Friday, April 13, 2012

Inglourious Basterds

By Sati. Friday, April 13, 2012 , , , , , ,
95/100 (153 min, 2009)
Plot: In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger and Eli Roth

"We got a German here who wants to die for his country! Oblige him!"

Some say that the cinema is the true escapism. But for me the escapism only occurs when I'm watching a truly great movie, one that is able to pull the audience in its world so completely, you are not only forgetting you are watching a film, but also you don't question how far from actual reality the events portrayed in it are. "Inglourious Basterds" is one of those movies. It captures the true cinematic magic, that for few minutes alters the history, the real events and presents something incredibly satisfying. It is a movie where the evil is punished and when the actual events are changed in an extremely satisfying way.

Despite the movie's title, The Basterds, the group of soldiers who capture Nazis and scalp them is only a small part of the film. The Basters are lead by Aldo Raine, charismatic and capable leader and they are quite a diverse bunch - there is a psychopathic Nazi killer Hugo Stiglitz, Donny Donowitz who bashes Nazis heads and others, devoted to haunting down Nazis and bringing them justice. A very bloody justice.
However "Inglourious Basterds" has really a different centre. Knowing Tarantino's admiration for women in his movies, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the heart of the film is the character of Shosanna Dreyfuss, young Jewish girl who escaped a bloody purge of her family. Years later she changed her name and she owns a movie theatre. And when the opportunity arises, she will be the one who will bring a true revenge toward the Nazis.

Shosanna is charming, but also very cold. Melanie Laurant brings in a mesmerizing performance, built mostly out of tiny moments where calculating and focused on revenge Shosanna reacts in a very human way - Shosanna's path crosses with German hero Fredrick Zoller, who falls in love with her. When he tells Shosanna a story of his accomplishments Laurant beautifully captures both horror of what he did and being impressed by his actions. But her best moment comes when she meets the man who killed her family, Hans Landa in a restaurant. She tries to not give herself up and when he leaves, she collapses in panic.
Landa is a soldier, who follows orders and is merciless in hunting Jews and traitors. Christoph Waltz won Academy Award for his chilling performance and quite rightfully so. His Landa is downright scary and the worst part of it is that it's impossible to read him. You never know what he knows or what he plans.He is playing everyone around him. Even when he seemingly loses control it's only a pretense, like in the scene where he erupts with maniacal laughter at the premiere. The most chilling thing is that he appears to know everyone's secrets - he always know what to say, he is testing everyone around him.

As with other Tarantino movies there are just dozes of characters here, who are capable of creating a memorable impression in sometimes even a single scene - the soldier at the tavern who just became a father, Shosanna's friend in the theatre, Francesca Mondino played by the unforgettable Julie Dreyfuss from "Kill Bill" movies (Shosanna's last name in the movie is also a tribute to the actress, who quite frankly should be cast in more movies, who can forget Sophie Fatale?) and many others.
The major players include German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark, played with a lot of humour and charm by Diane Kruger, who delivers surprisingly good performance. There is also Michael Fassbender, in a brief but extremely memorable performance. Some of the original casting decisions made by Tarantino are interesting - despite the part of Archie Hicox being so right for Fassbender, who was born in Germany and raised in Ireland, and as Hicox playing an Englishman who goes undercover as a German, the role was originally given to Simon Pegg.

About the casting - I read today that Landa was originally supposed to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio. I really like Tarantino's determination of casting DiCaprio as a villain, it didn't work here but he is set to play the reprehensible slave owner in upcoming "Django Unchained". I always said that all DiCaprio has to do to truly, truly shine is to change the characters he plays. I can't wait to see what he will do with the role.
As usual Tarantino riddled the movie with references and hidden treats - When Lt. Aldo Raine, pretends to be an Italian actor, he uses name "Enzo Girolami", which is the birth name of the director of original Inglorious Bastards, Enzo G. Castellari. In the scene where the characters are playing a game where one has to guess what famous name is written on one's forehead, one of the notes reads Mata Hari, a dancer and courtesan who became known for being a double agent for Germany during World War I. This mirrors the role played by Diane Kruger: a famous actress turned double agent for the Allies during World War II.

The connections to the other movies include "Scarface", "The Devil's Brigade' and "The Dirty Dozen" among many others. The film's story is presented in a matter known from "Kill Bill" - it's divided into chapters, there are also freeze frames when we are introduced to the characters and the same music cue appears when Landa walks into the restaurant where Shosanna is being introduced as it did in "Kill Bill" when the Bride was looking at the people who were the target of her revenge.
The film is probably the most thrilling work by Tarantino. The chapters are very long and they are driven almost exclusively by great dialogues and acting, until after minutes of tension rising the frame explodes with a sudden, quick and brutal rush of violence. The opening chapter at the home of the LaPadite family is especially impressive - it features the father and his three daugthers. The only one with blond hair is played by delicate Lea Seydoux and perhaps it's her that gives away the fact that they are hiding Jews - despite it  being very fleeting, she is horrified, worried and saddened and she can't look Landa in the eyes.

Another impressive sequence is the tavern stand-off scene, which is the perfect mix of raising tension and humour. The scene features characters being undercover and a Nazi officer. They engage in a silly little game. But when something goes wrong, you know that bullets will fly any second now. Another thing with Tarantino is that he is merciless - no matter how great the character, nobody is safe in his movies.
Despite the movie dealing with the subject of war and ruthless killing, there is plenty of humour here. For me, the most amusing scene was when the Basterds accompanied Bridget to the premiere and pretended to be Italians. From the ridiculous accents to the stereotypical, hilarious gestures that scene is just gold. I also love Brad Pitt's expression in that scene, filled with confusion and indifference. He is a master of comedy, truly.

The film has gorgeous cinematography, probably the most beautiful out of all Tarantino's movies. From the very beginning where the blood splatters the cottage and the grass at the serene countryside, through the lovely set pieces and interiors to the amazing finale of the film, that is set in Shosanna's theatre. Everything is filled with ferocious red, red that will then turn into fire.
The music selection is impressive and my favorite choice that Tarantino made is featuring David Bowie's "Cat People" which truly made for an unforgettable scene when Shosanna is putting on make up in the big night when she is so close to full fill her revenge. What i found truly poetic about the film is that the act of the final revenge it's set in motion because of the films and in the cinema. Even the reels have their purpose here.

"Inglourious Basterds", though not as great as "Pulp Fiction" and not quite as memorable as "Kill Bill" is a great film with impressive scenes and great casting and acting. Though I think the fact Waltz is the only actor from Tarantino's movies rewarded with Oscar isn't exactly right (I liked Travolta's work as Vincent Vega and Thurman's Bride much better) his performance is really like a creme on the strudel. What the hell am I talking about? Just see this movie.

18 comments:

  1. Great review. I love this film. It makes quite the impact and uses humour and violence in the perfect mixture, and only QT can achieve that.

    I remember when I saw it, I said Waltz should win the Oscar. To date, that prediction makes me the happiest. I love Fassy and Laurent and Hugo Stigiltz and Daniel Bruhl and Bowie and everything! Love this film!!

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    1. Yeah he has real talent for that, for a while in the 90s it looked like Guy Ritchie may be his succesor but then he got married to Madonna and everything went to hell :)

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  2. Wow, whatta fantastic review of a truly great QT flick. I too had perviously heard that Leo was considered for Landa, but I'm glad things worked out the way they did here. I definitely think Leo's gonna kill it in Django.

    One question: have you ever given a film 100/100?

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    1. I gave 100/100 to Black Swan. Psycho, Schindler's List, Mulholland Drive, the Artist and Wild Strawberries came close - 99/100 :)

      I have this feeling Django will be Leo's coveted Oscar win :)

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  3. Melanie Laurent was quite a revelation for me in this film and I just loved Christoph Waltz- he was deliciously evil! Also, props for Brad Pitt, his charisma is undeniable, even when he is playing this character! My favorite scene has to be the one with Fassbender and Kruger- the direction, dialogue and performances were all perfect! Great review!

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    1. Thank you! I too was very impressed with her here, don't know where Tarantino found her ^^

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  4. That scene with Bowie's "Cat People" gave me chills. I love that song and that entire sequence with Melanie Laurent. I had a complete crush on her from the first moment I saw her in that film. Still one of my favorite films of the last decade.

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    1. Absolutely, I think it's cult classic already. That scene was amazing, loved the way she just stood there next to the window when the song started playing.

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  5. Well, I agree with everything you said except I think Inglourious Basterds is as memorable as Kill Bill (if not even more)! There's not much left to say about it, it's just brilliant. And the soundtrack... I love how ironic some of Tarantino's music choices are. It just adds to the greatness of it all.

    I like the picture's shadows btw, it looks professional and makes the pics stand out!

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    1. I just love Kill Bill a little bit more, especially Volume 1. But it's a close call for me.

      Thanks, I added some effects too cause I was bored with the pics always looking like generic screenshots :)

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  6. As great of an actor DiCaprio is, I just can't imagine someone else playing Hans Landa, especially after seeing Waltz in this role.

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    1. Yeah, Waltz was perfect. But I can totally see Dicaprio doing great job as a villain.

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  7. Oh goodness, I love this film. Just everything about it - it is great. It is my favourite QT movie.

    It is interesting looking at who he was going to cast, and then who he eventually cast. As much as I love Leo, I couldn't see him in the role since Waltz made it all his own. But I can't wait to see what he does in Django! Hopefully he'll get his Oscar for that one.

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    1. I think he may, Academy likes to give leading men Oscars for supporting roles :) You favorite? Cool! I think you are the second person I'm aware of who choses this one over PF :)

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  8. What an amazing film! Awesome review by the way!
    How great is Melanie Laurant in general? :D

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    1. Thanks! I liked her very much here, but not in Beginners. Haven't seen more films with her.

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  9. Thank you for pointing out that Pitt and others are only a part of the film. I found myself far more interested in the characters played by Waltz and Laurent. In fact, you could pretty much lift the inglorious basterds out of the movie and not really affect the outcome much. It's not too often you can say that about the title characters.

    My favorite Tarantino casting story is that he didn't want Kruger at first because he didn't know she was actually German. Apparently, since she didn't speak "mitt der accent like zis" he thought she was American. Once he found out she was actually German, he cast her. Notice how he has her speaking with the much heavier accent in the film.

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    1. That's a very good point, they were really just an additional element to the entire story.
      Yeah, I heard about it, it's quite odd since I thought "Kruger" was clearly a German name. Her accent in the film is very heavy indeed.

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