I avoided “Inglourious Basterds” for a while. Not for any other reason than it was so talked about; so hyped. I wanted some distance from the hype (It’s not the hype’s fault. Hype is great for any movie. I hope I get hype someday for my movies). This happens to me often. I avoid seeing many movies in their first run. I tend to see it on cable or on my academy screener.
Let me start by saying that I’m a big admirer of Tarantino, but only in pieces—which is the way I experience his films. Sometimes I love these pieces, but never the whole thing at once. But I don’t think he can be “loved” as we love other filmmakers. I also feel he’s not that interested in our love. He’s got some barbed wire around his artist’s heart as well as a rubber coating of some kind—like silly putty.
I’m not a fan of Reservoir Dogs. That’s like watching an out-
Basterds gets me the same way, but I’m not as thrilled. It’s got the epic strokes
of a “great’ movie. It’s actually making fun of our expectations for a kick-
I’m not unaware of Tarantino’s homage to Sergio Leone in Basterds, especially in the opening. But why? Westerns are fine for tension and have their own wonderful set pieces. War movies are great too. But why cross those two genres? That’s like mixing oranges and tangerines. It’s just not that sharp of a contrast. Action+Comedy—now that’s genre mixing. And that’s why Pulp Fiction works so well most of the time. So if either genre is fine on its own, why mix it up? The answer in my mind is that “Quentin just felt like it.” This I believe is what defines Tarantino’s presence in our world at this time.
I believe that all of it is a way for Tarantino to distance himself and his audience
from experiencing any emotion. In fact, I believe he is so in-
While almost every filmmaker—including our meanest, like David Lynch and Roman Polanski—are dedicated to making us feel something, I don’t think Tarantino cares what you feel after one of his films. I assume he wants me there to thrill at his technique and his cineaste’s style of storytelling. I believe he wants me to put footnotes on his shots and his scenes; his homages and quotes from other movies.
The plot of Basterds is familiar to all of us—it’s Great Escape meets Guns of Navarone with a large dose of Kelly’s Heroes and The Dirty Dozen—some of my favorite war movies as a kid. But I’m not sure what fantasy he’s asking us to participate in: the one about the possibility of having killed Hitler with our collective bare hands or the fantasy of simply making this movie as the filmmaker who can do whatever he pleases. Now THAT’S a fantasy we would ALL like to be a part of, I can tell you that.
Tarantino presents us with such a catalogue of thrillers and war movies that we have a hard time keeping up with him Let’s start with Brad Pitt’s character’s name, “Aldo Raine”, a goofy tribute to the 1950s actor, Aldo Ray. Strangely, Pitt’s character actually doesn’t mime Ray in any way. It’s just a silly reference. But make note of it. That’s pretty much all Tarantino is up to in Basterds. This is like listening to a great jazz solo that’s all little quotes from dozens of other familiar songs, yet never really gets to much that’s original.
Certainly there’s the novelty of an imagined mission to wipe out the German high command. But between the ranting Hitler and the smirking Goebbels, Tarantino is camping up the kitsch and cliché with all pistons. And I appreciate it.
The way that Tarantino keeps his following is the way that he utterly resists the expression of tenderness or vulnerability in his movies. This is ok. I remember as a young guy how tough I was. It wasn’t until I had my first child that my resistance to my emotions and conflicts melted away. Yes, I became a big grownup mush—like everyone else.
Tarantino brings us a young man’s state of mind. This I believe is Tarantino’s response to—and it’s a welcome one—the waterfall of false and manipulative emotion that tumbles from the screen on a normal basis. We need Tarantino today for the same reasons we need David Lynch—to shock us out of our sentimentality; to yank our heads out of the sand.
Tarantino is bringing us a frat-
As much as I am annoyed by Tarantino, he gives us the opportunity for some very cruel
laughter. His lack of tenderness is replaced by a unique approach to giving our protagonist
some gargantuan problems to deal with—Pulp Fiction’s Vinnie and Butch are up against
some impossible dilemmas which get worked out in ways that are consistent with the
Karma of that particular Tarantino universe. Lt. Raine is faced with certain death
until he goes against his practical Smokey Mountains philosophy and accepts a deal
that is certainly too good to be true—and of course it’s not true. That’s what Tarantino
is giving us to leave the theater with. “It’s all a joke, man! LOL! We didn’t REALLY
kill Hitler! But didn’t it FEEL SOOOO good for just that one movie-
So if you’re looking for Quentin’s Schindler’s List, you might not find exactly that. However, you will find a list, but it will not be a list of those who may have been saved by this fantasy. It’s a list of movie moments; quotes from our favorite films. A list made by a filmmaker who does not want to be seen as a humanist, but one who wants to be seen as a filmmaker. It’s refreshing when you think about it. It’s genuine. And it’s not patronizing. I would take what I saw in Basterds over some of the ingratiating (and routine) social politics of many other movies that pull at our sympathies for all the wrong reasons.
I feel that Quentin’s adolescent fantasy of blowing away Nazis versus some of those
other treatments of the subject is honest and in its own frat-
Tarantino is no piker, either. His technique is indisputable. He gets the best people behind and in front of his camera and brings us his one overriding message—HE LOVES MOVIES. And he wants us to love them too, but please…no crying.
Tarantino’s black humor is just what we need