Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

One leaves the theatre  with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction of money and time's worth , breath-bated and a sense of wonderment. We have partaken of a cinematic feast.The film belongs to no genre unless it is the genre of Tarantino and while admiring it's perfection one is left wondering wherein that perfection springs from.
Hitler (at least the moustache seems to be Hitler's) chuckles happily like a fancy dress prankish schoolboy as he and Goebells watch a movie. He knows that American Jewish soldiers are on a Nazi scalping spree. Even the scalping has a good natured ribaldry about it.  The final blow-up-Hitler, Goebells along with  kith and kin- is an inspired spoof on history.

The idea of branding the swastika nice and big on the foreheads of ze villains with that ugly machette is a tour-de-force. So even your estate at Nantuchek and the government pension in return for losing the war won't wash off these stigmata, unless you go in for plastic surgery, but it's only'45, or is it? And guess what else? No sex at all.

Christoph Waltz as Land the Nazi officer, nicknamed Jew Hunter, with his perfect breeding and endearing smile, a picture of control as he entraps his prey with artful relish is a match for the great Joker in Spiderman or even for the original Mephistocles. Melanie Laurent as the female lead who plots vengeance on the Germans, is a beauty of  determination, intelligence and restraint in her quest for vindication. Both are creatures of flesh and blood. Brad Pitt, comical and terrifying with his southern US accent and taste for inflicting pain, is more nazi than the Nazi's.
The effectiveness of the film lies perhaps in the continuity of visceral satisfaction and the chiselled symmetry of each episode as it unfolds in its chain of inevitable improbabilities.
The language of film pervades the narrative-the skills of projection, the explosive potential of nitrate film, the drama in a theatre. Isn't it ordained that the outcome of the war should be decided in a cinema hall since haven't we all come to see a movie and what is a little war after all and some gallons of blood?

As an audience we too are in a way part of the film industry even if only as consumers and hence can claim a little credit for giving old Hitler what he had coming to him. Thank god, we are in this theatre and not that bunker.
The film is true to it's own internal logic and vein of inspiration.The war and all those atrocities happened a long while ago so one might be permitted some levity even in a topic as unspeakable as the genocide.

It is a roller coaster ride of entertainment and pleasure and even the gore seems a matter of secondary importance. It retains the essence and spirit and largeness of history while forsaking the detail. While it parodies grim events of the not unrecent past, it in no way demeans them or loses perspective on  those tragedies. It rather refreshes us to what happened by re-focussing it through the lenses of satire and parody. The distorting mirrors in the house of laughter at a circus make us laugh  at ourselves with an embarassed self recognition.

Brad Pitt's somewhat comical brutality depicts through a kind of flip of contrast the Holocaust which is the silent back stage of the movie. In that sense Tarantino renders a service by bringing to life again those dreaded memories which tend to slip into stereotypes and pious platitudes. Evils continue to exist till their causes, their very talons which are in the minds of ""ordinary" men, are not extracted from the roots.

After all the contradictions of the film are no more than the contradictions of life and derivatively of history.

An important film. A deeply felt allegory. And box-office too.


Anonymous said...

"vein of inspiration"

I like that!

The film is just so Tarrantino...I am a fan, but since I missed a lot of the 80s and early 90s pop culture that he references so much, I'm not a huge fan. I find that all of his films are sort of perfect in a ludicrous way. It's unexplainable, and that keeps us watching.

vivek said...

I agree. Just so much fun of a movie.

Literary Dreamer said...

First, I'm going to be annoying and correct you by writing that the Joker was in the Dark Knight (Batman), not Spiderman.

Now that that's out of the way, I unfortunately missed this movie when it was playing near me (read: trying to save money, saw other films instead). In fact, the only Tarantino movie I've seen in a movie theater was Kill Bill: Volume 2. Watching it again on a TV screen, I was disappointed. Some of the effects he did on the screen (like the "washed out" look when the Bride is training with her Chinese master--perfectly mimicking the look of a cheap Hong Kong kung fu movie) aren't as apparent on the small screen. Still, I will be making a point of seeing Inglourious Basterds when it comes out on DVD. "Perfect in a ludicrous way?" I think that's a perfect way of describing it, Grace.

S. M. Rana said...

@Literary Dreamer

Thanks. I took a risk on Spiderman because other duties were atop.

But still, I've seen a very delicious Joker menacing on the screen while I decided to miss Dark Knight.

So there must be more than one.

S. M. Rana said...


"ludicrously perfect"-parfait!

Randy Masters said...

Such energy in this film! Excellent performances all around. But, I was struck most by two:

Colonel Land: the way he is so pleasant and engaging until the very moment the person he was talking to was in his trap. Then his face turned dark...

Sophie: luminescent with tragedy..

Plum said...

This sounds like one to see, I usually don't like war films but I always like Tarantino!

Don't Be a Plum