Thursday, August 27, 2009

Inglourious Basterds - Second Viewing review

There will be spoilers in this review, just a heads up.

A friend and I went to see Inglourious Basterds last night - he for the first time and myself for the second. I went to see it again for the same reason I saw Kill Bill Vol 1 twice in the theater - to make sure I actually had problems with the movie and not just Tarantino. I still had problems with both.

Chapter One:

The Tarantino Break-Up Metaphor

I feel that I must clarify my dislike of Tarantino and his projects. I came up with this metaphor: I had to break-up with Tarantino, my first auteur boyfriend. If you can imagine: a small town nerdy weirdo who grew up on 70s thrillers, crime flicks, heist movies, action movies, Saturday afternoon Z-Grade horror movies, WWII movies, Westerns and then one day a movie was reviewed by Vincent Canby in the New York Times. The movie reviewed sounded awesome and even had a cool title, Reservoir Dogs. I, me the small town nerdy weirdo, had to see this movie Canby described as, "Though small in physical scope, "Reservoir Dogs" is immensely complicated in its structure, which for the most part works with breathtaking effect." I saw Reservoir Dogs ASAP and from the first moment I was smitten. Then came True Romance -written by QT and steeped in film geekery - and then boom Pulp Fiction. If you knew me in 1995 then you'll know how much I loved that movie. I think I saw it more than a dozen times in the theater - and I'm not exaggerating.

Tarantino was one of my main jumping off points in my film geek maturation process (along with Mike who actually owned a lot of the early HK movies Tarantino was paying homage to). After I moved to Austin in 1999 I kicked into overdrive, watching pretty much anything I could get my hands on that was classic, grindhouse, Asian, underground, Yakuza movies, Yaphet Kotto movies, giallo, sexploitation, girls in jail, and more. I read, I watched, I picked up the soundtracks and scores I could find, and I educated myself.

The beginning of the end of my Tarantino love affair began August 17-26, 2001 at QT5 - the Tarantino MC'd filmfest at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. For each night Tarantino hosted a bunch of like themed movies - i.e. "Martial Arts Epic Adventures", "Old-School Kung Fu films", etc. Some of the movies were top-notch but most were...disappointing. A week of listening to Tarantino rabbit on was exhausting. As my father used to say, "the bloom was off the rose". Two years later Kill Bill Vol 1 came out. I hated that movie and I still hate 3/4 of it. Saw it twice just to make sure.

I decided to break-up with Tarantino. I had outgrown him, his stories were repetative - what scraps of his stories were original, I was unhappy in the relationship, and frankly he annoyed me.

Death Proof was pretty fucking disappointing. That's all I have to say about that.

Now Inglourious Basterds. I give Tarantino another chance, maybe he's changed maybe I can give him yet another chance to be my auteur sweetheart. Hope against hope the magic can be rekindled. Instead, it's more of the same bullshit and I'm reminded why we had to break-up in the first place.

Hence, Tarantino Break-Up Metaphor.

Chapter Two:

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.
And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

Isaac Davis: Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Y'know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y'know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.
Party Guest: There is this devastating satirical piece on that on the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating.
Isaac Davis: Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.
- Manhattan (1979) Dir. Woody Allen

Much has been made of Inglourious Basterds being a Jewish revenge fantasy. I have to admit that I am a touch confused by such a sentiment because people are acting like such a thing never existed before. A great majority of movies I've seen with Nazis have them being shot, set on fire, executed, put on trial for war crimes, melted by the wrath of God, machine gunned, blown up, gunned down when attempting to surrender, and pureed by airplanes. Yet people are acting like Tarantino and Roth have reinvented the matzoh ball.

Roth calling IB "kosher porn" is absurd and immature. In his interview with the Toronto Star, he has a vague explanation of the phrase, an enmity between him and Germans (more correctly Nazis):

This sentiment leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I'm still trying to figure out why. It makes me uncomfortable, like listening to a WWII vet explaining why he won't buy anything from Japan.

Another troubling issue is the execution of Sgt. Werner Rachtman (Richard Sammel) by Sgt. Donnie "The Bear Jew"Donowitz (Eli Roth). Jeffrey Wells's review at Hollywood Elsewhere really brought this issue to my mind, especially watching IB a second time. Sgt. Rachtman refuses to divulge information about other German patrols. Sgt. Donowitz gives him the business with a Louisville Slugger and afterwards rants, pretending to be a big league ball player who just won the big game. Now I'm all for moral ambiguity and twisting concepts of right and wrong in cinema but in this case Tarantino's Basterds come across as socio and psychopaths who have been given free rein to commit whatever atrocities they see fit. In a strange way it reminds me of the torture/execution scene in John Woo's Bullet in the Head.

Chapter Three:

Vainglourious Bastard


Autofellatio Tarantino Style

“I think this might just be my masterpiece.”
- Lt. Aldo Raine, final line of Inglourious Basterds

"Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinémathèque."

"I am not an American film maker, I make movies for the planet Earth."
-Quentin Tarantino

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