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This is my finest film yet
November 16, 2011 6:12 AM   Subscribe


 
Aren't all his films 'bunch of guys on a mission'? Reservoir Dogs....bunch of dudes on a mission, except we only see the fall out from the mission. Pulp Fiction...Bruce Willis on a mission, John Travolta on a mission. Kill Bill...ok not dudes, but...chick on a mission. Etc etc
posted by spicynuts at 6:23 AM on November 16, 2011


The film is sort of like "Kelly's Heroes" in some ways, in terms of being an alternate history. "Kelly's Heroes" is very much a 1960s take on WWII, complete with Animal's zonked-out bunch of tank-driving hippies.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:23 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The conclusion in Part 2 of this analysis is totally incredible. I don't even care if it's right.
posted by Jairus at 6:24 AM on November 16, 2011 [56 favorites]


Please refrain from commenting until you've read both parts :)

I want to watch the movie again. I didn't like it very much the first time I saw it, but I think I was probably more on Tarentino's side now than I thought I was after reading that. I'm curious if his analysis holds up.
posted by empath at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I still think this line of interpretation gives Tarantino too much credit. I see the critique of the film inherent in the film, but I have a hard time believing that Tarantino actually meant it, given his complete disregard for any similar questions of morality previously. I've never liked any of his movies because of how much he revels in the violence qua violence, and it's not once made me feel anything but vaguely nauseated. (The only reason I didn't walk out of "Basterds," actually, was because it was at a friend's birthday party.) The "indictment" of "Inglorious Basterds" only works if the viewer has ever bought into any of Tarantino's previous violent masturbatory fantasies. I guess I *can* see him being completely alienated from his fanbase and feeling vaguely disgusted with everyone involved, but at that point the movie seems more directed inward than outward.

Or are we meant to believe that everything Tarantino has put out up until now has been part of a long con, an entire troll film career?
posted by Scattercat at 6:30 AM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Interesting analysis. I think it works well with Kurt Russell getting beat up by girls too. And oddly enough I didn't like either of these movies. It does suggest Tarantino may have enjoyable movies to come, which is a possibility I'd sort of given up on.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:33 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought it was going out on a limb, but the paired images in Part 2 make it pretty compelling.
posted by DU at 6:34 AM on November 16, 2011


What jairus said. I'm going to need to see the movie again and think about it some more, but that was compellingly argued.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:36 AM on November 16, 2011


It does suggest Tarantino may have enjoyable movies to come, which is a possibility I'd sort of given up on.

He's probably got another 20 or 30 years of good films in him. He's only going to get better as he gets older, I think.
posted by empath at 6:36 AM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I sure wish he'd get away from Harvey Weinstein. It can only help, I feel fairly certain.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:38 AM on November 16, 2011


It's a compelling read but I don't really buy the analysis. Also, if Tarantino himself claims that it's a "bunch-of- guys-on-a-mission film" it's probably true. Why would he lie about making a supposedly brilliant movie and risk everyone thinking he's a less sophisticated thinker/director than he is?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:39 AM on November 16, 2011


Good lord was that the greatest piece of film ever written ever or am I just not reading enough really great film writing? That was damn near amazing experience. Thanks Potomac Avenue!
posted by scunning at 6:40 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still think this line of interpretation gives Tarantino too much credit.

I don't know. If there's one consistent feature about Tarantino's filmmaking it's his obsessive attention to detail. I don't think there's a single frame or sound that isn't deliberate. With that kind of mentality, the suggestion that Tarantino has at least two angles going seems entirely plausible.

Why would he lie about making a supposedly brilliant movie and risk everyone thinking he's a less sophisticated thinker/director than he is?

I don't think he's ever really run that risk. When he says that this is his "bunch-of-guys-on-a-mission film," even someone only tangentially familiar with Tarantino will probably assume that he's going to be playing with the conventions of that genre pretty heavily.
posted by valkyryn at 6:41 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why would he lie about making a supposedly brilliant movie and risk everyone thinking he's a less sophisticated thinker/director than he is?

Because he wants people to watch it, and he doesn't want his movies to be seen as "Art Films".
posted by empath at 6:42 AM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Reminds me a bit of Todd Alcott's analysis of the film (1 2 3 4 5). I liked that.
posted by KChasm at 6:42 AM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Inglorious Basterds is a fantastic film, funny and extremely clever at the same time. I thought this analysis was pretty close to my feelings about the film, at least in as much as Tarantino is doing way more than he admits to. I've been a die-hard fan since Reservoir Dogs, but I.B. demonstrates a depth that I always suspected he had.
posted by ob at 6:44 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, if Tarantino himself claims that it's a "bunch-of- guys-on-a-mission film" it's probably true.

It's not as though we have to take his word for it. We can watch the film ourselves. Anyone who has watched films of this type - The Dirty Dozen is the classic example - can tell you IB is no such animal. I don't mean that he tried to make that kind of film and failed, I mean that it was never that to begin with even on paper. Tarantino may call it tha because that may be what it was to him, his version or take on that thing - but to say "it's a [x] film" suggests it will actually resemble other [x] films.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:45 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


C18? C20? I understand what the author means, but I have never seen this construction before. Is this common?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:45 AM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think what I've received from this analysis is that Tarantino has created a commentary on his brand of film, but I don't know if he's done it consciously.
posted by mikeh at 6:47 AM on November 16, 2011


The scene in Reservoir Dogs where Madson cuts off the ear always makes me cringe, which I guess confirms my anti-fascist leanings.
posted by PJLandis at 6:49 AM on November 16, 2011


I think the image pairings make it clear that this analysis is correct up to a point. Tarantino is making a parallel between the populist patriotic cinema of the Nazis and the populist patriotic American film he himself is directing.

However, the Nazis were not Nazis because of their cinema. They were Nazis because of their system of government and their selective rejection of any and all human rights. Their cinema served to support that system, just as Tarantino's film serves to promote the cause of anti-Nazi sentiment. The cinema is not inherently evil; the cause is evil. The audience of this movie are not morally equivalent to the assembled Nazi officers whose cinematic slaughter we enjoy so much, because in the context of a war against the cause of Naziism, their cinematic slaughter is justified.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:51 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've enjoyed some Tarantino's older stuff but have had this increasing nagging sense he's become almost an intentional parody of himself with Grindhouse and Basterds, both of which had some sort of gut level "fuck you audience" feel

These posts are an excellent attempt at arguing that's exactly what Basterds is, and I'd like to believe it because otherwise I can't understand why the movie was ever made. If true it would raise an interesting question about people who take and enjoy the movies at face value
posted by crayz at 6:52 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's a "bunch-of- guys-on-a-mission film" does not have to be 100% literal. Kubrick could have described The Shining as "a family undergoes therapy", for instance. It's kind of true, but also kind of beside the point.
posted by DU at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]



That was incredibly compelling. And while Tarantino may be incredibly detail-oriented and deliberate, I can't help but feel that a lot of the mirroring and call-backs were unconscious. (what mikeh said).

I suspect that the analysis is more brilliant than the film in that it attributes more thought and genius than was actually imparted by the director.

Don't get me wrong, I thought the movie was amazing, in fact, a great grindhouse double-feature would be Inglorious Basterds and Machete. I just doubt that Tarantino gave it that much thought. The fact that so many of the themes were explored from both sides, and that there were so many actual shots that mirrored each other was a result of stylistic choices, sort of how a chef likes a combination of salt, garlic and celery, after awhile everything has a similar gestalt.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The film is sort of like "Kelly's Heroes" in some ways, in terms of being an alternate history. "Kelly's Heroes" is very much a 1960s take on WWII, complete with Animal's zonked-out bunch of tank-driving hippies.

Kelly's Heroes is a great movie! Trippy, weird, and a lot of fun.
posted by OmieWise at 6:56 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mikeh, I'm not sure I agree with all the points of the author here but I am sure that Tarantino is constantly, and increasingly, commenting explicitly on film in all his films. Deathproof especially was a self-abnegating criticism of violent cinema (Stuntman Mike = Tarantino). I disagree that this is a fuck-you to the audience, as much as it is a wake-up call. I can't see any of this being an accident--QT is nothing if not relentlessly obsessed with movies, and movies-as-commentary-on-other-movies. I mean his breakout film is named after the genre he is analyzing with it!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:57 AM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Note to self: a movie screening + director's talk of Inglorious Basterds is an undue risk for any audience.
posted by mazola at 6:58 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't get why people think Tarantino wouldn't do those things consciously. That's exactly what he would do. He's the Abed of cinema--I bet he can't go two minutes in conversation without analogizing something in real life to a movie.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:01 AM on November 16, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get why people think Tarantino wouldn't do those things consciously.

I don't either.
posted by ob at 7:04 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


C18? C20? I understand what the author means, but I have never seen this construction before. Is this common?

It threw me for a bit of a loop as well, especially as C18 can also stand for Combat 18, which is a particularly nasty neo-Nazi group originating in the UK.
posted by edgeways at 7:05 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was an interesting analysis. I'm not sure I'm totally sold on the idea, but it'll make me think when viewing it again.

I was pleasantly surprised by Inglorious Basterds. It really is a great film, especially the way it builds up expectations to be one type of film - and then goes off in several other directions at once.

It was certainly 20 times better than the dogs dinner vanity project that was Kill Bill (Vols 1-23).
posted by panboi at 7:06 AM on November 16, 2011


I still think this line of interpretation gives Tarantino too much credit. I see the critique of the film inherent in the film, but I have a hard time believing that Tarantino actually meant it, given his complete disregard for any similar questions of morality previously.

Tarantino's movies always, always, always have a moral lesson. Just from Pulp Fiction... geeze.

Jules realizes he was not living a just life, and is left with questions he cannot answer... he leaves seeking redemption. He lives. Vinnie doesn't bother to examine whether something is right or wrong, and it continuously gets him into trouble, and then his amorality kills him dead.

Butch refuses to throw a fight, because of pride. He kills a man because of his pride, and is made to pay for it, to understand the cost of his actions.

Four Rooms. They think they can toy with the emotions of someone they consider beneath them, someone they really don't care about... and are made to pay the price when they discover beneath his professional facade and endearing accent, he really doesn't care about them, either.

Man, I could go on forever with this stuff.

And it should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen Natural Born Killers that Tarantino hates and despises the audience as bloodthirsty tools, dazzled by style over substance. Grindhouse - the two halves of his half of the movie. One stylized and cool, the other stark and matter-of-fact, with the cool killer whimpering and simpering once he gets a taste of the reality of violence.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:08 AM on November 16, 2011 [14 favorites]


The scene in Reservoir Dogs where Madson cuts off the ear always makes me cringe, which I guess confirms my anti-fascist leanings.

As Mr. Blonde comes down with the razor the camera pans away to a sign over the ramp that says "Watch your head" which, I know see, is obviously a tangential reference to an anti-fascist message.
posted by three blind mice at 7:09 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow -- I've never seen a Tarantino movie but that article has made me, for the first time, really want to.
posted by escabeche at 7:13 AM on November 16, 2011


if Tarantino himself claims that it's a "bunch-of- guys-on-a-mission film" . . .

This is why I didn't go see it when it first came out--and when I finally watched it, I saw that it starts with Shoshana. I had no idea that plotline even existed because all of the trailers seemed to emphasize the "guys on a mission" thing. And I'd argue that Shoshana is really the heart of the movie and the guys are secondary (though very entertaining). I think this analysis is spot on--Shoshana's storyline really emphasizes the themes Tarentino is working with. Plus, she is super awesome.
posted by leesh at 7:18 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


What is the book referenced here in Part 1: 'What would the world look like today if Europeans had been wiped out in the fourteenth century by the Black Death?—a world without white people"?

Great essay; thanks for posting.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:19 AM on November 16, 2011


One scene in IB that suggests very conflicted feelings about violence is that of the questioning and murder of a German officer by the Basterds in the forest.

The officer is not set up as ugly, villainous Nazi scum or anything of that sort, but as a handsome guy who will not inform on his fellow soldiers, even under threat of torture; this is the first big kill of the film by the team, and the fact that it is not a reprehensible person being killed, but an honourable man (in the context of the scene, I mean) - and that the torture/killing is explicitly 'unfair' - is very telling.

The fact that Sgt. Donowitz and his baseball bat are discussed before his appearance (actually, several times; even given a flashback) imbues this appearance with importance. He's scary, this officer should be afraid. We get a shot of a dark hall or cave entrance (I don't remember exactly) and our minds of course want to fill that void. We essentially will Donowitz - and the murder - into being. The sound of the bat being dragged on the ground (before we see it) adds a sadistic quality to the proceedings.

The essay's argument that IB is the last film of the Bush administration seems especially pertinent here.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:20 AM on November 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


This is excellent film criticism. Thanks for posting it!
posted by painquale at 7:24 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was great!
posted by flippant at 7:29 AM on November 16, 2011


It's the heavy-handededness of Tarantino's audience-as-fascists message that pulls Inglorious Basterds a few notches from the top in his oeuvre. One gets the sense that he started with the idea of the Nazis perishing in a burning theater, while a Jewish face on the silver screen laughs, and worked backwards from this image to create a movie. The film starts strong, with compelling characters, but finishes weak, squandering their humanity for a cheap, obvious gimmick.

Having said that, I love Tarantino's crazy ambition and talent. Inglorious Basterds is complex, entertaining, disturbing... I just think it falls short of earlier work like "Reservoir Dogs", where cookie-cutter characters and plots are injected with surprising depth and humanity.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 7:33 AM on November 16, 2011


What is the book referenced here in Part 1: 'What would the world look like today if Europeans had been wiped out in the fourteenth century by the Black Death?—a world without white people"?

I haven't read it, but it sounds like The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.
posted by rory at 7:35 AM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


I still think this line of interpretation gives Tarantino too much credit.

Here is what I always thought of the art of Dale Chihuly: some of it is interesting, most of it is not to my taste and really he's just banking on the novelty of abstract glass-blowing, with no forethought to final outcome.

Then I watched a documentary on him the other day and I've reversed engines. I still don't like some of his stuff, but he does a lot more than I realized, some of which I really enjoy. More importantly, he absolutely puts a lot of thought into the colors, composition, weight, feel, translucency and a hundred other factors before he ever pulls a glob of molten glass out of the oven.

I'd say the same of Tarantino. I didn't like Inglorious Basterds on first viewing. I appreciated it more the second time around. After reading this very convincing and extremely well-written piece, I'm eager to watch it again.

Great find, Potomac Avenue.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 7:42 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought of The Years of Rice and Salt too, but isn't exactly a pure instance of the alternate history narrative. The world in it is full of magic and ghosts.
posted by painquale at 7:44 AM on November 16, 2011


See, the film does critique itself, but ironically...
posted by Segundus at 7:49 AM on November 16, 2011


I still think this line of interpretation gives Tarantino too much credit.

I did for a long time too, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there's just no way he could have stumbled across it. The movie screened for the Nazis is precisely the Basterds part of the movie we're watching. I realize now that the majority of my distaste for "Basterds" the first time I saw it was not for the movie but for the audience, who were laughing and cheering at every tortured Nazi. It took me a long time to contemplate that that reaction not only wasn't what he wanted, but was in fact a good deal of what he was wanting to examine with the movie in the first place. Seeing those screencaps side by side solidifies it -- there's just no way he didn't do that intentionally.

I reviewed it for a smallish local paper when it came out, mostly bashing it for the unevenness between the Basterds part of the movie and the Shoshanna part of the movie, because I didn't understand it. Now that I see its intentions, I still see that unevenness, but it appears to have a purpose behind it that makes me want to see it a few more times so I can pick at it some more.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:52 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


By the way if anyone here hasn't read Baraka's 'Black Art,' it's really fucking good.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:54 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I absolutely think these elements are deliberate. I can't say for certain Tarantino's motivations here, but, at some point, he's decided to problematize his storytelling. And I don't think this his new -- I think you'll find that there is always something a little troubling about Tarantino's characters, that the heroic characters do decidedly unheroic things, while the villains do things that are unexpectedly likable. I think a big part of his desire in making this film was in seeing American Jews and a Holocaust escapee murder Nazis, and he also knew this was troubling, and so offered some cinematic commentary about how troubling it is.

I think the film still functions as a revenge fantasy, and it troubles me, but I think Tarantino's ability to comment on the fact that he is aware that this is troubling, and to implicate the audience and himself for this bloodlust, is really interesting.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:55 AM on November 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Loved Basterds from the first time I saw it. This analysis was pretty excellent, even if I don't know if anyone doubted the "audience as fascists" conclusion. It hit me that Tarantino was pretty much turning the lens back around us the moment I saw that scene and it shook me pretty badly. It's part of the reason I love the movie, and I absolutely believe it was intentional.
posted by HostBryan at 7:55 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


By the way I totally said this already.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:02 AM on November 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


I was pleasantly surprised by Basterds, which I didn't expect to be - I haven't enjoyed much of Tarantino's work since Pulp Fiction.

Yes, the end scene of the film very much holds a mirror up for the audience...but I'm not sure I would agree with the essay's assertion that this is Tarantino "hating" his audience, but more an effort to point out to us how easy it is to become what you despise. How you may not even notice it happening. There's a thoughtful message with the film, and all of the jarring moments in it are there to draw our attention to that message - a constant reminder that we are watching a film, a piece of extravagant fiction, to keep reminding us that we are the audience and that something is going on here.

It's a "you know who else liked revenge films?" writ large.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:07 AM on November 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Out of curiosity, what kind of movies did the real Hitler actually like to watch?
posted by empath at 8:12 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole "audience complicity in violence" thing has become such a common, almost hackneyed, theme in film criticism that I wonder whether Inglourious Basterds is supposed to be more of an expression of hatred of his critics, rather than for the audience at large. The author kind of touches on this at the end of the article. As in, he makes the "audience as fascists" theme so obvious, with all those close-ups of Hitler enjoying himself, that it obviates the need for critics to come along and point it out. He preempts the criticism. And then if they still do, they just end up looking like they missed the joke.
posted by flechsig at 8:12 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Related.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:18 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]



Out of curiosity, what kind of movies did the real Hitler actually like to watch?


He loved Metropolis and wanted Fritz Lang to be head of film production in the Third Reich (Lang was not crazy about the idea or about Hitler in general, as I recall). I believe he was also a pretty big Chaplin fan, hence the mustache (Chaplin too was not a fan of Hitler).

Some more info about Hitler and movies can be found
posted by HostBryan at 8:19 AM on November 16, 2011


...can found here. HERE.
posted by HostBryan at 8:19 AM on November 16, 2011


I find myself wondering whether or not the film's presentation outside the theater would be considered part of the thesis.

Inglourious Basterds was advertised as basically yet another grindhousey awesomefest by way of Tarantino, with bloodstained helmets and posters suggesting violence against a cloudy sky.

The actual movie was not without violence but it came in short, sharp bursts, walled on all sides by dialogue, characterization, and tension. A war movie with very little in the way of actual war.

When we see the Nazi propaganda movie, it resembles the Westerns that kids were depicted watching on TV when shown in sitcoms from the fifties: A child would sit enraptured in front of the television, maybe sporting a cowboy hat, and the entirety of the program would be a man on a horse, riding against a backdrop, shooting a revolver at nobody in particular. Occasionally looking over his shoulder. The camera leaves the child for a while. It comes back. Narratively, several minutes have passed. The guy is still on the horse. Still galloping along, still shooting at no one. Gunshots echo from nowhere. Ten minutes. He's still there.

Hitler is watching a movie which appears to contain no content at all but a Nazi shooting at people who aren't Nazis. This movie is two hours long. It's presented as a triumphant, great film but in fact portrays nothing but directionless violence.

Inglourious Basterds was advertised as largely directionless violence - even the trailer was pretty much just Pitt's speech, seeming to foreshadow a vengeful bloodbath - and the actual movie was amazing - one of his best, I think, and I have loved many of his movies - but very different. The movie Inglourious Basterds, when context is taken into account, is the conceptual inverse of the movie Hitler is watching.

Food for thought, I guess.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:20 AM on November 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


Out of curiosity, what kind of movies did the real Hitler actually like to watch?

Comedies... The Hitler 'stache is a Charlie Chaplin 'stache.
posted by Intrepid at 8:25 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


One gets the sense that he started with the idea of the Nazis
perishing in a burning theater, while a Jewish face on the silver
screen laughs, and worked backwards from this image to create a
movie.


I get the impression that QT started with the idea, "I make violent
movies, people get upset about that. I could make a movie where the
victims of the violence are Nazis, then people would be fine with it,
Man, people are sick." I see this as the first layer of the movie.
This is the direction of Sgt. Donowitz's first killing. Here is a
man with a family, let's watch him get killed because he is a Nazi.

I imagine that QT came up with this idea with friends while drinking. A
friend yelling over "Hey QT, why don't you make a movie about Nazis,
then no one would complain that your movie is so violent..."

But then IG travels through these questons of the cinema. It is not just which
film is the audience watching, it is which film is QT directing. But it comes back
around and that the last scene with Landa getting a swastika carved into
his forehead is telling, Raine doesn't care, and QT returns to the original logic of
violence.
posted by bdc34 at 8:26 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Great link!

I don't know how much of the marketing can be attributed to Tarantino's desire to bait and switch, or to support an inference about what he was trying to say about movies and their audiences. Separate and apart from making a great movie, which Basterds surely is, Tarantino wanted tickets sold, and the Brad Pitt Dark Comedy Action Movie angle of the trailers and ads was a good way to do it. It would have been very hard to make the Shoshana plot, or more generally the brilliant performance of Christopher Waltz, sing out.

After seeing Kill Bill, I'd taken the view that Tarantino was not likely to become a great filmmaker. A good one, yes, but captive to his quirks -- basically in a creative cul-de-sac, quite typical of people whose first or second movie is their best movie. With Basterds I think that a more generous assessment makes sense, and a very optimistic view going forward. I think he has a couple of true masterworks ahead of him, and that's very exciiting.
posted by MattD at 8:33 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time believing that Tarantino actually meant it

Who cares if he meant it or not? Great essay.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:37 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


After seeing Kill Bill, I'd taken the view that Tarantino was not likely to become a great filmmaker.

Really? Kill Bill is phenomenal.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


C18? C20? I understand what the author means, but I have never seen this construction before. Is this common?

Fairly common, yes. It's most often found in academic and technical writing, in my experience.
posted by howfar at 8:45 AM on November 16, 2011


I thought it was brilliant that he managed to work American suicide bombers into a film.
posted by XMLicious at 8:45 AM on November 16, 2011


I fail to see what this has to do with women's feet.
posted by item at 8:53 AM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is fantastic analysis. I don't know that I can completely follow him down the audience-indictment trail, if only because Shoshana is clearly our movie's hero and she (and Tarantino) are loving the over-the-top mayhem at the end as much as the real-world audience if not moreso.

Additionally, this guy managed a long, excellent look into IB without (unless I missed it) ever mentioning Col. Hans Landa? Damn. That's almost as impressive as making an epic war movie and showing no scenes of actual battle in it. Which to me is one of the subversive charms of IB. It's not about battle. It's about controlling the narrative.

Every scene is about this concept. What at first appears to be a clumsy attempt to switch the film into English turns out to be in fact a way for Landa to control his audience at different points. During this conversation he loops around and around the subject of the holocaust, wearing down his host (who is trying to push the narrative of innocence, but is nowhere near as trained and polished at this sort of thing) with hints of the inevitability of the Jews' capture, and his sympathy for the Jews as opposed to the unnuanced German propaganda, and so on. Just the thing with the two mens' pipes shows the battle over whose version of events was going to win out.

The Basterds carve the swastikas in the foreheads of the few men they leave alive. Why? Not for justice, but because they need to control the narrative. Those nazis never get to change the story and hide that fact of themselves. The Basterds control that story forever now. They scalp the rest of the men. Why? To promote the story of "Aldo the Apache," throughout the German High Command. They bust Hugo Stiglitz out of prison. Why? Ostensibly because he's just so damned good at killing Nazis, but in reality we never see him do much of anything except for be a home-grown boogieman with a name the Nazis will recognize.

Frederick Zoller displays what happens when one loses control of the message. He's one of the most fascinating characters in the film, in that he's the Nazi war hero who killed 168 men from his post (or whatever that number was) but, as we meet him, seemingly is not a bad guy. He is optimistic. He wants to help out Shoshana. He is humble and ultimately not proud of his exploits. And then Nations Pride, in which he plays himself, flattens him on screen, and the kinda decent, three-dimensional young man becomes the legend he has made for himself - the perfect Nazi.

And witness Landa, again. One of my favorite touches is how he reacts so differently, and yet seemingly so sincerely both times, to his nickname, "The Jew Hunter," depending upon his audience, and his different theories about reputations and the stories that get beyond our control. In the opening scene, he's proud of the name. When meeting with Raine and Little Man, he's bitterly angry about it. Because different audiences require different narrative.

I think the parallels are absolutely intentional, but I get a slightly different feeling from them than Thorne does. I think Tarantino is creating a half-ironic celebration of the fact that the winners write the history books. Control the message and that becomes the fact. That the Fascists and Anti-Fascists are using the same visual language is immaterial, however, because the question is about who wins. The Basterds begin by explaining that they are embarking on a mission of vicious bloodlust and torture intentionally to disgust the Nazis by their actions. They are heroes to us because We Won, and no one ever cares what you do to a nazi or a stormtrooper.

And the meta-level half-joke at the end of all of this is that Tarantino seems to be saying, "if I can make a movie good enough, then Hitler was killed by Jews and French Resistance Cinephiles. If my story is compelling enough, then that's what happened." And for me, at least, it almost is.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:54 AM on November 16, 2011 [67 favorites]


Aren't all his films 'bunch of guys on a mission'? Reservoir Dogs....bunch of dudes on a mission, except we only see the fall out from the mission. Pulp Fiction...Bruce Willis on a mission, John Travolta on a mission. Kill Bill...ok not dudes, but...chick on a mission. Etc etc

spicynuts, the importance of "guys on a mission" is (IMO) not "guys" (versus girls), nor even the mission - it's a subgenre of the buddy film; it's in the tradition of the Illiad.

Pulp Fiction's Willis character has no buddies; furthermore, there's several "missions" within Pulp Fiction, but none are the central theme. The Bride has no buddies (they all either died in the chapel, or tried to kill her there): she's Hero on a Quest (and notably without a sidekick: she relies on her enemies to humanize her, instead of Enkidu).

As has been noted, Tarantino is an obsessive of the 1st order about details and direction in his films. While this narrative doesn't completely convince me, nothing about the layers-and-layers of complexity seems out-of-character for Quentin.

Navelgazer's narrative, however.... golf clap. Well done.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer, now you're making me wonder what QT could do with the book Mother Night.
posted by drezdn at 9:10 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every scene is about this concept. What at first appears to be a clumsy attempt to switch the film into English turns out to be in fact a way for Landa to control his audience at different points.

This was such an excellent part of the movie, and it seemed like such a small thing too. When I saw it in the theater, the line about switching languages got a pretty healthy laugh from the audience, and then as it became increasingly clear what the line really meant, pretty much everyone was leaning forward in their seats just slightly, completely silent.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:11 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not even in Tolstoy does Napoleon complete the march to Moscow.

In the interest of being pedantic, it should be noted that Napoleon DID, in actual fact, complete his march to Moscow and held it for five weeks.

It was the march back that did him in.

Fun fact. The village the Russian army retreated to after evacuating Moscow was called Tarutino, which sounds a little bit like...
posted by snottydick at 9:11 AM on November 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Schindler’s List and other graduates from the Hogan’s Heroes School of War Cinema

I know what he's trying to say, but that's a really poor choice of words.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:20 AM on November 16, 2011


Another fun fact, when they are in the bar and the Nazi Officer speaks for the first time saying he finds the Americans accents funny, you can see he is drinking from a Das Boot before he turns off the record player to join the Americans in conversation.
posted by amazingstill at 9:31 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The film is sort of like "Kelly's Heroes" in some ways, in terms of being an alternate history. "Kelly's Heroes" is very much a 1960s take on WWII, complete with Animal's zonked-out bunch of tank-driving hippies.

My uncle was in that film, and so it always makes me happy when I see a (rare) comment mentioning it.

so, uh, thanks
posted by davejay at 9:36 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Inglourious Animals
posted by kirkaracha at 9:37 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I got really lucky when I saw this in theaters and there wasn't a lot of inappropriate hooting and hollering (or maybe all that was mostly normal and I'm just used to Detroit-area audiences being really obnoxious). Nobody cheered during the Bear Jew bludgeoning sequence, for instance. Toward the end, during the scene when the Basterds sit down in the theater and the camera moves down and shows the explosives strapped to their legs, the chill that went through the audience was audible. You could actually hear the audience getting it, sharp little intakes of breath and "Oh..."s emerging all throughout the theater. It wasn't until a couple days later that I realized how unusual it was for everybody to leave the theater looking so somber after watching a movie wherein Hitler takes something like a hundred bullets to the face.

That said, I couldn't suppress a giggle when Aldo commented on his masterpiece. Damn your charisma, Pitt.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:47 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The film is sort of like "Kelly's Heroes" in some ways, in terms of being an alternate history. "Kelly's Heroes" is very much a 1960s take on WWII, complete with Animal's zonked-out bunch of tank-driving hippies.

Animal? I too love Kelly's Heroes but I think you're getting "Oddball" confused with "Animal" from Full Metal Jacket.
posted by smoothvirus at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2011


It's not as if "Jewish fantasies of beating the crap out of Hiter" weren't contemporary. A couple dudes named Jacob Kurtzberg and Hymie Simon got pretty famous for their comics about a guy who started by punching Hitler out; things got crazier from there. You forget how much of the early NYC comics industry was Jewish because they all took names like "Jack Kirby" and "Joe Simon". And there were a lot of comics about beating up on Nazis.

Which makes this about as spot-on an analysis of the film as the text at hand, IMHO. (even though it's drawn in a pastiche of Kirby's style ca. 1967 rather than his early 40s work)
posted by egypturnash at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hm. That second link is intriguing.

I attended the initial showing of the grindhouse movies in Hollywood, and Tarantino was in the audience. Watching Death Proof, in the two most violent non-revenge moments of the film, the audience was not laughing. They were silent. And, at the end of the latter (just before the hospital exposition scene, trying not to do spoilers here) not only was there silence, but the hostility in the room was palpable. The audience hated the violence they had just seen depicted. I got swept up in it, too. I almost walked out.

Now, in the latter half of the film, it ultimately becomes a revenge film for the audience (much less so the characters involved in the second half, as they have no knowledge of what has happened in the first half), and (as I'm sure the intention of the filmmaker was) the film pulls us from that seething hatred and makes us thrilled to see the violence ultimately meted out in the name of revenge; unlike the earlier violence, this violence is more cartoonish and less impactful in its' execution, but being linked to the audience's desire for revenge, it raised those in the theater (again, me included) to apoplectic joy.

I find myself suspecting that Death Proof may have been an experiment in discovering whether an audience could be made to abhor violence and then exalt in it less than an hour later, in the same room...perhaps his experience with us that night gave him the results he was expecting.
posted by davejay at 9:58 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Quentin Tarantino's (IG) cast on why he's so brilliant

Diane Kruger calls Tarantino "a living movie library."

I am sure that Tarantino is constantly, and increasingly, commenting explicitly on film in all his films.

Oh no duh. Even in films that aren't his films.

"What's the film about? What's it really about? What genre does it take. I don't fucking .. boy meets girl, I don't give a fuck about that. Fuck boy meets girl, fuck motorcycle movie, no. What is really being said? That's what you were talking about. 'Cuz the whole idea, man, is subversion. You want subversion on a massive level.

You know what one of the greatest fucking scripts ever written in the history of Hollywood is? Top Gun."

posted by mrgrimm at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


That Fright Night piece is great too, actually, though he starts to lose me a little with:

And yet one of the vampire story’s more remarkable features is that it communicates a fear of sex even when that violence is largely removed. Indeed, an encompassing fear of sex—and not just of rape—is coded into some of the genre’s most basic conventions. Nothing in the entire history of the horror film is more iconic than the vampire bite, which, if you pause to think about it, is entirely peculiar: Imagine that vampire stories didn’t already exist … and now imagine trying to convince a Hollywood executive to greenlight your new movie about a creature who kills people by giving them hickeys, an honest-to-Christ Cuddle Monster, but scary, you promise him, enemy of scarves and turtlenecks. Or ask yourself for once why so many movies allow vampires to be repelled by garlic. That’s a simple extrapolation from the idea that if you eat too much spicy food—if you go to bed fetid, the reek of sofrito still on your ungargled breath—no-one will want to fuck you.

Worth reading though, particularly for the Rudolph Valentino analysis and the clip from the Ken Russell film, about which he is totally right.
posted by eugenen at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2011


Hehe, I was waiting for that clip to show up here, mrgrimm.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2011


Animal? I too love Kelly's Heroes but I think you're getting "Oddball" confused with "Animal" from Full Metal Jacket.

Always with the negative waves smoothvirus, always with the negative waves.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some interesting observations in the article(s), but lots of irrelevant stuff and definitely not as "on target" as I had thought it would be - that guy is reading waaaay too much into it.

Yes, it has layers and levels, as do all QT flicks, but come on...in the end, it really is just a damn excellent movie. Sure, we can discuss it and talk about techniques and themes and motifs and performances and references, but seriously - lighten up a bit, wouldya?

And it bothers me that he didn't even spell Shosanna's name correctly.
posted by davidmsc at 10:30 AM on November 16, 2011


And it bothers me that he didn't even spell Shosanna's name correctly.

Dammit neither did I, apparently. I even spelled it the correct way at first and then changed it because it looked wrong to me.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:44 AM on November 16, 2011


A friend of mine studied film in college, and he saw most of the films referenced in this movie. IB is an homage to German WWII era films as Kill Bill is to 70's martial arts movies.

The scene where they are all standing around waiting for the Jew Bear to come out was almost an exact replica of a scene in one of those films...not one that I've seen, but I trust my friend's knowledge on this, as he has a photographic memory.
posted by Chuffy at 10:47 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The movie ends with a first person view in which the perspective of the camera has just had a god damned swastika carved into its forehead. How is that not absolutely conscious and deliberate, especially from one of the most introspective and self-referencing voices in popular cinema?
posted by codacorolla at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


that guy is reading waaaay too much into it.

Contemporary art criticism generally doesn't really care about authorial intention, so when you read a piece that says 'Here's what Tarantino is doing in this scene,' most of the time that actually means 'Here's what the text of the film is doing in this scene.' Tarantino may or may not have done any of this stuff intentionally, but that's not very important. That the text of Inglorious Basterds exists and its complications and interrelations allow for the sort of exploration in the linked article is what matters, and is why it's possible and fun to discuss. Any interpretation that is convincingly argued is an example of exploring the film, and so 'reading too much into it' is sort of a non-starter: it implies that a film is a kind of coded message from a single Genius Artist who wants to communicate a singular message to an audience but for some reason has to do it obliquely through film.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2011 [26 favorites]


The scene where they are all standing around waiting for the Jew Bear to come out was almost an exact replica of a scene in one of those films

I think one of Tarantino's best skills as a director is the ability to look at a low budget, flawed scene in an obscure movie and recognize what the director was trying to do and restage it even better than the original scene. It's not quite a rip-off and not quite sampling. It's more of a 'cover version'.
posted by empath at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yes, it has layers and levels, as do all QT flicks, but come on...in the end, it really is just a damn excellent movie. Sure, we can discuss it and talk about techniques and themes and motifs and performances and references, but seriously - lighten up a bit, wouldya?

You remain free to think about things as shallowly as you like.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


As numerous people have pointed out, Tarantino is the ultimate movie fanatic, so I think the question is not only "why does Tarantino hate us [i.e. the audience] so much?" but "why does Tarantino hate himself so much?"

codacorolla's comment makes that question even more apropos.
posted by Cheezitsofcool at 11:05 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I buy it.

Indicting your own audience is a tradition. I am thinking of Storytelling by Todd Solondz. The "Non-Fiction" peice features a documentary within the film, there are several scenes of a typical art house crowd laughing at the subject of the documentary.

I think Tarantino realizes some of his fans are people he doesn't like.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:07 AM on November 16, 2011


Nah, the reviewer is not reading to much into the movie. I've seen that line of analysis about Inglorious Basterds already.

The thing I don't understand about the IB analysis' I've seen is that they backwards rationalize from IB. There is a line of familiarity throughout all of his films; why not move forward through each of them? Start with the idea that he likes and makes genre films. You could answer the first three questions of the analysis with that previous sentence.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:15 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I continue to disagree with the article that this means he doesn't like some of all of his audience, any more than Dostoyevsky is saying that his readers are sinners by implicating them in his novels--QT is pointing out the fundamental flaws in human nature that art embodies but does not correct. We like to see violent revenge--he likes to depict it. He is doing so WHILE critiquing the process, in a multilayered and ultimately satisfying way.

Meanwhile, I'm SUPER excited to see how these developing themes in his work play out in his next film: Django Unchained, a cowboy film about an ex-slave. I expect revenge will play a pretty major part in that as well.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:21 AM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I continue to disagree with the article that this means he doesn't like some of all of his audience, any more than Dostoyevsky is saying that his readers are sinners by implicating them in his novels--QT is pointing out the fundamental flaws in human nature that art embodies but does not correct. We like to see violent revenge--he likes to depict it. He is doing so WHILE critiquing the process, in a multilayered and ultimately satisfying way.

That's probably my only problem with the analysis in the FPP. It ignores the nuances that Tarrantino can feel about what he does. If you want to take it as a straight up indictment of anything, then I'd say it's an indictment of patriotism as evinced through the war movie of the Hollywood machine.

And, regardless of that, as Shakespherian has pointed out Authorial Intent is secondary to the text of the movie. So even if Tarintino doesn't hate his audience, then one can say that the film does.

I also don't get people saying that since some of his movies may be straight-stories (Res. Dogs, for example) it means that everything is straight-up entertainment. Have you never changed your opinion as you've lived your life or done your job?
posted by codacorolla at 11:26 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, maybe I shouldn't compare Tarantino to Solondz. I had a run in with Solondz, am part of his audience and even knew one of his actors. I was pretty clear he didn't like me :)
posted by Ad hominem at 11:28 AM on November 16, 2011


Ad Hominem: totally agree Solondz is a putz by any measurement. Also, eponysterical.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:30 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you want to take it as a straight up indictment of anything, then I'd say it's an indictment of patriotism as evinced through the war movie of the Hollywood machine.

Yeah, this was very much my opinion immediately after seeing it for the first time. Especially all the carving-of-swastikas-into-foreheads business: These people are forever marked as Other, as Perpetrator, as someone to whom it is A-Okay To Do Violence. Pitt's character says (IIRC) something along the lines of how he does it because he doesn't want the Nazis ever to be able to be anything else besides a Nazi. The Nazis in the film, some of which we know virtually nothing about and are probably just kids serving in their country's military, are now denied any future agency or complexity, and Pitt explicitly (or implicitly) posits this as a good thing, that the people of the world always be provided with Nazis as eternal boogeymen, unrepentant mustache-twirling villains.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well yeah, the swastikas are the mark of cain.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:54 AM on November 16, 2011


They're sort of the inverse mark of Cain, though, since in Genesis God says the mark will tell everyone who sees him not to harm him.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:59 AM on November 16, 2011


Yeah, he was still set apart from society. Oh Tarantino, I don't know what to think. Is the swastika a kick me sign or a warning to stay away.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:03 PM on November 16, 2011


Ad hominem: I think Tarantino realizes some of his fans are people he doesn't like.

Yet, he makes so many films that appeal to them. Perhaps you can try saying that the gore and violence is just to get another message out there, but you're still choosing to use that particular tool for conveyance of your message.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:07 PM on November 16, 2011


It is also pretty clear that he himself is a fan of violent movies. His support of Eli Roth and the movie Old Boy both cases in point

Perhaps he sees a difference between true film aficionados and people who just want to see blood, the way Hemingway makes the same distinction of people who go to bull fights. Perhaps he is just conflicted.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:13 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really don't think we're supposed to take away, "OMG See you guys! You're cheering just the way the NAZIS did!" at least not as much as an indictment as some here seem to think. Remember that one of the other notable things about this movie is the equivocation of the Nazis and Allies on many levels. So saying, "you know who else cheered at violent action scenes? Nazis!" kind of misses the point. Language of film and drama is fairly universal. (Just my thoughts there.)

Now, the one thing that was always weird to me with this movie is a scene I feel is missing from Act V and I can't tell why it isn't there. Shosanna knows that Landa is at the theatre, and her revenge is directed most personally at him. Landa takes Raine and leaves the theatre before Kino etc can take place. Shosanna knows that she is going to die in there herself. And everyone involved is still playing the ridiculous pantomime about identities and motives.
So why didn't we get the scene of Shosanna seeing Landa and Raine leaving, and trying to get them to stay?
posted by Navelgazer at 12:15 PM on November 16, 2011


Shosanna knows that she is going to die in there herself.
I'm not too sure of that - I think she expected to escape the theater with Marcel, after he sets the fire. Marcel locked and barred the auditorium's doors, but not the theater itself. If Frederick doesn't try to see Shosanna in the projection booth, she would have been able to walk away.
posted by aerosolkid at 12:26 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fail to see what this has to do with women's feet.
Au contraire! Bridget Von Hammersmark accidentally leaves her shoe at the tavern shootout, and Landa finds and pockets it. Later, at the movie premier, there's that creepy, tense inversion of Cinderella where Landa gently fits the dirty, bloody shoe onto her foot, and then strangles her. At this point I'd be kind of let down if there weren't some naughty feet in a Tarantino film.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 12:30 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's an interesting reading, but I think there's more nuance here than just making the audience realize that they are also fascists. If using violence against fascists turns us into the fascists ourselves, does that mean fighting the Nazis in WW2 was a mistake? Should the Allies have attempted peaceful resistance and perished in their noble pacifism?

The European Jews didn't resist Hitler in significant numbers, so this reading of the film is saying that's a good thing. If they had, they would have become just as bad as the Nazis, so the right thing to do was nonviolence resistance, but in the end nobly accept their fate in the gas chamber. This is grotesque, and I cannot imagine that Tarantino wants to make that point. We are confronted with a very real problem of enjoyment of violence, but it's ridiculous to assert that this ultimately makes us fascists. Reducing fascism to enjoyment of violence obscures the fact that it is a political ideology.

I prefer to read Tarantino's point in the opposite way: the apparent similarities between Nazis and the Basterds/Shoshana at the level of everyday reality should not deceive us. Once we take into account the political facts, the good guys are still the good guys.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:32 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


at least not as much as an indictment as some here seem to think.

I don't think it's an indictment along the same lines as like Haneke's Funny Games or something, I think it's more of an investigation of propaganda and the ease with which we buy into the narrative colonialism of presumed authorities (and, interestingly, how film functions as such an authority).
posted by shakespeherian at 12:34 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I prefer to read Tarantino's point in the opposite way: the apparent similarities between Nazis and the Basterds/Shoshana at the level of everyday reality should not deceive us. Once we take into account the political facts, the good guys are still the good guys.

Honestly I don't think the film cares that much about violence qua violence, but if you want to have that discussion I think that, morally speaking, a guy with a Southern American accent taking great pleasure in the brutal death of an Othered foe is just as awful as a German guy taking great pleasure in same.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:38 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember watching Basterds with a bunch of med students and trying to debate the third question incessantly with them, only to get a tepid "yeah maybe." Anyways, wish the article had come out sooner, so I could use it to better articulate my points. Also I wish med students were more interesting.
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's an indictment along the same lines as like Haneke's Funny Games or something, I think it's more of an investigation of propaganda and the ease with which we buy into the narrative colonialism of presumed authorities (and, interestingly, how film functions as such an authority).

I can see this, totally.

What's interesting to me about this movie in particular, but most Tarantino in reality (Kill Bill Vol. 1 being the big big exception) is that the violence that is actually there comes in quick, short bursts which don't really fetishize the gore. I'm watching the movie again right now and, as per what I said about the struggle for control of the narrative, I noticed a fucking fantastic example in the scene with Werner and the Basterds in the ditch.

You know the scene. Aldo demands that Werner give up information about the orchard they're marching into or die. Werner chooses death. Aldo calls the Bear Jew, who after a long intro and tense moment of setting it up, cracks Werner's head in and beats him to death.

But looking at how this scene is shot and edited, up until his death we are totally in Werner's perspective. We like Aldo because he's American and charismatic, but he's the one laying on the prejudices and gleeful bloodlust here. Werner, on the other hand, is all dignity. Donny's entrance down the tunnel is made to heighten fear and tension, which only Werner is feeling. (It is also subtly evocative of Landa's "rat" comparison a few minutes earlier that Donny emerges from the sewer. Again something which places us in the viewpoint of the German.) The music swells to unbearable levels as Donny winds up, and then as he strikes, killing Werner-

Snap. The music cuts out entirely and we immediately cut to a wide-angle viewpoint of the Basterds watching from their perches and cheering while Donny goes off on an incoherent rant about Ted Williams. Werner's narrative was one of dying with honor, but that narrative died with him. As soon as he's dead the narrative becomes about the Basterds enjoying the death of a Nazi.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


I don't think it's an indictment along the same lines as like Haneke's Funny Games or something, I think it's more of an investigation of propaganda and the ease with which we buy into the narrative colonialism of presumed authorities (and, interestingly, how film functions as such an authority).

shakespeherian,
Totally agree. Basterds reminds us that all movies about war are propaganda (including Basterds). And that sometimes propaganda can be very, very entertaining.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2011


The author wrote:
"This is not a historical fiction in the usual sense, but rather a kind of fantasia or historical reverie—and the movie makes no effort to hide this. Not even in Tolstoy does Napoleon complete the march to Moscow."
...and snottydick responded:
"In the interest of being pedantic, it should be noted that Napoleon DID, in actual fact, complete his march to Moscow and held it for five weeks.

"It was the march back that did him in."
Yeah. I was surprised that no one else had mentioned this. I don't think it's "pedantic" to have a problem with such a glaring mistake in the context of this level of criticism. It stopped me cold.

But I suppose that I'll get back to the blog posts as the discussion here seems to be favorable to it. Although IG is not my favorite QT movie by a long shot.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:01 PM on November 16, 2011


And, regardless of that, as Shakespherian has pointed out Authorial Intent is secondary to the text of the movie. So even if [Tarantino] doesn't hate his audience, then one can say that the film does.
I saw Tarantino on a late night talk show (Conan?) several years before Basterds came out (06-09 maybe, that era) and he talked on his usual spiel how he loved 70's cinema that shocked the audience almost literally, by like putting buzzers under seats, or releasing rats in the theater, and how he wanted to emulate that. Then he went on and added how he's always had this imagine of a movie theater catching fire, and shooting the scene so that it looked like the theater the audience was in caught fire and he was always enchanted by that image and wanted to put it in a film and waiting for the chance.

Quick google-fu failed to find the interview, but I'd reckon to bet Tarantino had all those images long before he though about what he wanted to say with Basterds, and perhaps even when he was finishing the movie, he was more enchanted by the parallels being "interesting" rather than trying to make any specific point that could be thought of as the movie's thesis. So yeah, I think Authorial Intent is something to be justifiably left out of our conversation, its up to us to be the authors of how we interpret the movie.

Also, I will say, even if this film is an "indictment" of grind-house (I think it kinda is) it is more along the lines of 'indictment' in the sense modern dietary research contains an "indictment" of refined sugar - i.e. it's kinda terrible but that doesn't mean its not enjoyable, and doesn't mean it possibly serves its purpose. Just be conscious of its effects and its value... and for chrissakes go for a run once in your life.
posted by midmarch snowman at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


a guy with a Southern American accent taking great pleasure in the brutal death of an Othered foe is just as awful as a German guy taking great pleasure in same.

So we should realize that Hitler was just another human being with hopes and dreams like us? Genocide is just another unique feature of German culture that we should learn to tolerate and even appreciate? Now I feel bad for Germans that you think their culture is innately genocidal. This kind of moral relativism demonstrates the limits of reducing everything to Othering. Zizek makes a great point about how this humanizing gesture is the ultimate defense of today's military imperialism.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:08 PM on November 16, 2011


And in case anyone was wondering, yes, Tolstoy depicts Napoleon reaching Moscow. I have to admit that my knowledge and memory of War and Peace's depiction of Napoleon's invasion of Russia is much stronger than the actual history.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:12 PM on November 16, 2011


"Yeah. I was surprised that no one else had mentioned this. I don't think it's "pedantic" to have a problem with such a glaring mistake in the context of this level of criticism. It stopped me cold."
It's kinda pedantic in the sense that the correction doesn't change the authors point or argument. I took "completion" to mean "successfully defeat the Russian army and occupy Moscow for an extended period of time without losing the French army," and it doesn't really change anything in reading the article.

. . .though the fate of the French Army after reaching Moscow is pretty fucking important and moving part of the novel, leading one to believe it'd be hard to forget if you actually read War and Peace. . .

Anyways, of course Ivan Fydorovitch would get caught up in the reference to Russian lit. :)
It's a good article, of course Basterds probably IS my favorite Tarantino movie, though assuredly not his most important.
posted by midmarch snowman at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2011


Really great piece. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by Kwine at 1:22 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find the Von Hammersmark scene with Lando the most ...interesting in the film. It's the only time we he ever see Lando loose his icy, arch remove. he *hates* her, not for being a traitor (he's an opportunist), not for trying to kill his bosses (he's willing to sell them out instantly, no party loyalist there), but because she insulted his intellect.

Also, he kills her with his bare hands. He doesn't shoot her. He doesn't capture her. he doesn't have someone else do it.
posted by The Whelk at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


So we should realize that Hitler was just another human being with hopes and dreams like us? Genocide is just another unique feature of German culture that we should learn to tolerate and even appreciate? Now I feel bad for Germans that you think their culture is innately genocidal. This kind of moral relativism demonstrates the limits of reducing everything to Othering.

This is sort of a derail, since like I said I don't think the film is about this so much, but where the fuck did you read that I think genocide is relative? When did I say anything about German culture? I said-- I know you saw it, because you quoted it-- that the moral component to someone's enjoyment of brutal death is equal regardless of larger political context. This isn't even a pacifistic statement: I'm not suggesting that all violence is immoral. Enjoyment of the infliction of violence is immoral, is what I said.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:29 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


And also Von Hammersmark's role as a Glamorous Famous Actress that he is literally choking the life out of before going to watch a heavy-handed propaganda movie that is about to be exploded by the ghost of 30s Expressionism. Fascism kills art.
posted by The Whelk at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, the end scene of the film very much holds a mirror up for the audience...but I'm not sure I would agree with the essay's assertion that this is Tarantino "hating" his audience, but more an effort to point out to us how easy it is to become what you despise.

I agree with this. The idea that Tarantino's film is drawing parallels between the Nazi propaganda film, Shoshanna's film, and itself is not new; in fact we've discussed the idea ourselves here on Metafilter in previous Tarantino threads. The evidence presented in terms of similar shots and dialogue is new, however, and quite worthwhile. But the essay goes a bridge too far; I don't see any reason to believe that this film is Tarantino hating on his fans. That flies in the face of everything we know about Tarantino and there simply is no reason to make that leap.

A cautionary tale? Maybe. But hating on his audience? I just don't see it.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a compelling read but I don't really buy the analysis. Also, if Tarantino himself claims that it's a "bunch-of- guys-on-a-mission film" it's probably true. Why would he lie about making a supposedly brilliant movie and risk everyone thinking he's a less sophisticated thinker/director than he is?
To get more people to see it, and make more money? How many people would have gone to see a movie billed as a "psycho drama about a French crypto-jew plotting to assassinate Hitler by means of cinema" Instead it's billed as "Brad pit kills Nazis" and people go see it. Also, you don't want to spoil the film.

Anyway, I think the article gives to much credence to authorial intent. Maybe Tarantino thought about those aspects while he was making the movie but that doesn't mean the film has that specific message. It certainly doesn't mean Tarantino is disillusioned with 'grindhouse' movies or that he hates his fans.
posted by delmoi at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2011


He's probably got another 20 or 30 years of good films in him. He's only going to get better as he gets older, I think.

Is he not on record as saying he only wants to make 3-5 more films? I seem to remember reading that in an interview post-IB. Though at the rate he makes movies, that could take 20+ yrs.
posted by mannequito at 2:01 PM on November 16, 2011


Not 'hating' the audience, but definitely pointing out their/our vulnerability to movies' power to sway.

Of course, the movie was shot (partially) at Babelsberg studios. You know, where Goebbels had 'his' movies made.

I saw it in Berlin and saw it from that point of view, or at least expected to, as a 'revenge' movie about WWII about the evils of fascism/Nazism, and I was impressed at how it was not that at all.

This made my night, the thread and the article. So, thanks.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:02 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


IB has felt like a conundrum to me since I saw it, and this post and thread goes a long way to helping me think about the elements that fascinated me and about trying to interpret what was being said. Great post.

One element that has intrigued me since I saw it has been the degree of characterisation which applies. Tarantino goes to considerable pains to humanise his characters to strongly varying degrees. Perhaps the most human of his characters is Landa, while at the other extreme, the Jewish members of the Basterds are one dimensional, and that dimension is as brutal psychopaths. We probably learn more about the German soldier who is clubbed to death than we do about any of them. Raine gets more screen time, but his back story is hinted at rather than presented. It is the German Basterd who has the greater development, and this would appear to tie in with some of the comments Navelgazer makes about perspectives and narrative.

On a separate point, I am fascinated by the cheering that people seem to have experienced in cinemas, this never seems to occur in cinemas in the UK I go to (not largely arthouse and I saw IB in a non-arthouse venue) and it makes me think about how this influences the viewing experience and to whether and to what extent this impacts on the interpretation of the intention of the filmmaker, not to mention my on perspective in this case being non-American, I struggled to emphasise with Raine from the start, I didn't even realise I was supposed to, as some of commenters have suggested was the case as a result of his American origin.
posted by biffa at 2:19 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, I will say, even if this film is an "indictment" of grind-house (I think it kinda is) it is more along the lines of 'indictment' in the sense modern dietary research contains an "indictment" of refined sugar - i.e. it's kinda terrible but that doesn't mean its not enjoyable, and doesn't mean it possibly serves its purpose. Just be conscious of its effects and its value... and for chrissakes go for a run once in your life.

Yes, this, except I think 'indictment' is the wrong word. Perhaps it's a bit more nuanced than a single word. B-movie genre is his effective delivery system, and the analogy to HFCS is on the spot here. A grape-juice-into-wine metaphor would be apt though. The idea that he can take grindhouse film language and legitimize it is an interesting aspect to his work. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone else who can do this without falling into the problematic aspect of using satirical irony as it's major reasoning behind the premise.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:22 PM on November 16, 2011


Loved the essay overall. Not sure I agree with its main conclusion, but it was fascinating all the same.

That said, I have one minor quibble. Thorne is right not to classify Inglorious Basterds in the alternate history genre, but for the wrong reason. It's not, as he argues, because IB posits a relatively minor change to history while alternate histories require major changes. I could easily see "the allies win WWII a bit earlier than they did in our world due to the assassination of Hitler" as a premise for a good alternate history. It might even be more interesting than an "Axis wins WWII" alternate history, because the differences from our world would be much more subtle. (How does it change things if FDR was still alive at the end of the war, and for another year or so after that?)

What differentiates IB from alternate histories is not the scope of the key change from our own reality, but the point at which it occurs and its role in the story. Alternate histories have the key change either at the beginning of the story, or even more common, in the backstory, and extrapolate from there: given this key difference from our world, what further differences does that entail? How does that world turn out differently from our own?

IB has the key difference from our own history at the end of the movie, and is entirely uninterested in exploring how its world differs from ours after that. That is why IB does not belong to the alternate history genre.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:25 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, Basterds is an implicit look back upon events. Also, B-movies are highly fictionalized and will often handwave historical events without a problem.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:29 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Tarantino was definitely playing to an interpretation like this one, and the article makes its case fairly well—or at least points out enough interesting things along the way, which I think is all people are really after with this kind of thing.
posted by fleacircus at 2:30 PM on November 16, 2011


It should be noted that Tarantino often uses violence and gore as a means rather than an end. Each of his films deal with it in different ways.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:33 PM on November 16, 2011


IB has the key difference from our own history at the end of the movie, and is entirely uninterested in exploring how its world differs from ours after that. That is why IB does not belong to the alternate history genre.

This is spot-on. It serves to function more as a joke than anything else (not that I think that's what it's for), because the implicit assumption that the audience brings to the theater is that they will be seeing a work of historical fiction and the long set-up to Hitler's assassination plays with that expectation: We assume, because we know how Hitler died, and because we've seen a hundred films with Hitler as minor character, that he'll escape the theater somehow and the narrative of the film will be minor enough in historic scope to warrant our suspension of disbelief. That the film ends with Hitler's death (and an end to the war a year early through means entirely different from history) is a shock rather than a premise.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:34 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or the whole setup with a team of Jewish headhunters in Germany might have been a bit of a tip-off as to it's factual accuracy.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:42 PM on November 16, 2011


Or rather, a Jewish team of Nazi headhunters.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:43 PM on November 16, 2011


It should be noted that Tarantino often uses violence and gore as a means rather than an end. Each of his films deal with it in different ways.

This is one of the things that I like about Pulp Fiction. One of the three segments is entirely about dealing with the aftermath of (accidental) horrific violence leading up to a renunciation of violence. Its telling, to my way of thinking, that we already know that the character who doesn't reject violence is not long for this world (based on what we've seen in the second segment) while the other character presumably lives. Tarentino doesn't do a whole lot of obvious moralizing, but one of the messages of Pulp Fiction is, quite simply, that violence begets violence.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:46 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or the whole setup with a team of Jewish headhunters in Germany might have been a bit of a tip-off as to it's factual accuracy.

That's not what I mean. When I watch To Be or Not To Be, I know that there was no secret troop of stage actors who infiltrated the highest levels of Nazi Germany in order to uncover a spy ring, and the idea that Jack Benny could pass for a Nazi officer is obviously silly. But if the film ends with Carole Lombard shooting Hitler, it's a refutation of how I'd unconsciously calibrated my suspension of disbelief-- I thought I was watching fake stuff happen in real history instead of fake history.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:48 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or the whole setup with a team of Jewish headhunters in Germany might have been a bit of a tip-off as to it's factual accuracy.

Well, yes, it's obviously a work of fiction from the beginning, but as Thorne points out, there's a long tradition of historical fiction which still keeps the broad strokes of our history intact. When you watch Gone with the Wind you don't expect the Confederacy to win.

(On preview, what shakespeherian said.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2011


In other words Inglorious Basterds plays a genre switch on the audience, which is, I think, at least part of why the billions of bullets pounding into Hitler's face prompted laughter from theatergoers.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:53 PM on November 16, 2011


Right, and I get that, but, I guess I keep harping on it here, if you calibrated your viewing to the idea that your watching a grindhouse film then in turn it should not be an exceptional deviation from expectations. Not that it shouldn't be a shock when it happens, but it should not be a major point of contention as the reviewer seems to be making it out to be.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:54 PM on November 16, 2011


I don't see it as a point of contention-- I don't think it's a criticism at all. I think it's merely an observation.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on November 16, 2011


Okay, as an observation, it's ignorant of the fact that Tarantino specifically uses grindhouse films as a delivery system. In other words, do you remember the ridiculous commercials that were sandwiched between Death Proof and Planet Terror? Basterds would've fit in there just fine with those movies. Not only are the premises of those movies far-out but also the outcomes. That's part of the point of watching those films.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:05 PM on November 16, 2011


Then it's an ignorant observation.

On the whole, though, I think it squares with a lot of Inglorious Basterd's audience, because grindhouse/blaxploitation/etc. as a genre isn't particularly well-known these days. People might not be expecting The Guns of Navarone when they go to see a Tarantino movie, but the violent fictional death of a major historical figure in the film still, I think, came as a surprise rug-yank for a good many people.

And, again, this isn't a criticism or complaint; I think it's an interesting part of the film that sits up against other parts of the film in interesting ways.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:10 PM on November 16, 2011


Another way to read the film, in light of the "Last film of the Bush administration" remark is that the film is, intentionally or not, a comment on how Americans want to fight wars.

I disagree with the idea that Basterds presents a more triumphal revision of an already triumphal war. If you think of the Geopolitical implications of World War II ending in that particular way, it is certainly less of a victory than that of actual history.

Indeed, it seems so much like the "stabbed in the back" false narrative of the First World War's resolution that Hitler used to drum up support for his militarism. Rather than a decisive victory leading to Hitler's pathetic death in a ruin of his own creation narrative, you get a "killed at the height of his power by sneaky Jews fighting dirty" narrative, Germany left unconquered and militarily unrivaled - indeed a potential ally against Stalin. Despite avoiding the deaths of so many, i don't know if I prefer that particular alternate history, especially when you know that nuclear weapons will enter the equation shortly thereafter.

But compare this to the post-war thinking that leads us to the current day. In the Aftermath of WWII, no one ever wanted to fight that kind of war ever again, for understandable reasons. In this milieu, cemented by the difficulties in Korea, you see a shift in American foreign policy where policy thinkers began to think that you didn't need war .. you could just get the CIA to encourage revolution or rig elections or assassinate leaders.

You get Vietnam, which though a more conventional conflict, mythologizes the Green Berets, Navy SEALS, and the Special Operations mode of warfare more generally.

That brings us all the way to the second Gulf War where people were crossing their fingers that Saddam would be obliterated early, the term 'Decapitation Strike' entering the lexicon, Splinter Cell becoming a popular video game and dropping a special forces team into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden used as evidence that America can still "do Great things".

This isn't that new an idea though. Look at German exile Fritz Lang's war movie, Man Hunt [1941] which revolves around the attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler. Even at the time, this was the preferred option of many. Look at the way the Revolutionary war is depicted as the war of the savvy Rag Tag Band of Bushwhackers. Projecting back even further than that was The Last of the Mohicans, and the contrast of the effectiveness between Munro's by the book militarism and Hawkeye's guerrilla tactics.

So this is how America wants to win wars, generally, but has been ramped up significantly in the past decade through the Clancy/Cheney narrative of having to work in the shadows for the purposes of liberty. Project these amplified attitudes backwards into WWII, and you get the Inglorious Basterds alternate history, with victory by way of Special Forces and the requisite ambiguous aftermath.

It is similar to The Dirty Dozen in the sense that you're looking backward and imagining special forces killing masses of Nazi bigwigs. What updates that story to match the contemporary outlook is the conceit that such actions can lead to immediate and decisive total victory of the entire conflict.

The real WWII was won the hard way, with a lot more blood and sacrifice from many more people. The traditional narrative is that this made it a most triumphal and noble victory. I think that is a false narrative in many ways, but even more so is the notion that war can be won entirely through covert action, with no consideration of the danger of blowback. For me, that is less triumphal and more troubling.
posted by striatic at 3:43 PM on November 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sure, and i'm not saying the observation should go unheeded but i think there is a bit of an overestimation to its importance. If say in Black Dynamite we see an ending where BD finally is going to give it to the man by aligning his sights on the president, we wouldn't take a second to even think this is somehow outside of the scope of what the film intended. Again this goes back to Tarantino's ability to deliver a genre film and for people to take it as a valid form of discourse, rather than a farcical form that is laughing along with you at itself. The interesting aspect, at least to me is where people are wondering why there is such a deviation from "reality". In my mind I keep wondering why people think this is some kind of deviation at all, Tarantino has given us more than enough reason and insight to how he is going to present his films.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2011


There is only one person laughing, and it is mother-loving Hitler. That is the sight of a filmmaker profoundly alienated from his own fans, wigging out at the ability of the movies he most loves to produce in us a quasi-fascist joy in violence. So why does Tarantino hate us so much?

The better question is why did he go in the Kill Bill and/or Inglorious Bastards direction instead of the Jacky Brown direction.
posted by Chuckles at 4:00 PM on November 16, 2011


It's an interesting reading, but I think there's more nuance here than just making the audience realize that they are also fascists. If using violence against fascists turns us into the fascists ourselves, does that mean fighting the Nazis in WW2 was a mistake?

That's not an unheard of (nor ridiculous, imo) argument:

Pacifism at its best, said Arthur Ponsonby, is “intensely practical.” Its primary object is the saving of life. To that overriding end, pacifists opposed the counterproductive barbarity of the Allied bombing campaign, and they offered positive proposals to save the Jews: create safe havens, call an armistice, negotiate a peace that would guarantee the passage of refugees. We should have tried. If the armistice plan failed, then it failed. We could always have resumed the battle. Not trying leaves us culpable.

At a Jewish Peace Fellowship meeting in Cincinnati some years after the war, Rabbi Cronbach was asked how any pacifist could justify opposition to World War II. “War was the sustenance of Hitler,” Cronbach answered. “When the Allies began killing Germans, Hitler threatened that, for every German slain, ten Jews would be slain, and that threat was carried out. We in America are not without some responsibility for that Jewish catastrophe.”


Why I'm a pacifist: The dangerous myth of the Good War by Nicholson Baker

Related: America and the Holocaust "examines the complex social and political factors that led the American government to ignore the Jewish victims of the Holocaust until 1944."

"After the United States entered the World War II in December 1941, the trickle of immigration virtually dried up, just as the Nazi regime began systematically to murder the Jews of Europe."

"The bureaucratic hurdles for emigration were overwhelming. Far from streamlining the process to allow more refugees to enter, nations required extensive documentation that was often virtually impossible to obtain. In some cases, refugees literally faced a "catch-22": proof of passage booked on a ship was required for a visa, and proof of a visa was required to book passage on a ship."

A complete and utter derail, but I think it's worth noting that there were other options for dealing with Nazi Germany aside from war, and just because the Nazis were defeated militarily doesn't make it a "good war" by any measure.


/derail
posted by mrgrimm at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was just thinking of that... If Hitler and his cronies are taken out before D-Day, the serious military men take over, and it's a whole different war, and one that might have resulted in a negotiated peace, cold-war style stalemate or even a limited victory for Germany.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:30 PM on November 16, 2011


In Rambo, Sylvester Stallone actually speaks the question: “Do we get to win this time?” And his commanding officer responds: “Yes, Rambo. You get to win this time.” What’s going on there isn’t especially hard to grasp. The historical record—or, if you prefer, popular historical pseudo-memory—contains, in reference to Vietnam, all sorts of ambivalence: feelings of failure, complicity, shame, and so on—and those feelings are a breeding ground for compensatory fantasies.

President Reagan watched Rambo 2, and then announced that the USA had finally won the Vietnam war.
posted by ovvl at 5:27 PM on November 16, 2011


the Jacky Brown direction.

Jackie Brown is the "Lost" Tarantino, it's a straight forward adaptation of a novel, it's long a realistic, it has a normal time line and great acting. And it's .....

It has lots of good stuff, and lots of bad stuff, and it goes on too long. It's interesting to see the Tarantino quirks in a very more direct and straightforward drama, but I left it thinking it wasn't very good, despite the great performances, and I prefer my Tarantino mannered and genre and operatic.

He doesn't get credit as an actor's director, which is a shame, the only way you can sell Kill Bill's unironic, operatic violence is that Uma Thurman is really, totally, completely devoted. Any oz. of winking would have killed it.
posted by The Whelk at 6:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some day, in, oh, fifteen thousand years, Inglorious Basterds will be the only historical document remaining of 15th to 20th century European history.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, about cheering? The only time I hear an audience just lose it and start yelling in approval was the ending of Death Proof. Considering how much it must have cost to make, it is one of the best B-Movies ever made.
posted by The Whelk at 6:14 PM on November 16, 2011


The Tarantino Formula: (Violence + Snappy Dialogue (- boring filler) x flashbacks + homage)
posted by ovvl at 6:21 PM on November 16, 2011


you forgot bringing back actors from the past.
posted by The Whelk at 6:27 PM on November 16, 2011


Then again I think the Kill Bill series is the only good Superhero movie made.
posted by The Whelk at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really liked Jackie Brown, but I haven't seen it since college.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:40 PM on November 16, 2011


There is only one person laughing, and it is mother-loving Hitler.

...
...


Whoah.

/keanu
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:42 PM on November 16, 2011


I've watched Jackie Brown several times and I think it's a very good film in many respects. It's one of the better Elmore Leonard adaptations.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:43 PM on November 16, 2011


It's not bad.

It's very interesting and well acted, has a great soundtrack, it just didn't do anything for me.
posted by The Whelk at 6:43 PM on November 16, 2011


I can't even say why I was put off it, maybe I was expecting something different? It's not a bad move by any means, it's just a kind of odd duck in the Canon, if you know what I mean.
posted by The Whelk at 6:44 PM on November 16, 2011


Jackie Brown is like the Ladykillers, it's better upon successive viewings. Jackie Brown is also void of any blood and onscreen deaths. It's also expertly acted throughout, and Tucker is fantastic.

the only way you can sell Kill Bill's unironic, operatic violence is that Uma Thurman is really, totally, completely devoted. Any oz. of winking would have killed it.

There is some winking to the audience about the hyper-reality that Thurman's character moves through in Kill Bill, just like Basterds alt reality.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:08 PM on November 16, 2011


Interesting read, but I kept wanting to say "it's not mutually exclusive." Tarantino is indeed way into the mash-up esthetic, so why must we scratch our chins at the supposed "contradictions" of a revenge story that sort of isn't one, a historical film that sort of isn't one, or a film that takes deep pains to be authentically "German" when it's absolutely a fantasy of reprisal against Germans?

Ah, grad. school for English lit. You truly turn smart people into bean-platers of the highest order.
posted by bardic at 7:12 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I liked IB. But the pacing is terrible, especially given that Tarantino is IMO the master of pacing. There are some definite valleys of boredom.

Now Kill Bill one and two -- those fuckers have been growing on me for years.

And Jackie Brown in unwatchable.
posted by bardic at 7:13 PM on November 16, 2011


Some day, in, oh, fifteen thousand years, Inglorious Basterds will be the only historical document remaining of 15th to 20th century European history.

YES, and it will be taught in 8th grade literature much the same way the Iliad is today. I can imagine English teachers on New Caprica answering a questions if Americans actually believed such an animal as a Barenjude actually existed, and if being part Apache was the source of Aldo's strength like other demi-gods like Hercules.
posted by midmarch snowman at 7:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uma Thurman is really, totally, completely devoted. Any oz. of winking would have killed it.

I think Uma winks at the audience during the closing credits of KB2? (My personal favourite... along with the script for True Romance).
posted by ovvl at 8:01 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify (as I'm rewatching Inglourious Basterds now as possible prelude to an even more epic comment than the one I made above...)

The Basterds are dropped into France prior to D-Day, but they've been operating for a while by the end. Hitler specifically decides to go to the premier as a response to dropping morale post-D-Day, and says so.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:02 PM on November 16, 2011


=Just= an observation, but he employs both Daryl Hanah and Chiaki Kuriyama in Kill Bill - and both women portrayed giantesses in popular television shows. If Patton Oswalt makes an appearance in a subsequent film, we'll know for sure.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:42 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember an interview with Tarantino from years ago where he was discussing Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction. A lot of people at the time were lauding Jackie Brown as the better movie. Tarantino said "no way, you are just forgetting how blown away you were by Pulp Fiction". He's right, of course, Pulp Fiction changed movie making, Jackie Brown didn't. I still think Jackie Brown is brilliant.

That isn't why I brought it up though. My point was, if he hates his Kill Bill audience, why push their faces in Inglorious Basterds. Why does he waste his time taunting them?

I'm reminded of Paul Verhoeven talking about Starship Troopers. As far as I can tell Verhoeven to this day maintains that Starship Troopers is a faithful adaptation of Heinlein. Obviously ridiculous. Obviously an anti-war satire. Verhoeven couldn't say that at the time, for commercial reasons. I almost wonder if he maintains the farce to laugh in the faces of the people who take the straight read on it (Colbert esque). The difference is Verhoeven had a point. If we take the linked article at face value, Tarantino is just a nihilist. Laughing at the essential absurdity of his trade, and tearing it to shreds.

And just because I can't help needling a certain cohort of commenters above.. Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds?!?! Seriously? Tarantino was the John Lennon of Hollywood in the '90s, and those two movies turned him into Joe Satriani--technically spectacular, but not very good.
posted by Chuckles at 8:42 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone here has already done a much better job on analysis of IB than I ever could, but I just wanted to join in my excitement for this film. And I mean excitement; it's the best thing Tarantino has done since Pulp Fiction. I mean, there's just so much meat to chew on, so many great characters, such rich textures and layers going on. And like Pulp Fiction, multiple viewings reward the audience with things missed the first time around.
posted by zardoz at 8:57 PM on November 16, 2011


I've seen Showgirls; I can't take anything about Verhoeven seriously now.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:58 PM on November 16, 2011


I would like to read some discussion re: the Nazi Audie Murphy guy.

So, get on that.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:01 PM on November 16, 2011


So then, let's see how epic this will be.

On review, my theory holds even stronger (because of course I have no confirmation bias or anything) but really, just about every moment in the movie is about not the action at hand, but about the lens and narrative through which that action is seen now and will be seen in the future. But I'll get to that in a moment.

On first viewing, the oddest and most difficult aspect of Inglourious Basterds is in its structure. (BTW, props to all of the linked essays and interpretations and the revelatory comments. I cannot possibly claim all of this insight as my own.) Todd Alcott remarks extensively that the movie starts four times, basically. He doesn't quite get into what this structure does for the story, however. While the answer is quite obvious to me now, it took me until this viewing to get it. Essentially, we get four introductions before the hour-long Act V. They are:

Chapter 1: The Germans
Chapter 2: The Americans
Chapter 3: The French
Chapter 4: The Brits

In another more specific way of looking at it we get:

Chapter 1: The SS
Chapter 2: The Bushwhackers
Chapter 3: La Resistance
Chapter 4: MI5 (or its equivalent)

So, four nationalities and four very, very different ways of viewing warfare. And 2-4 all deal by necessity with deception. The SS has no real need to do so. They are an occupying force and have classically been treated as using brute force because that was all that was necessary. I think this is part of what makes Hans Landa such an indelible character. He has no need to psychologically torture LaPaditte the way he does. He has no need to torture Shosanna the way he does in the Bistro (if he does, indeed, recognize her in the Bistro, which I think he does.) He has no need to murder von Hammersmark with his own hands. He does these things because it amuses him to do things this way. He has opted into deception and playing a role because in his personal narrative it makes him better at his job. And it does, in the way that it increases his reputation and makes others fear him more.

Aldo has very little need for deception, and is bad at it, at least at the kind that Landa and von Hammersmark get up to. His is an on-the-ground kind of deceit, but also based upon the story which will be told about him. Tarantino famously hated how Natural Born Killers came out, but I like that he kept this idea with him. Leave one man alive to tell the tale. But lest we forget, at the end he kills an unarmed man and maims another, even after having gotten what he wanted, because he preferred things that way, and he led them into that trap.

Shosanna relies on deception to remain in hiding. She, unlike Landa and Raine, has no desire to have a reputation. There might be a place in the French Resistance for such a person, but Shosanna Dreyfuss is not it.

And Hicox is much like Shosanna, but more professional about it. The two of them, entirely separately, rely upon narrative to hide their identities.

And the film will take us through variation after variation of how these starting viewpoints are put into uncomfortable situations and what occurs when the wrong set of tools are met with the wrong context.

Chapter One:

Almost entirely Landa and LaPaditte. This is one of the most striking and gut-punching openings to a movie in recent memory, and the most compelling aspect, to me, is when Landa begins his questioning about Jews and Rats. This line of questioning is largely self-congratulatory - and the first seed of how Landa considers himself above the German High Command - but in the moment it is first and foremost excrutiatingly off-putting. Landa is empathizing with the Jews and putting down the Germans while explaining that his respect and admiration for the Jewish instincts towards survival in a hostile environment are what makes him such a good "Jew Hunter." For a moment, you almost like him in his respect and logic, asking why LaPaditte would hate a rat so much and not a squirrel, when "aside from the tail they even look alike."

This is off-putting to the audience, to be sure, but far more so to LaPaditte, who does his best to maintain a poker face throughout the interrogation/conversation while it veers in so many different directions than he could have been prepared for. Perhaps Landa was looking for something in LaPaditte's eyes, to simply confirm what he already knew. I no longer think so.

This chapter is all about Landa spinning a complicated and self-contradictory narrative about the Jewish people and his part in hunting them for an audience of one who is supposed to not follow it, but rather let a crack show in his facade while he plays his part and worries about the family below his floorboards.

Chapter Two:

The Basterds (Aldo, really) spin their own narrative, about their fearsomeness (to the Germans) and about the inherent rightness of their actions (to themselves.) "A Nazi ain't got no humanity!" is in one respect right-on in retrospect (to a degree) and more troubling in light of the fact that this was the last war the US fought against European enemies. Those in the Pacific Theatre could go to their graves hating the Japanese. Later soldiers could hate the Vietnamese, or Arabs, but the Basterds need the uniforms to let them know who the enemy is on sight, and the idea of not having an instant visual cue is what motivates them.

Now, this is helped a lot by the fact that they are, you know, Nazis. But the film ever so subtly pushes a distinction on that count - is a German Soldier in the war necessarily a member of the Nazi Party? By choice? Forget about Wilhelm - the man they maim is scared and seems to want to be doing anything else. But a more important, and I feel easily missed point comes up right at the end of this chapter.

The surviving soldier is debriefing with Hitler, and Hitler asks to see his scars. And this is where we see the Swastika carved into the forehead for the first time. What is notable here is that this is a symbol that Germany has united behind. They fly it everywhere, as we see throughout the film. They are PROUD of it. And this scared soldier is showing Hitler that he's afraid he won't be able to ever wash it away. The Swastika has thus in that move turned from a symbol of pride to one of shame. This is one of the coolest plays with changing the narrative that the film does, in my opinion.

There is also, of course, the analogy to the yellow stars that Nazis forced the Jews to wear for identification. Much as Jewish people would not be ashamed of the Star of David, but would of course not like to have oppressors force it on them in order to be known on sight by their persecutors, the Nazis might not at this point be ashamed of the Swastika, but understand the fear of their own tactics being used against them.

Chapter Three:

I'm no longer certain whether Fredrick Zoller was actually a decent and exceptional soldier who let the ego of his reputation burst forth at the wrong moment, or if he was always that monster and was just good at playing the flirt, but I think it's the former. As we see in Act V, he seems genuinely distressed watching his "exploits" on the big screen. In any case, in Act III he is in many ways a silly man. He is almost pitiable in his lack of understanding of his audience. He soft-pedals his war-hero status in the hopes that his humility about his fame will win Shosanna over. He seems to believe that the SS thugs sent to bring her to the Bistro will impress her with his influence. He believes she will be enthralled to meet Goebbels. He presses on a romantic narrative that she doesn't share in the slightest but must maintain the illusion of in order to stay as hidden as she can be.

This is the first big scene we see of clearly clashing narrative tools and circumstances. Zoller has a big reputation and wants to use it to help Shosanna. Shosanna needs to remain hidden. But her caginess only draws Zoller more smitten, getting more questions asked, and eventually bringing Landa to her table. This is Landa's second interrogation in the film and once again he is disarmingly charming while psychologically torturing his subject in ways they cannot call him on. She, like LaPaditte, cannot contradict his narrative without giving up her own. And it's a pantomime. He knows who she is. She knows who he is. They both know the other knows. But neither can let down their facade. And yet it is entirely one-sided on the power scale, while he drinks milk and forbids her from eating her strudel until the cream arrives. It is possible that at this juncture Landa is subtly egging her on towards her eventual plan. Hard to say.

Chapter Four:

So, so much in this chapter, with the layered identity-guessing game and all, but the key thing for me here is that Wicki and Stiglitz are not at all prepared for this sort of meeting. They are of the Reputation narrative, and can offer no help at all in Hicox's spy narrative, save as window-dressing. Wicki participates in the game when the SS officer shows up at the table, and Stiglitz strongarms Wilhelm, but really they are out of their element and useless, and Hicox and von Hammersmark are left carrying on the increasingly incredible charade. von Hammersmark is the only one who knows how to truly handle herself in this situation, but she can't keep every element of the other three in line, which leads to the massacre.

It is, indeed, telling that when Landa shows up to investigate at the end, he notices WIcki and Stiglitz, and steps over Hicox entirely. Hicox is a non-entity to him. To the end.

Chapter Five:

Well, here's where I really find the characters. First, Aldo.

Aldo is almost incapable of performance, and seemingly hates it. He can lie, yes, but he can't perform. This strikes me as important in that he is presented in many ways as the protagonist in this movie and is the one guy who can't be bothered to give enough of a shit to pretend to be anyone else. Even if he's speaking Italian, he's Aldo Raine from Tennessee.

Zoller finally cracks here. If Shosanna can't respond to the humble man ashamed to be such a good soldier than by God she will respond to the man who is simply a deadly soldier. What is interesting here is that when she first moves into her "lock the door" ploy he reverts into the first incarnation. He's stumbling and awkward again for the moment before Shosanna shoots him.

Shosanna, meanwhile, notably and forcefully morphs herself into femme fatale mode. The war-paint application of makeup is astounding, as is her choice to break out and take a forceful role in the resistance with her treatment of the developer. Most notable here, to me, though is the way that hers and Zoller's simultaneous deaths, with the gorgeous dramatic score behind it, is, like Werner's, cut off abruptly at the moment they actually die. Whatever weird romantic narrative they had, died with them. It is gone.

And Finally, Landa.

I think I get him, at long last. He is, quite simply, a control freak and a sadist. He enjoys nothing more than having the upper hand and savoring those moments. He constructs his own narrative and is highly careful of it. And he wants to be appreciated for his talents.

He knows where the Dreyfusses are when he walks into LaPaditte's home, but wants to impress him and lead him to the point where LaPaditte cannot help but give in. He knows that Emmanuelle is Shosanna, but toys with her, watching her eyes as he makes her unsure of what he knows or remembers. But von Hammersmark disrespects him in a number of ways. First, she tells the lie about mountain-climbing, which causes him to corpse (as Alcott puts it) and break character for a moment. Seconds later, she mentions that she knows from his "previous conquests..." and he cuts her off. 1) we have not at this point considered Landa as a sexual being, and 2.) she is about to tell tales about him which aren't under his control.

Finally, once Landa has her, and she knows there is no way out, she simply asks, "what now?" She drops everything, and remains unimpressed by him. This, I believe, is what triggers his rage, why he must kill her with his bare hands. In all things she will not respect him, and he can't handle that.

But then, shortly afterwards, Landa is sitting with Aldo and the Little Man. There was probably no reason to take Aldo in at this point, really. Landa was going to let the plan go through and already had a Yank captured who knew Operation Kino. But Landa requires the audience he can torture the most, and for this conversation, that is Aldo. And so he forces Aldo to get him in touch with an OSS officer who will agree to Landa's outlandish narrative of the events, leading us into a climax which may be a critique on violence, but feels earned to the audience. Because Landa must not walk away scot-free.

I disagree that it is a weaker Tarantino movie, or that he is Joe fucking Satriani now. This was one in which he had something to say, with more and more details popping out the more one watches it. This might, in fact, be his masterpiece.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:45 PM on November 16, 2011 [31 favorites]


Also, don't know how stupid I am on this one, but I never realized before tonight that the same Gestapo Major who brings Shosanna to the Bistro is the one who ends up in the basement tavern in Nadine.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:37 PM on November 16, 2011


So then, let's see how epic this will be.
[...]
I disagree that it is a weaker Tarantino movie, or that he is Joe fucking Satriani now. This was one in which he had something to say, with more and more details popping out the more one watches it. This might, in fact, be his masterpiece.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:45 PM


Epony...mazing?!
posted by CrystalDave at 1:36 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wonderfully thought-provoking article.
posted by Coaticass at 2:15 AM on November 17, 2011


I saw it in Berlin and saw it from that point of view, or at least expected to, as a 'revenge' movie about WWII about the evils of fascism/Nazism, and I was impressed at how it was not that at all.

On a tangent: did the version screened in Germany differ much from the US version?
posted by acb at 5:03 AM on November 17, 2011


Navelgazer, thank you for that lengthy comment and insight - well done.

I'm still not convinced that Landa recognized Shosanna at the bistro...and wonder how it would have been played differently if he definitely recognized her and communicated such to the audience (or fellow table-members).
posted by davidmsc at 10:53 AM on November 17, 2011


Favorite quote from the same friend I referenced way up there:

"Tarantino made whipped cream terrifying."
posted by Chuffy at 4:13 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's interesting to me about this movie in particular, but most Tarantino in reality (Kill Bill Vol. 1 being the big big exception) is that the violence that is actually there comes in quick, short bursts which don't really fetishize the gore.

The version that my friends and I saw in the theater got cut for the DVD version. In it, the bar scene was prolonged with an additional conversation about King King as racist American film that I'm sure shows up somewhere on the DVD as an extra. And the result is that you have this incredibly long film discussion during a scene where you know that this is going to end in violence, dragged out for an almost inhumanly long length.

And... it culminates in a gunfight that's, what, five, ten seconds long? In a blink of an eye, everybody shoots everybody and it's all over. We're on the edge of our seats waiting for violence, but when the violence happens, it's too quick to even appreciate.

Tarantino makes violent films, but he's shockingly tasteful about how little violence he lets the audience see.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:24 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget, Resevior Dogs is only partly centered on a heist. The other part is about a man slowly bleeding to death. Gore and violence isn't equitably distributed in his movies.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:18 PM on November 17, 2011


Pretty much the best thing about death proof is the realistic violence, getting punched hurts, getting hit with a rod hurts, getting shot in the hand really, really fucking hurts. It was like beautiful retribution for every action movie where the hero is shot four times in the shoulder and just kind of limps.
posted by The Whelk at 10:57 PM on November 17, 2011


Interesting to note that Reservoir Dogs also culminates in a gunfight that kills virtually every character in 5 seconds.
posted by mannequito at 10:58 PM on November 17, 2011


The thing I enjoyed most about Death Proof was that it was a slasher-fic, except he traded the knife out for a car.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:56 PM on November 17, 2011


If it wasn't already said (?), thanks for this great post Potomac Avenue!

I've re-watched the film and spent an hour or so seeing and reading interviews and generally digesting the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I don't know that I agree with every single idea and thought experiment that Thorne included in that 2-part article, but it's forever changed how I view Tarantino and I'm grateful for having my eyes opened in that way.
[Thanks also to Navelgazer for some great comments]
posted by peacay at 3:14 AM on November 18, 2011


I don't know if the version shown here was any diff at all from the DVD version. I imagine it wasn't but I can't say for sure.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:19 PM on November 18, 2011


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