Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

How one reacts to Tarantino's latest will depend on whether one is inclined to regard its various idiosyncrasies as defects. We discovered in it a collection of fascinating cinematic quirks, and were therefore far more inclined to be forgiving than certain professional critics we could name.

It shares some of the qualities of another movie alongside which it premiered at Cannes this year: Los Abrazos Rotos. It has, for instance, a film within a film, which acts in part as a commentary on what we think is the main storyline.

Both films were made by directors who have tended towards the self-indulgent as their careers have progressed, as they have been granted the status of cine-auteurs even while continuing to play — with ever greater postmodern abandon — with genre-formats. Nevertheless, I'll take Tarantino's self-indulgences over Almodovar's any day.

What we have here is at once a hyper and an alternative WWII reality. The central characters are all archetypes, and yet somehow more real than many that crop up in straight-laced period films. The structure is chapterised in the now familiar Tarantino way, and most of these chapters are set pieces which when taken together, leave something to be desired in terms of plotting. Still, this is just one of those things we're both prepared to accept as an interesting facet of this director's work, and not something which really ruined the experience in any meaningful way. And yes, it's long, but if you watch it on DVD you can approach it as we did, in several sittings, so that it's a bit more like reading a piece of extended fiction than the standard two hour, 5 act Hollywood motion picture product.

Personally I'd rather Quentin had called his movie Operation Kino (indeed one of the chapter titles here) because I think the one he has chosen creates certain expectations that it intends to be a The Dirty Dozen-style action movie based on a tale of Jewish guerilla soldiers behind Nazi lines, when in fact it's the story of the Paris premier of a new German propaganda flick which is really central and which provides the extended climax sequence.

Grade: B++

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