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August 13, 2009

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bill

Oh, glory be...

Just fucking get released already!!

Krauthammer

Okay, I was on the fence about this movie, but now I just have to see it.

Ryan Kelly

Looks like a ton of fun. Great review, sir.

aaron g

whoa, whoa, whoa wait a second here--what would jeffrey wells think!?

Larry Gross

in almost anybody else's hands the outrageousness of the various scenarios enacted in this epic would be an insult to history, but here they're not, because although the stage of this film might be world historical, Inglourious Basterds is finally not about history, or reality, or any such thing but about movies, which is all that any of Tarantino's movies have ever been about.

Glen, let me be clear on this. If a cinephilic German auteur of QT's age and equivalent talent, say, restaged the battle of Stalingrad only this time with the German side winning, and causing a coup d'etat in Russia deposing Stalin, and did it with corresponding film-historical emphasis that would NOT be an insult to history as well?

Earthworm Jim

Whoa! This completely counteracts the mixed/negative buzz coming out of Cannes in my estimation. I'm now full-on excited about this business. Next weekend can't arrive fast enough, although I do have a week's worth of goodies to see - Thirst, District 9, Lorna's Silence, and maybe Ponyo. But damn, my head will be elsewhere...

Glenn Kenny

@ Larry Gross: Assuming I accept your hypothesis, I'd have to answer, "It depends on how good the movie is," and then be glad that German cinema has yet to produce a tyro with commensurate talent and audacity to Tarantino's.

BUT—I don't accept your hypothesis, because, for one thing, Tarantino's film does not rewrite history that radically. As in real life, the Allies still win here. (Is that a spoiler?) They just win differently. SO I would say that your proposal doesn't hold quite enough water to float what I presume to be your indignation.

Which isn't to say that your argument is entirely untenable, or that more refined arguments against the film's take on history wouldn't be more persuasive. I'm interested in hearing them, honestly; as much as I enjoyed the film, I do think there's a position from which to argue that Tarantino's liberty-taking is excessive.

One interesting thing about the film's titular "Basterds" is how removed they are from anything like an "Allied" or even American mission. They come off very much as renegades, at a remove from the usual U.S. forces portrayed in WWII films, which aren't even portrayed in this picture. They truly are a band apart, as they say!

Larry Gross

Just for the record Glen--in my German alternative to Inglorious Basterds I didn't say Germany won the war as the result of winning Stalingrad. Your point about the 'renegade' non-institutionalized status of the basterds goes in the direction of the film's ambition to take place in some privileged 'non-historical' space. I guess my question is, at what point is being outside of history (for whatever aesthetic reasons) a way of denying it. Killing Hitler in '42 implies the non-occurrence of the Holocaust as we historically know it to have occurred,(1944 was the most murderous year of the war in terms of Nazi war crimes) and actually makes my Germans-winning-Stalingrad analogy rather tame by comparison. None of this would matter as much quite, if Tarantino didn't obstinately insist that his film is a critique of "Jewish passivity" as depicted in other World War II films, an attitude he reproaches consistently for not being realistic enough. That indeed is the height of chutzpah.

Sam Adams

@Larry

I don't know if you're rewriting history it matters when you start, but FYI the film's Hitler makes it all the way to June of '44.

JC

I've noticed the Tomatometer ticking upwards after a very mixed early response from Cannes, which gives the impression that the QT haters (not a judgment call, he's just an artist of the love-him-or-hate-him variety, and most people drew their lines in the sand ages ago) are just engaging in familiar rituals, with this film becoming an easy target due to its faux-"historical" elements.

Truth be told, QT can sometimes drive me up the wall in interviews, being overtly immature and egocentric, and yet somehow I feel that some form of (filmmaking, if not thematic) maturity slips in through the cracks in most of his films. He has a way of drawing out, or subverting, scenes in creative ways, and I'd have to say that amongst current filmmakers engaged in a degree of arrested adolescence, his films tend to be amongst the most eminently watchable. Yeah, I greatly preferred spending time with the slinky first group of women in Death Proof (which I don't really consider anything more than a lark in his ouevre) over the car-obsessed tomboys that occupied the film's second half (Zoe Bell's awesome stunt work notwithstanding), but I have a pretty strong feeling that there's a great deal more variety of tone and subject matter in IB. It's the last wide-release flick of the summer I've been looking forward to, though I'm a little apprehensive about sitting in a theater inevitably filled with those expecting a slam-bang action flick (thanks to the misleading ads), as opposed to another of QT's gabfests. But I'll just tune them out, and soak up the film's atmosphere and unique, stylized dialogue, as I have with previous Tarantino movies.

Based on your reaction to say, Kill Bill Vol. 2, I was actually expecting that you'd like IB, Glenn, but I'm pleased to hear just how enthusiastic you are about it.

Mike

Thanks, Glenn. I've been waiting for this movie since I was a Tarantino-worshipping senior in high school. And, Larry, honestly, who gives a fuck? Don't be a scold. It's high time for the Third Reich to fall at the hands of cinephiles. Why the hell not? Oh, and JC, I dig "Death Proof" much, and Zoe Bell is one sexy woman. I cannot wait to see this movie.

bill

JC, you seem to have the exact same take and approach to Tarantino as I do, including your luke-warm reaction to DEATH PROOF. But I say to my wife over and over, whenever we see Tarantino making an ass of himself on TV, that no one who behaves like that in public should be able to make movies as good as some of his are. And not just good, but great -- and not just GREAT, but great in the specific ways in which his best films are. I'm thinking of JACKIE BROWN and KILL BILL 2. The patience he shows in telling his stories is just one of the things I love and appreciate most about his work.

Nathan Duke

Glenn,

Did you see Ebert's blog posting about Armond White in which he essentially concludes that he is a "troll?" Just curious to hear your thoughts.

Glenn Kenny

Nathan: I save all my White material for my Auteurs' column, which goes up later today. All I'm gonna say here is that it takes a man of real courage to rock the camouflage pants A.W. was sporting at the "Basterds" screening yesterday.

Sebina

I never can miss a Tarantino film, and after reading your review I feel even more compelled.

Nathan Duke

"All I'm gonna say here is that it takes a man of real courage to rock the camouflage pants A.W. was sporting at the "Basterds" screening yesterday."

That's funny- I almost spilled my coffee thanks to that little quip. Can't wait to see "Inglourious Basterds." Glad to see you liked it. The word out of Cannes was sort of meh but, then again, a lot of the critics who griped about it had similar gripes with other QT movies that I loved. I'm hoping the same goes for "Taking Woodstock," which got a mediocre response at Cannes, but is also by a filmmaker I admire.

Dan Coyle

Jeffrey Wells' freakout over this movie is EPIC.

I heard after Sight and Sound panned Death Proof QT cornred the editor at a screening and bellowed, "I'm a scholar of cinema!" Which, yeah, I've read a LOT of comic books and graphic novels, as many as QT's seen movies, Does that make me a Scholar Of Sequential Art? Well, given the extraordinarily low standards of comics criticism, yes, but that's beside the point.

slutsky

I agree with most of your points, Glenn. I really liked this.

But I'm not sure I trust my own judgment, cuz as a Jewish film critic this movie was pretty much custom-built for me.

Dan

@Dan Coyle

The man's got an enormous ego, no question. Then again, he's earned it. He hasn't made a shit film yet.

People hate Tarantino because he's talented, and, let's be honest here, instead of expanding that talent into acceptable areas, the guy's still making genre movies. He was supposed to follow the arc of "beloved brilliant artist" and give that shit up in favor of period dramas.

Which I guess in a way he did. Kind of.

Dan Coyle

The Other Dan: yeah, you've got a point there. He's doing whatever the fuck he wants. I don't think he's going to make a film as good as Resevoir Dogs or Jackie Brown again, but we ain't the boss of him.

And I'd argue Kill Bill is pretty shit, but my reasons for disliking it are too complicated to express in a mere blog post. However, I can't deny both films' raw power, and how it sticks with you.

I can't wait for IGB- good or ill, I'll get my damn money's worth.

bill

@Dan Coyle -

"And I'd argue Kill Bill is pretty shit, but my reasons for disliking it are too complicated to express in a mere blog post."

Nevertheless, I'd be extremely interested to see you give it a shot, if you felt like it. I personally think that KILL BILL as a whole, though particularly the second half, is the best thing he's ever done.

Joel

Kill Bill 1 is my least favorite of his films, but I absolutely love the second film. The reason, I think, must be my own interest in QT's influences. The entire thing is a brilliant riff on The Count of Monte Cristo, right down to the way that the narrative omits the hero's name until the very end, but my knowledge of martial-arts cinema is paltry, so the first half just seemed like what everyone always accuses QT of making: a film that resonates more with its cinematic influences than with the real world. Of course, when I'm down with the influences, as in Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, or KB 2, this resonance seems far more soulful, intelligent, and moving. And when he acknowledges the wide gulf between movie coolness and the grind of everyday life, as he did throughout JB, the pathos is almost unbearable. I'm thinking of that scene where Jackson shoots De Niro, says "your ass used to be cool once" (or something), and then steps out into the empty, industrial-LA streets, looking more like a pathetic 70s anachronism than the bad ass he once was.

Yuval

Here's one reason I didn't like Kill Bill 2, at the end you realize Bill is a boring nothing character and all he has to say is unpersuasive analogues concerning fish and supermen. We barely see him for most of the movie and we're waiting for that final showdown, and then the movie ends with philosophy department cafeteria show down. It seems like the pay-off was based on something as uninteresting as the "Like a Virgin" speech at the beginning Reservoir Dogs. Let's change the narrative of Dogs and have Orange ask White just before he kills him "Why are you killing me? I thought you liked me". And then White will do the whole Madonna monologue and explain it "I'm just like that whore, and your big dick made me feel like a virgin". BANG The End

Dan

I don't get most of the references in KB1. That's because they're insanely obscure; Tarantino drops a music cue from "Master of the Flying Guillotine", for Christ's sake. I think watching a Tarantino movie and trying to get the references is rather foolish in the end. They're obscure, and honestly it's unrewarding, because you sat through a bunch of bad movies. Tarantino digs out the gems and strings them on a chain so you don't have to.

KB1 is a kung-fu movie. A well-shot kung-fu movie with a couple of emotionally jolting moments (remember when the Bride first wakes up; Tarantino just lets the camera sit there as this woman realizes she's lost her child), possibly one of the greatest kung-fu movies ever made, but it's ultimately a kung-fu movie.

"a film that resonates more with its cinematic influences than with the real world."

Statements like this always interest me.

I disagree, obviously. All filmmaking is somehow disconnected from the real world. ESPECIALLY the films concerned with realism. There's no such thing as a "real" film, just a "real-seeming" one. Even documentaries elide, embellish, omit. Fiction film? Forget it. You're making something up.

So to make up for that gap, there's the layering on of artistic pretense. Maybe handheld camerawork. Maybe "non-actors". Maybe location shooting in slums.

But it's pretense, in the end. I wish more filmmakers were aware of that. I certainly wish we'd stop privileging some forms of make-believe over others.

Joel

Dan: I should have been clearer, since I actually agree with you. When someone with Tarantino's deep love for cinema interrogates that love in his own films, there really is no distinction between cinema and the real world, performance and authenticity--that relationship, in fact, is the source of pretty much all that is funny, moving, or deep in his films. Most great artists are, to some degree, self conscious about genre in particular, if not about their medium in general. But when I don't get the references, as in KB1, then I'm cut off from whatever personal connection to cinema that QT is expressing through his film. With Godard, few people had that problem, because the Cahiers crowd revered and play with the tropes of a B-movie cinema that their audience all knew. Grindhouse and kung-fu cinema are more marginal. I still think Tarantino's at his best when he's writing between the lines of a genre rather than just re-creating that genre.

Packdermit

If the Americans aren't even going to watch "Inglourious Basterds", then why should anyone else? The Americans don't even know what a jew or a nazi is for crying out loud, how are we to believe that they've just "become" jewish? For the purpose of a movie? By magic? By some alien American technology? You've got to be joking.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Uggggghhhh... You're almost making me want to see this. But not quite. Ultimately, I just don't believe QT's "It's all a movie" line; movies are watched by people in the real world, without which there are no movies. And given that a movie exists in the real world, I just can't stomach what looks to be "24" for the smart set, i.e. "we hate these baddies, so we're gonna torture 'em, and that's gonna be awesome." I mean, maybe the movie has levels I'm not seeing in the trailer, but everything I've seen so far makes the whole thing look like a court-jester jerkoff fantasia for Lydie England.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Also... I find the comparisons between Tarantino and Godard's movie-ness to be weirdly disconnected from what Godard did. I mean, yes, Godard sees the movies as part of the world. But Godard also pretty clearly thinks the peasantry, the bourgeois, the holocaust, the communards, Mao, and so on, are real too. He doesn't think they're inherently more important than The Searchers, but that is, for him, a source of much torment---his whole turn away from filmmaking in the 70s is wrapped up in his ambivalence towards film in the face of social change.

Tarantino feels no such ambivalence, because he's California-eager to simply ignore anything that makes him uncomfortable, and thinking always makes him uncomfortable. He can't grapple with historical ironies, because he can't think about history, only about the dumbest movie narratives, which always wrap everything up contradiction-free (and it's worth noting just how different the two directors approach to narrative is---Godard is interrogating and subverting it, Tarantino shuffles the deck a little to make it more fun, but never, ever undermines it in any way).

I mean, I can't imagine Godard making a movie with this much torture and not making some reference to Guantanamo somewhere. But for Tarantino, Guantanamo is just such a drag, so he just pretends that torturing enemies in wartime is something that movies invented, and therefore, totally groovy.

Glenn Kenny

@TFB: I'll try and not take over-exasperated umbrage at your presumptions about "Basterds" and say that I kind of think that Lynndie England, as you imagine her, would be bored shitless with this film. And I will also say that when I compare Tarantino and Godard, I'm not doing so in every particular. Certainly Tarantino's work has never had the intellectual aspirations of Godard's work, and Tarantino has very little interest in actual history or philosophy. AS I WROTE, the correspondence I see is in terms of cinematic freedom, and if I may elaborate, has more to do with what Godard went for in the likes of "Une Femme Est Une Femme" and "Pierrot Le Fou" than with "Numero Deux" or "Notre Musique."

I was talking about this the other day with a friend and I said, "You know, when Tarantino called his second movie 'Pulp Fiction,' he wasn't being ironic. It's what he does." American soldiers scalping Nazis is essentially a pulp concept, not one gleaned from Guantanamo. And one is of course absolutely free to take it or leave it, but sputtering moral indignation at Tarantino because you perceive him as giving aid and comfort to the likes of England and her superiors strikes me as...well, rather off-target.

Tom Carson

Even if QT probably thinks Adorno is a minor Stan Lee character he can't quite place -- the one who outwitted villains by redecorating their apartments, maybe? -- he isn't as tone-deaf to the zeitgeist as all that. My hunch is that European audiences will have no trouble making the Gitmo connection even without one-plus-one signposts, since all the American characters in IB are sent up as blundering yahoos whose cowboy bloodlust and know-nothing primitivism regularly mystifies and appalls their Old World colleagues on the Allied side. The fact that American moviegoers probably won't register this adds even more tang, in a STARSHIP TROOPERS kind of way.

And before the "torture" meme becomes common currency even on SCR, let me point out that there really aren't any torture scenes. Plenty of grisly, exuberant butchery, yes -- but torture as Dick Cheney advocates it, no. That may seem like splitting hairs in a movie that features scalpings, but I don't think it's irrelevant.

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