not thorough. I wish they’d gotten more screen time. I am lost in awe at how well Pitt did with his part. “Aldo The Apache” was such a cartoon-character of a role, with the accent and the scar and the hillbilly imperturbability, it would have been easy to push it into sheer burlesque.

But Pitt was able to make Aldo work, somehow. I’m amazed at how Pitt was able to contort and hold his face in that odd, bulldoggish expression. Did he have prosthetics on his chin and forehead to give him that look?

(The character of the English officer, Lt. Hicox, was actually much more of a cartoonish, stiff-upper-lipped Brit, although I had a sense that Tarantino did that on purpose. And I did not even recognize Mike Myers in his little bit as an English officer.)

Quibble: The scene where Landa slips the shoe, Cinderella-style, onto Bridget von Hammersmark’s foot and thus identifies her as a traitor was good – but I would have liked it better if the shoe had not fit. Remember: there was another woman in the tavern, the young barmaid. It could have been hers. There could have been a big build-up of tension and then – the shoe obviously isn’t her size. Hammersmark would have breathed a sigh of relief, thinking herself safe, and then Landa would have killed her anyway. That’s how I would have done that scene.

Can I just admit how much I loved that Tarantino used the “Cat People” theme song in his movie? That’s such a great, cheesy, slick eighties-pop-ballad. Was it anachronistic? Maybe, but the whole damn movie is alternate history anyway, so why get hung up on little details like that? I remarked to Monk, “That song was on a lot of my early ‘sex mix’ tapes.” He replied, “Honey, that was on everyone’s ‘sex mix’ tapes.”

So I don’t think it’s my favorite movie in the world, but I enjoyed it well enough, and I think, basically, it’s Quentin Tarantino. If you like Quentin, and you’re all right with brutal, violent imagery, and you’re in the mood for a movie that has nothing at all to do with actual history of the Nazis and World War II, then you’ll probably like the film. The man has a definite style, and I have to admire him for doing what he wants, exactly the way he wants.

No comments: