Quentin Tarantino has always been king of the cinema of excess. He’s not afraid to put something in a movie just because it’s cool, throwing out the rulebooks of history and logic at the same time. Such is the manner of Inglourious Basterds, his latest film deemed an ‘inglorious, uproarious, thrill ride of vengeance.’ At least this is one movie that does exactly what it says.
The film follows the paths of two main storylines; that of the Inglourious Basterds, a group of NAZI scalping Jewish SAS troops wreaking havoc behind enemy lines. The second is that of Shushanna, who escapes the assassination of her family to open a movie cinema in Paris. Their paths converge at the film premiere of ‘Nation’s Pride’, in a plot to assassinate all the leaders of the NAZI party in one fowl swoop. It’s pretty much The Dirty Dozen meets Springtime for Hitler.
The film begins ‘once upon a time… In NAZI occupied France’, and we are introduced to Christophe Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, who won the coveted Cannes best actor award, and rightly so. The script is played with an excellent sense of timing and there are some great scenes, such as the dramatic lunch where Shushanna sits down to eat with Goebbels and his ‘French translator’, and Mike Myers brief cameo as a General. The film lacks a consistent narrative, but in doing this Tarantino references French new wave filmmakers such as Jean Luc Godard, and similarly divides the film into chapters.
David Stratton opened the premiere by remembering a young American filmmaker at Cannes for the first time in 1992, who couldn’t afford a hotel room for inteviews and so conducted them on the beach. I get the sense that Tarantino is still that film geek on the beach, albeit with a lot more money and respect. By staging the bloody climax in the cinema, Tarantino is making some sort of commentary on the death of German film. I’m not quite sure how to pinpoint his message, amongst the gore, the guts and the machine guns, but hey it’s there, lurking in the background while we get on with the business of being entertained. It’s all very European.
Inglourious Basterds is not for the faint hearted. There’s lots of guns, explosions, NAZIs and a blazing fire, as well as one of the most satisfying conclusions in any war film. Ever. But it’s a worthwhile movie, albeit an excessive one. I’m giving it four stars. It opens on the 20th August in Australia.
And yes, the title is meant to be spelt that way.