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Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

So Tarantino’s appointed masterpiece arrives. Quite a claim, with his back catalogue, Pulp Fiction- even though it’s not my favourite film of his- is hard to top and I personally don’t think he ever will considering the pedestool it’s sitting on. So is Basterds all that?

It’s not a bad film, as always with hi flicks- the soundtrack is the strongest part with some excellent use of Morricone giving it a spaghetti flavour, which is about the extent of his claim to it sitting anywhere in a spaghetti genre go. Aside from the opening ‘once upon a time in… nazi occupied France’ which, while not as catchy would have been a more apt title. The film’s biggest problem are the lack of focus and general uneveness of it. There’s never really any characters amongst the Basterds, half of them get a name drop, one gets a backstory but mostly they’re just faces. And as the misleading title goes, they’re only one half of the film; the other belongs to a cinema owning Jewish refugee with a similar plot to the Basterds. The two strands of characters never interact with each other and flitter between each other through the 5 introduced acts and for two relatively simple narrative arches that eventually kind of intertwine, it’s shouldn’t have been too hard to make both solid.

One manages it but there’s only one to two primary characters, the Basterds on the other hand are far too much for Tarantino to develop. Why? Because he still has his infatuation with drawn out dialogue, he’s dropped the painful referential-ness of Death Proof and introduced some decent tension in these scenes, in both main cases taking almost literally the Hitchcock bomb-under-the-table approach. That being said, the film does redeem itself. Pitt is fantastic, I actually hope he gets an Oscar nod along with the lead Nazi dubbed Jew-Hunter. The cinematography and sets are all well rendered and appealing and the direction is pretty competent, nothing that’s really suggestive of a genius behind the camera, which most know Tarantino isn’t already. The script is where his talent is meant to lie and despite mentioned issues, it all comes together nicely. It does find itself becoming uneven where it can’t be certain if it’s straightfaced or pure farce. Mike Myers cameo-ing as in English Lieutenant? It works but definitely an odd choice. And there were some genuine belly laughs at certain bits.

Tarantino’s masterpiece? Short answer, no. I’m glad Tarantino’s getting a regular output instead of coasting on past work with 5 year gaps between films and he’s got the ideas but he’s not got the modesty to adjust his scripts to operate at a tolerable pace. It’s not a bad film but it’s not a great film, I said before I doubt anything will touch what he did in the 90s so I don’t think it’s a miss-step in his career, more a signal of him levelling off as a filmmaker. Average film, still retains an art-house niche that I can imagine regular cinema-goers will find themselves fidgetting through. Looking forward to seeing reaction from his obsessors. Other than that, it’s a fun retelling of history with some great performances but could do with some editing here and there.