Inglorious Basterds (2009)

“Inglorious Basterds” (2009)

ingloriousb

IMDb

It works, but NOT in the eye

I gave this film a much greater amount of reflexion than i usually give to any film before commenting on it. Some of the things in it are puzzling, not so much because of the film itself, but to the way people react to it.

This film has qualities, to me Tarantino deserves some credit for some good things, but there are fundamental issues that are important to me and certainly other film goers. The thing is, film is rooted in images, there was a time, if you’ll dig 8 decades, in which image was the only thing filmmakers could rely on, in order to give us a story. That’s pure visual story telling, that’s what Chaplin and Keaton did, Meliés, the incredible Pabst, which Tarantino talks about in this film. This means that the images, either for the way they were sequenced, either for the way they were shown, told us something. Maybe we could sum it up in a few words to anyone who hadn’t seen the film, but that wouldn’t mean anything, because “Seeing” was what it was all about. Remember “City Lights”‘ last sequence? The tramp, beaten up, defeated, is mocked at by some street kids, the ex-blind flower girl, now with vision (thanks to the Tramp), sees the scene, laughs at it but than takes pity on the poor tramp. She gives him a flower and a quarter, only to find out, through the tact of his hand which she recognized, that he was the man who helped her while she was blind. They look at each other, we cry. These words mean absolutely nothing if you haven’t seen the film, because the images ARE the film. Now, Tarantino knows this, that’s the thing, he knows how to Watch films, he claims as his references some of the filmmakers i care more about. Most of them are pure visual storytellers: Leone, Pabst, Hitchcock, Kar Wai. Tarantino knows this, and it must hurt him deeply that he can’t do their thing. He can be (i believe) deeply moved by the preciousness of the Bye bye Babs shot, or the initial ever lasting 15 minutes of Good, Bad, Ugly, which Quentin quotes in the first sequence of this film. But he can’t do anything that is remotely as visual (or visual at all) like these scenes. There is a number of tools and bricks that build a sequence, build a film, which Tarantino simply doesn’t master. Framing, timing, editing. On the pure visual field, Tarantino simply shoots, and has a special talent to adequate songs to his scenes. Now i wouldn’t give that so much attention, if Tarantino would be considered for what he is, a clever dialog writer, with some clever narrative ideas, but basically an ordinary director. It seems dangerous that the collective consciousness takes Tarantino as the big thins, the follower to his masters. He doesn’t Do what the masters did, so he Talks about it, and Talks us into believing he is doing the masters’ thing.It took me a few weeks to get to this point. I had to turn to Tarkovsky and Kalatozov so they would confirm me i was thinking right. They did.

Having said this, i think this film is the strongest Tarantino has made since Pulp Fiction, because he dedicates a lot of time to the 2 things he does best: building tense dialogs, and finding a narrative structure that fits. In Pulp Fiction he borrowed that from Kar Wai, here he sticks to the episodic chapters. The dialogs are great, they build tension and little times have i seen such cleverness in how different languages are alternated. Tarantino collects from his previous experiences in using chit chat to advance a scene, and does it well. So notice that in the first scene it is not what you see that makes the scene, it’s what it’s said. In my book, that is good writing, not good film-making, and it is precisely the opposite of the assumed reference, Sergio Leone. The same applies to the shooting scene in the bar. It’s the dialog that leads us to the final short shooting. And that’s my point.

There is a very interesting thing done on the narrative level. We are led throughout the film, by 3 characters, to a final stage, a film theatre: Lada, Raine, and Shosanna. Each plans their own film, and the external film we watch is a mix of all those others. On the lower level we have the dumb Nazis, who believe they go to the theater to watch the film they made, but they are the meal to 3 different blood seekers. In the very end, Raine stands on top, despite everything, but of course the line that matters and impresses is Landa’s. It’s rooted on the detective story, with him always on top all the way, until almost the very end. Christoph Waltz’s performance is excellent but the writing is very clever, in all respects, in all the twists. Visually, the best sequences are the ones in the theatre, and of course it’s dear that all goes around films, even the fire is started by film, literally.

The other great thing is the awkwardness of hearing David Bowie or Morricone driven themes in the middle of occupied France. It’s like Alban Berg’s music, which always gives us the impression to hear something tonal and classical, only to deceive us later. That pastiche is makes this film slide into ambiguous fields of undetermined genres. Great.

Brad Pitt is a funny guy, because now he plays making fun of his public image, while giving us a totally different thing. That’s something Clooney has already done for a while now (see them together in the Coen’s project for that).

I really loved the theatre building, the hall was a clear beautiful space, and well shot.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb

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