Dani and I saw it last weekend.
I think the phrase “Tarentino movie” has two meanings – it’s a movie by Tarentino, but the man has been so successful that it’s also a genre in itself.
As a Tarentino movie (the genre), I thought it was masterclass; quite possibly the best I’ve ever seen (and I’ve — like most Tarentino enthusiasts — seen damn-near all of them).
But I do think part of the value of a Tarentino film is in the surprise of not having seen one before. I was certainly surprised during the film when stuff happened, but I didn’t walk out with any enduring sense of shock in the way that I did with Reservoir Dogs. Suppose we took a group of people who had never seen any Tarentino films before and we showed them all of his films with each person seeing them in a random order, and then asked them each to rank them. I think that people would generally most like whichever one they saw first, but perhaps Inglourious Basterds might just come out on top.
Dani was weirded out by the alternate history – she’d never come across the concept in film or literature before, which blew me away. She felt like it was wrong, somehow, to rewrite history in general and WW2 in particular; that something in the story of the Nazi Germany meant that it should never be presented as anything but the truth. But, of course, the shocking-to-the-politically-correct-crowd aspect was always part of Tarentino’s style and the holding up of the Nazi’s as the ultimate evil in human history has always rankled me.
I’ve heard it described as a Jewish revenge fantasy, and it’s clearly that. I’ve read people worrying that it’ll inspire angry Jewish kids to take up violence, and inducing that sort of reaction was certainly one of Tarentino’s goals.
But it is never schlock gore. We don’t see people spurting blood all over a room or people taking near-sexual pleasure from inflicting the violence. There’s casual satisfaction in it by the characters, even pride in a job well done, but it’s all motivated by a sense of morals or grim necessity. To my mind, part of the brilliance of this film is in finding a way to show Tarentino-style violence as part of — I can’t believe I’m about to type this — the normal human condition. I came away thinking that even though they were caricatures, I could imagine every one of the Basterds in the US army when they went to Iraq to “kill me some sand niggers.”
The writing, as ever, is sharp and fun to listen to. Dani noticed that the Americans, Germans and British characters were all caricatures, but the French were normal people. I’m sure that was deliberate, but I’m not sure why. I guess since it’s set in France it needs a semi-normal background?
Even having seen all the Tarentino films before, the climax was still a climax, although afterwards it all seems so obvious in how the plot developed.
My one complaint contains the only real spoiler of this post:
When Marcel — Shoshanna’s projectionist — goes down to lock the auditorium, there were no guards anywhere. With all the high-command of the third reich inside, that was an obvious and absurd plot hole.
Okay, one last spoiler: Hans Lander (“The Jew Hunter”) is a fantastic character.