Monday, August 24, 2009

You Had Me at Hello

Amidst the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's newest, Inglourious Basterds, I was captivated by the slow, beautiful shots that Tarantino seems to have a knack at capturing. The German SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) politely makes conversation with a French man hiding Jews underneath his house. In what is easily the best performance of the movie, Waltz holds the audience captive drawing conflicting sentiments of hatred and enjoyment towards himself. In the following four acts (resulting in a full 2 1/2 hour film time), slow moving conversations drew me in, only to be interrupted by the occasional bloody scene or brief action sequence.

While very distinct from his other films (I believe this to be his only period piece thus far), the marks of a Tarantino film are evident throughout the movie: the movie is split up into five acts, the credits and framing of shots often mimic those of yesteryear, music is used abruptly and effectively to add to the scenes, over the top gore/violence run rampant.

It is under this context that I was approached with a slightly different movie than I had thought I was going to see. The trailers (misleading, in my opinion) set the movie up to be a care-free violent jaunt of some American Jews who don't know where to stop. They certainly take center stage but they're also joined by a cinema-owning Jewish girl who devises a plan to kill some of the Nazi leaders. If anything, it is the clever, Jewish girl that really does the dirty work for the Basterds and if anyone is heralded as a mastermind, it is Landa, the SS Colonel (well, until the very end...). Lt. Aldo Raine (played well by Pitt) served more as the comedic relief rather than someone to whom the enemy was really afraid.

As with most Tarantino films, I wasn't really sure what to do with the severity of the violence and gore. I certainly find the over abundance of blood, etc. (specifically within American movies) to have a crippling effect on our ability to be properly shocked by inhumanity in the real world. Yet in Tarantino films, the amount and degree to which he uses gore goes beyond any sort of "normal" amount. I don't know if he does this just because he likes a lot of blood (which is plausible, given what I've seen of Quentin) or if it's suppose to be some sort of commentary on other movies or if it's just suppose to heighten our sense of humanness (and the basic nature to which we often resort). Feel free to comment if you have any idea on that...

And to finish this informal review, an open letter:
Dear two girls and guy sitting in the back row-
yes, you three sitting one row behind me and approximately six seats to my left. I understand that you're in early high school and the most popular and exciting thing to do at your age is to "hang" with one's friends as much as possible. I understand that you like to spend hours together talking about nothing at all. What I do not understand is why you pay $5 for a matinee showing that is going to be packed full of people excited to see the most recent Quentin Tarantino film. I also do not understand why you talk through the entire movie, giggle at the serious moments, and, generally, have zero respect for the thirty people within earshot of your incessant girl voices. I do not find violence to bode well with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing would make me happier than to punch each of you in the face.

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