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February 11, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Todd Alcott has written in-depth analyses of Inglourious Basterds (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and Death Proof (1, 2, 3) that are pretty nifty. posted by Toby Dammit X (102 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man in depth film criticism makes me tingle.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


The scene is one long suspense beat, a pattern that will be repeated throughout the movie. Over and over, Tarantino slowly ratchets up the tension until is is almost a relief when the tension explodes into violence. Which is, as it turns out, one of the things that elevates Basterds to the level of high art -- Tarantino repeatedly uses the audience's desire for release against it. The movie doesn't merely use violence, it's about violence, particularly violence in movies, or in popular culture anyway, and the way it can be used to manipulate an audience, or a populace. It repeatedly gets you longing for violence and then, by the time it shows up, it's not what you wanted or expected it to be. The movie as a whole doesn't offer up easy answers, rather it asks extremely uncomfortable questions.

I've had many discussions with friends in which I tried to articulate why I disliked this movie so much and why I found it so incredibly boring. With the above paragraph, the author (unintentionally, I'm guessing) argues my point pretty well. If I'm reading him correctly, Tarantino manipulated me - on purpose, you see - into being bored and frustrated by "using the audience's desire for release against it." I hope this means I'm officially off the hook from the Art Film squad - blame Tarantino, you fools, not me!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:49 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Finally, Landa reveals his agenda -- he has known from the beginning that the Dreyfusses are under the floorboards, and he is here to kill them. There was nothing LaPadite could have done to save them, Landa was merely toying with him the whole time. Why? No reason is given, the drama of the scene seems to be there in order to set up Landa as a character, to set up one of the Dreyfusses, Shoshanna, as a character, and to present the stakes of the movie in a remarkable and effective manner.

I think this is certainly true. The guy's critique so far is awfully good. I haven't finished reading it, yet, so I don't know if he gets into this later, but it occurred to me while watching it that Landa's whole thing was getting his prey to realize how he caught them, why he caught them, how outmatched they were. he is smarter than they are, more capable, and they never had a chance to defeat him because he is simply that good. he struck me as a vain character, one slighted in his youth who now gets to let people know how much power he has over them, by virtue of his ability. in addition, I supposed that he delights in precision - in being able to say "I know they're there, but for the sake of making 100% certain, let's get it out in the open. Even I, with all my talent, am not perfect, so let's be precise. they are under the floorboards, yes? you will tell me because you see you cannot defeat me and they cannot escape me, so developed are my skills in jew hunting."
posted by shmegegge at 10:54 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a sucker for Bond film criticism. I liked this bit on Ernst Stavros Blofeld:
HOW COOL IS THE BAD GUY? For the first two acts of You Only Live Twice, Blofeld is still "that guy with the cat in his lap." There are so many shots of the cat while Blofeld is talking that I began to suspect that the cat is actually SPECTRE #1, a feline criminal genius and a ventriloquist to boot. Come to think of it, when I consider the flaws in Blofeld's plan, perhaps I'm not giving him enough credit. It's an awe-inspiring plan, for a cat.

Once he shows up, Donald Pleasance does not disappoint as Blofeld. His scar is icky, he pulls off the SPECTRE uniform, he's clearly insane: 1 point for appearance. 1 point for the piranha tank. 10 points for the jaw-dropping, Ken Adam-designed volcano stronghold. Even with his childishly retarded plan, Blofeld is a bad guy second only at this point to Goldfinger.
posted by Babblesort at 11:01 AM on February 11, 2010


One of my favorite things about Death Proof was the realism of the violence. Gonna take a second to deliver for Evil Movie Guy Line? Then yer gotta get shot and bullets hurt.
posted by The Whelk at 11:07 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, there goes my workday.

Seriously, this stuff is brilliant. His Venture Brothers analyses alone make it worth the price of admission.
posted by mgrichmond at 11:09 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy shit there are Venture Brothers analysis?

Goodbye day.
posted by The Whelk at 11:10 AM on February 11, 2010


Wow, magnificent timing. I had intended to see Basterds largely because of MeFi discussions about it, and then was given it for Christmas (not something I would have bought straight-off, but oh well). Ended up watching it the night before last, so still fresh in my brain, and very much not what I expected.

If I'm reading him correctly, Tarantino manipulated me - on purpose, you see - into being bored and frustrated by "using the audience's desire for release against it."

I haven't come to any conclusions about the film as a whole -- but early on I appreciated Tarantino's skill in tension-building in I.B.. You can't be waiting for the next thing to happen. That first seen is full of veiled menace (the best kind of menace).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:19 AM on February 11, 2010


This is good.I had something to add to the artifice/film/mistaken identity/departure from reality angles explored in the piece.

At the very beginning of the film, we are shown three or four shots of the nazi entourage approaching LaPedite's farm. However, everytime they are shown, they are moving from the same spot to the same spot. It is only on the final time that they are shown to advance at all.

Why would a skilled director put such an obvious continuity error in the opening scenes of a very important film? I think it was to show that in this movie, anything that needs to happen to advance the story will happen, regardless of how outlandish it seems.

Examples: Landa's morphing job responsibilities, and the lack of actual security at the theater,
posted by chrillsicka at 11:28 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I enjoyed reading these (I just read all the Basterds ones) and about 80% of the time I find this guy interesting and adroit, but that other 20% of the time I'm just amazed that he gets it so wrong. For instance:

"What's more, Wicki never comes to Hicox's aide, and Stiglitz looks ready to spit bullets as he reminisces about being whipped at the hands of the SS."

Um. Tarantino is not showing Hugo reminiscing about being whipped, or maybe he is, but not for that reason - he is showing what it feels like for Hugo to have to play the game with the card on your head. Hugo is saying "I'm a killer, a monster. I can handle being whipped, but please God, not the parlor game!", but of course he can't do anything but play.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:29 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I'm reading him correctly, Tarantino manipulated me - on purpose, you see - into being bored and frustrated by "using the audience's desire for release against it."

He manipulated me into thinking - correctly - that it looked and felt like a Sergio Leone movie and that it was awesome.
posted by The World Famous at 11:29 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like Inglourious Basterds better now, after reading that, than I did when I first saw the film (which is a high compliment to Alcott). Thanks for posting.

Another movie that does the "comment on the nature of violence and our reaction to it by making the audience cheer for violence, and simultaneously make them feel uncomfortable for doing so" thing is Natural Born Killers. (That's not a criticism of Inglourious Basterds, just an observation.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:31 AM on February 11, 2010


From page five of the IG analysis: The real subject of Inglourious Basterds is, I think, the way we see ourselves and the world through movies.

This is the conclusion I drew immediately after seeing the film; it is, more than any other film Tarantino has helmed, a movie about movie narratives. This actually made the whole glorious mess a lot more interesting and coherent, and it made sense of the Bowie-music montage --- a fantastically cheesy movie moment that simply doesn't belong in a WWII-era film, but ,em>does belong in a movie about movies.
posted by Elsa at 11:35 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


This almost convinced me that Tarantino had made a good film, and that his intentions were to implicate the audience.

But then I remembered that it's a Tarantino film, which means only one thing: It's a long mediation on movie tropes that Tarantino thinks are fucking awesome, spiced up with some punchy dialogue and a talent for suspense, but shallow shallow shallow.

Tarantino is like Chauncey Gardener. He's a talented idiot whose idiocy can be interpreted as deep thinking by smart people, because they like him and desperately wish he was as smart as they desperately wish he was.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on February 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


Basterds stretches this tendency to ridiculous extremes, ending up as an examination and critique of cinematic art.

I think I'm going to adore this essay.

I've had (sadly) a dreadful falling out with my lovely stepfather over Basterds - I recommended he watch it on dvd (he once worked as a film critic & is very smart) and he just wrote to me, furiously, that its childish shock tactics are morally repugnant to anyone who was alive during the war.

Feelings are running a little too high on both sides for a debate (I'm feeling pretty scalped!). But I spent ages combing all the reviews for someone who saw the movie first & foremost (as I did) as brilliantly mordant commentary on war movies - rather than the war itself.

It was really strange. Reviewer after reviewer noticed, of course, the multiple clever references to other films. But then they'd observe - sometimes approvingly, other times not - that it was just Tarantino being geeky & playful or up to his old provocative tricks.

But only a handful saw Basterds primarily - as it seems Todd Alcott does - as a critique of the implicit manipulation of war movies.

(On preview - Elsa said it better!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:45 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tarantino is like Chauncey Gardener. He's a talented idiot whose idiocy can be interpreted as deep thinking by smart people, because they like him and desperately wish he was as smart as they desperately wish he was.

And yet somehow his films aren't Avatar or Transformers. Hmm.
posted by The World Famous at 11:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


And yet somehow his films aren't Avatar or Transformers. Hmm.

That's true. There's a lot of things they ain't.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:49 AM on February 11, 2010


"This almost convinced me that Tarantino had made a good film, and that his intentions were to implicate the audience.

But then I remembered that it's a Tarantino film, which means only one thing: It's a long mediation on movie tropes that Tarantino thinks are fucking awesome, spiced up with some punchy dialogue and a talent for suspense, but shallow shallow shallow.

Tarantino is like Chauncey Gardener. He's a talented idiot whose idiocy can be interpreted as deep thinking by smart people, because they like him and desperately wish he was as smart as they desperately wish he was."


I know what these words mean, but these sentences make no sense. Let me see if I follow this: You read an article that goes into detail about what the author thinks Tarantino's going for in Basterds; you then decide that it's all hogwash because you're not willing to read anything into the work that doesn't fit your preconcieved notions of what a Tarantino film "is". Then you rip his fans for using their preconceived notions to read something into the same film - which is what you're doing to reject Alcott's arguments. In other words, I think your cognition's been dissonanced.
posted by Toby Dammit X at 12:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


oh shit. is this the pile on Astro Zombie thread? ok.

YOU ARE DUMB FOR NOT LIKING TARANTINO, AND WHAT YOU SAY IS STUPID BECAUSE OF HOW DUMB YOU ARE.
posted by shmegegge at 12:29 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two comments is a pile-on?
posted by stinkycheese at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2010


But then I remembered that it's a Tarantino film, which means only one thing: It's a long mediation on movie tropes that Tarantino thinks are fucking awesome, spiced up with some punchy dialogue and a talent for suspense, but shallow shallow shallow...interpreted as deep thinking by smart people, because they like him and desperately wish he was as smart as they desperately wish he was.


Or maybe you're just not smart enough to understand Basterds?

I don't believe that's true at all, Astro Zombie. But it's pretty feeble to suggest that some of us are just shallow fools admiring our own reflections.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2010


Well, let me clearer.

Tarantino's stumbled onto a neat trick: Intertextuality. He's seen a lot of movies and endlessly references them. He also has a legitimate talent for writing dialogue and crafting suspense, and he's got a certain degree of brazeness in how he crafts stories.'

Without his reliance on intertextuality, we'd really just think of him as an action filmmaker, although one with a taste for trashy films. But because he uses previous films in a crafty way -- like a collage creator -- his films end up seeming like they mean a lot more than they do. And he's not really using intertextuality the way it's meant to be used -- he's not altering the meaning of past works of art by creating a new one that comments on them; not in general. Instead, he's piggybacking on their meaning, and on the accidental but still enjoyable new meaning that are created when two surprising things are placed next too each other. It creates the sense that a commentary is going on, but that can be an illusion if its not intentional, and can be very shallow even when it is (look at the use of names like Morpheus and phrases like The Desert of the Real in The Matrix, which briefly souped up a pleasant actioner by making it seem like there was some complicated intellectual underpinnings; in fact, there wasn't.)

But we can discover Tarantino's intentions in making his films pretty easily, because Tarantino himself just cant' shut up about it. And he's not just being breezy in interviews. His films really are a greatest hits of what he though was awesome in previous films, and anything that happens in them happens because he thinks its badass. He wasn't trying to implicate the audience in Inglorious -- that's what people who like the film tell themselves to make okay the fact that the ending is a savage, amaoral cinematic moment, and is only okay if we somehow pretend Tarantino was exploring how propaganda works by using the techniques on us.

But Tarantino wasn't. He made the film because he knew he could do anything he wanted to Nazis, because they are cinema's most reliable bad guys, and he loved the idea of killing the Nazi high command, and has a terrifically unnuanced understanding of the uses of cinematic violence, except that he likes the effect it has on audiences. He's said as much, over and over and over again, and yet we go on like there is some sort of cloistered, secretive genius under there who is actually providing a hidden metacommentary.

Well, there is, you're right. But it ain't Tarantino. It's Pabst and Morricone and a thousand other directors, and they are commenting without intending to, because Tarantino is quoting them, and they are even the ones commenting. We are, the audience, because we catch those reference and assume they have a deliberate meaning, and so add that meaning to the film.

And that is certainly a legitimate approach to watching films. But it's important, when doing so, not to mistake that analysis for the one Tarantino brought to his own film. He's the filmmaker who have every single character in the movie long, loving monologues about the history and importance of film -- except Shoshanna, the cinema owner who actually, apparently, owns the films and programs them. She's mute on the subject of films (except at the finale, although what she offers there isn't the same.) And she's the one who should rightfully get such a monologue. But Tarantino is too obsessed with his thuggish strike force and his dazzling Nazi to be bothered to give the film lover a line about how much she loves film. Probably because it didn't strike him as being badass, so it never occurred to him that the film might benefit from the moment, especially as Shosanna's revenge is the one that relies most on the character articulating the transformative power of film.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:41 PM on February 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


This almost convinced me that Tarantino had made a good film, and that his intentions were to implicate the audience.

But then I remembered that it's a Tarantino film, which means only one thing: It's a long mediation on movie tropes that Tarantino thinks are fucking awesome, spiced up with some punchy dialogue and a talent for suspense, but shallow shallow shallow.

Tarantino is like Chauncey Gardener. He's a talented idiot whose idiocy can be interpreted as deep thinking by smart people, because they like him and desperately wish he was as smart as they desperately wish he was.


I like how you use this comment to try and implicate the audience of Tarantino films by using a cinematic reference that you think is fucking awesome, combined with some punchy words, but it is ultimately shallow shallow shallow and doesn't address the substance of the movie at all.

I mean, if we're piling on.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:45 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


You could try not to pile on.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:46 PM on February 11, 2010


Basterds is a plate of beans that is easily overthought. It is, however, a damn good plate of beans.
posted by The World Famous at 12:46 PM on February 11, 2010


I found it to be poisoned. I did not need Tarantino rewriting the history of my people during the moment of their European destruction into a shallow cinematic piece that celebrated terrorism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:48 PM on February 11, 2010


I fall somewhere between the Astro Zombie and the Alcott camps; my immediate reaction to the essays (which were very well-written and engaging) was this:

Just because Tarantino's multiple-protagonist, multiple-opening, multiple-layered approach to the movie was intentional doesn't automatically make it a good idea.

If I go along with Alcott to an extent and accept that he's 100% right about Tarantino and his intentions, that still doesn't make it a good film. I thought Basterds was turgid and overwrought; saying "hey, Tarantino totally meant to make it turgid and overwrought do you see do you see" doesn't mean turgid and overwrought is good, just... intentional.

And I'm not that willing to go along with Alcott. Had I the time on my hands, I'd say "pick any movie, anything from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians to Tropic Thunder to The Seventh Seal and I can write a 10,000-word essay about how it was a deliberate, post-modern masterpiece", but I don't have the time on my hands, and I think y'all are clever enough to imagine what such an essay might be like.

I'm impressed with Alcott's ability to analyze, and to draw meaning from things, but I suspect that there isn't as much there there as Alcott thinks there is -- and that even if there is, sculpting Michaelangelo's David from poop doesn't mean the statue won't stink.
posted by Shepherd at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2010


Tarantino is like Chauncey Gardener. He's a talented idiot whose idiocy can be interpreted as deep thinking by smart people, because they like him and desperately wish he was as smart as they desperately wish he was.

I'm not a fan of all his stuff, but you sound like every freshman film major I've had the displeasure of meeting (if you were talking about Stephen King I'd say "English Major.")

Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, From Dusk Til Dawn -- the man can occasionally tell a good story, which puts him well beyond most of Hollywood.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:50 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could try not to pile on.

You make it kind of tough when beginning your conclusions with "But then I remembered that it's a Tarantino film, which means only one thing".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:51 PM on February 11, 2010


Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, From Dusk Til Dawn -- the man can occasionally tell a good story, which puts him well beyond most of Hollywood.

I would never say otherwise. He's a good storyteller. I generally like him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:52 PM on February 11, 2010


Well, I actually was joking about the pile-on part, in the sense that I don't think people responding to your comment about the substance of your comment about Tarantino in a Tarantino thread was piling on any more than I think your comment was trolling. Isn't that what this is all here for?

And I honestly think it's interesting that you used a fairly inside cinema reference to make your point about his referencing of cinema.

But, yeah, I guess I should be more careful anyway, because I can see how it reads now.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:52 PM on February 11, 2010


You make it kind of tough when beginning your conclusions with "But then I remembered that it's a Tarantino film, which means only one thing".

I stand by my analysis: He's a fun but shallow filmmaker. Does that really call for a pile-on?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:53 PM on February 11, 2010


in the sense that I don't think people responding to your comment about the substance of your comment about Tarantino in a Tarantino thread was piling on any more than I think your comment was trolling.

Fair enough. It's not really a pile-on. But I wish people would address my points rather than responding with NO YOU'RE SHALLOW, as a few have done.

All I do with beans is overthink them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:54 PM on February 11, 2010


If IB is about sublimating the audience's expectations of/desire for violence, why do the Nazi High Command get so spectacularly killed at the end? Why not have the plot(s) discovered at the last minute and the plotters executed by firing squad offscreen or something?

I get the sense most people just straight-up enjoyed the violence in an unironic fashion.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:57 PM on February 11, 2010


He's a fun but shallow filmmaker.

His Jackie Brown is a notable exception wrt shallow filmmaking.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:00 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let me articulater my discomfort with the film a little more, although it isn't my intention to dominate this thread.

I wouldn't mind anything Tarantino did were it set in a universe that we can assume to be fantastical. His crime films aren't really crime films -- they're cinematic excercises, playing off and expanding on longstanding filmic tropes that don't claim to be based in reality in any way. There is no actual super-Ninja assassin squad that flies back and forth to Japan with their Samurai swords by their sides (and I recall, in that image, that everybody on the flight had a samurai sword by their side.) Actual psychosexual murderers don't drive muscle cars with skulls on them. We're in a world that is divorced enough from reality that Tarantino didn't owe any dues to the truth, and, because he was playing with exploitation film themes, was free to be outrageous, because exploitation films are outrageous, and we know that it's not the real world. There might be some questions about the contents of the film in a sort of broader analysis -- how comfortable are we, for instance, with how he treats race in his films? But nobody is going to say, oh, that Jules, he's based on a real guy who did real stuff, and the film is, in part, relying on us knowing that.

But Inglorious was, at its heart, a Holocaust film. It's a Jewish revenge film, and the revenge they are taking is revenge against the Nazis and their Holocaust. The filmr elies on us sharing an understanding of the Holocaust, and opens with the murder of a Jewish family. The Basterds themselves are Jews.

Well, we're out of the world of make-believe now, and into the world of history. And I think we owe a debt to history. It is okay to fictionalize it, but we need to be cautious in how we do so, and senstitive to the way are interstects with history. And this film wasn't that. It really was just another Tarantino film, except he muddled into the Holocaust, where he was badly out of his depth, and created a film that didn't feel to me like it was adding anything new to the subject, except to get us to cheer for death. Worse still, the film nazis, even when Tarantino would make gestures at humanizing them, were very much movie Nazis: oily, unctuous, weirdly civilized, and ruthless. And you don't take revenge for an actual historical act by destroying cinematic constructs. It would be fine if the Holocaust were just something made up for the film, but it wasn't, and it was a mark of Tarantino's lack of maturity as a filmmaker that he wanted to make a movie that was mostly about movie stuff, but to give it real oomph, he made the fundamental terror of the film rooted in an actual, and unimaginably terrible, historic event.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I wish people would address my points rather than responding with NO YOU'RE SHALLOW

You mean the points about using and re-writing historical events which many feel are still painfully close to them, or the "point" about it being Tarantino, so it can't possibly mean anything beyond "hey, this'll be cool"?

Cause I see only one actual point worthy of discussion there. I think you pretty much got the response you asked for, and all of it was non-pile-on-ish and reasonable.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2010


See there, we go.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2010


Jackie Brown is a terrific film. Tarantino is a great collaborator, when he's collaborating with the right people. Elmore Leonard was one of those right people.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


What an odd, place for, a comma.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2010


You may have missed several paragraphs from me, Durn.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on February 11, 2010


Astro, let's put aside the argument over intertextuality, because it really has no bearing on the quality of Basterds - besides a throwaway joke about Lilian Harvey, there is not a moment in the film that requires much knowledge of cinematic history to be enjoyed. It's just one of those tropes people like to trot out whenever Tarantino comes into conversation, whether it's relevant to the film being discussed or not.

The simple fact is, he made a war movie with precious little violence in it until we get to the part where Hitler's laughing at all the carnage in Nation's Pride; right there, in the most blatant example of what Tarantino's done with this movie, it's already deeper than what you're giving it credit for. That's without going into detail about the games he plays with identity, both national and personal, that he plays throughout the film - games that have nothing substantial to do with referencing old movies that he likes.

Really, if you don't like the film because you don't like Tarantino's style, that's OK , because it certainly doesn't fit everyone's tastes; but don't deny that the film has merit just because of that.
posted by Toby Dammit X at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2010


I disagree with your assessment, Toby. If you see Basterds as not being violent until that moment, you saw a different film than me. It's rife with really pungent, really repellent images of violence, from the baseball bat beating to the massacre at the saloon.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on February 11, 2010


"...and is only okay if we somehow pretend Tarantino was exploring how propaganda works by using the techniques on us."

Astro Zombie,
I do understand what you're saying.

But - unlike you - I don't have to "pretend" anything about Tarantino that's not on the screen. I don't have to pretend I think he's sublime - or stupid. I just have to watch the film!

Look, I've just reread your comment.

All you are saying, it seems, is something like "this might look like a clever, thoughtful film. But let us not forget it cannot possibly be a clever thoughtful film. Because Tarantino cannot make clever, thoughtful films."

Basterds, for me, is one of the very few war-themed films I've ever watched which made me question why we watch films about war - even while I was watching it.

(And it wasn't very long after the (shockingly) comically large pipe was produced in the latter part of the opening farmhouse story that I realized Tarantino knew perfectly well what he was doing.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


"But Inglorious was, at its heart, a Holocaust film."

"I found it to be poisoned. I did not need Tarantino rewriting the history of my people during the moment of their European destruction into a shallow cinematic piece that celebrated terrorism."

OK, I understand now: You just thought the movie was supposed to be something that it clearly wasn't - a sympathetic, accurate portrayal of the Holocaust rather than a meditation on the nature and appeal of war movies. Why you think your utterly unrealistic expectations of the film have any bearing on what the film actually was isn't very clear, but hey, it's not like there are dozens of movies out there that treat the subject matter the way you personally want to see...

Oh, wait.
posted by Toby Dammit X at 1:19 PM on February 11, 2010


"I disagree with your assessment, Toby. If you see Basterds as not being violent until that moment, you saw a different film than me. It's rife with really pungent, really repellent images of violence, from the baseball bat beating to the massacre at the saloon."

Images that might take up two minutes' worth of a two-and-a-half hour film, if we watched them in slow motion.
posted by Toby Dammit X at 1:21 PM on February 11, 2010


Astro Zombie,

A serious question - have you ever enjoyed any of the "classic" WW2 movies? (Movies like The Great Escape, say, rather than The Dirty Dozen.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:21 PM on February 11, 2010


Ah, so I did, AZ.

I'll agree with Toby, though. It's violence was graphic but there wasn't nearly as much of it as I was expecting from people's descriptions, which reminds me of Reservoir Dogs back in the day. People described it as the most violent movie they'd ever seen, but there was far more of an atmosphere of violence pervading the film than actual acts depicted. Which is a neat trick. Hell, the typical thing to do is to demonstrate violence and thereafter only the threat of it, and the viewer will take their cue from the foregoing example. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, that whole first scene was explosive (in a way that a tantrum-wracked Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast wasn't, at least for me, to relate this to another MeFi film conversation) long before any actual violence occurred.

None of that is "deep", mind you, but it certainly is skillful.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2010


All you are saying, it seems, is something like "this might look like a clever, thoughtful film. But let us not forget it cannot possibly be a clever thoughtful film. Because Tarantino cannot make clever, thoughtful films."

I don't know if he can. I'm saying, from his itnerviews, it's pretty explicit that he didn't and wasn't intending to. All of my comments, about him wanting to make a movie because he's aping what he thinks is badass in other films, is based on what he actually said.

You just thought the movie was supposed to be something that it clearly wasn't - a sympathetic, accurate portrayal of the Holocaust rather than a meditation on the nature and appeal of war movies.

Couold I ask that you not rephrase what I say? You don't seem to be doing a very good job of it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2010


Its. Goddamn, that's painful.

Yeah, I try to avoid Tarantino interviews. Or anything at all in which he speaks. I can't tell if he's insightful or not, becuase I can't get past the deep, deep annoyance.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:28 PM on February 11, 2010


It is okay to fictionalize [the war], but we need to be cautious in how we do so, and senstitive to the way are interstects with history.

Yes, Astro Zombie.

You could do all that.

Or - if you are Tarantino - you could take as your base material NOT the war itself, but the most prominent cinema versions of the defining conflict of the twentieth century - the good, the bad and the very, very ugly - and construct your movie narrative out of that tapestry to demonstrate how saturated we all are by cinema's hold on history.

And to PROVE to the prissy - by which I mean the rare viewer who has never, ever allowed him or herself - to feel the faintest twinge of satisfaction when a screen nazi gets his just desserts, or when the movie heroes are wittier or better looking or more noble than they were in real life - to PROVE that you are not trying to exploit what actually happened - you go and change the one historical fact that cannot be changed. You go and show the heroes killing Hitler.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:50 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think there is a scrap of evidence that this was Tarantino's point. I think he just thought it would be fun to kill Hitler.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on February 11, 2010


I like when Tarantino takes material from dumb cheesy action films to make beefed up, super dumb cheesy action films. That's really what he's about, finding the top, and going over it.

So I didn't mind either of these.
posted by mikeh at 1:53 PM on February 11, 2010


I don't think there is a scrap of evidence that this was Tarantino's point. I think he just thought it would be fun to kill Hitler.

You've never watched a movie about some of the plots to actually kill Hitler, and wish they had, in fact, succeeded?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:57 PM on February 11, 2010


Listen, I'm not saying that's a bad idea for a film. It could be a very interesting tale set in an alternate timeline.

I didn't feel this was it, because Tarantino's taste for making a nasty and amoral revenge flick elimated any nuance or ambiguity that would have deepened the tale, and instead made something that felt like an argument for terrorism. And I don't especially like the Holocaust being used for those purposes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:00 PM on February 11, 2010


I found it to be poisoned. I did not need Tarantino rewriting the history of my people during the moment of their European destruction into a shallow cinematic piece that celebrated terrorism.

This may be where we intersect opinions on the film: I watched it with fascination that turned to anxiety that turned to repulsion. The [spoiler] fiery scene in the theater upset me deeply; while my companion watched it with a "YEE-HA crush the Nazis!" enthusiasm, such an operatic, luxurious spectacle of suffering, no matter whose, felt blankly monstrous to me.

I guess where you and I differ is simple: I suspect that the director engineered the moment so that some viewers would feel that horror and revulsion, while some would simply embrace the emotional high of the supposed moral victory. That is, I think (and hope) that Tarantino intended that to be an emotional and morally ambiguous moment.

From that moment on, to me IG felt a lot like Funny Games, but with less moral posturing and assumed complicity, and with a greater understanding of the range of audience reactions to film violence.

That is, I don't think IG unambiguously celebrates terrorism, but that it raises the question of why viewers and filmmakers alike celebrate it in film. This idea is, uh, tricky at best when explored through recent tragic history, and I don't blame anyone who feels that it's too ugly and vile to enjoy.

But then, our opinions differ in one big way: I do think that there's some vigorous and masterful reclaiming of familiar imagery and vignettes going on in Tarantino's body of work, and that he is creating movies that not only rely upon our familiarity with previous narratives, but that intelligently observe and remark upon our relationship with these narrative footpaths that have been so well trod before.
posted by Elsa at 2:05 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Listen, I'm not saying that's a bad idea for a film. It could be a very interesting tale set in an alternate timeline.

Astro,
But the basterds - the killers -are ALSO from Tarantino's alternate films-about-WW2 universe!
That's the bloody point.

That's why we keep sorta recognizing everyone - they are all from movies about the war, but stepping in and out of different genres.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:10 PM on February 11, 2010


But the basterds - the killers -are ALSO from Tarantino's alternate films-about-WW2 universe!
That's the bloody point.


You seem to miss my point, which is that I feel like the subject was handled insentively. And, since the shadow of the Holocaust falls across this film, sensitivity is required.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:13 PM on February 11, 2010


Tarantino's taste for making a nasty and amoral revenge flick elimated any nuance or ambiguity that would have deepened the tale

Well, depends on your idea of nuance. A lot of viewers seemed to think Mookie throwing the trash can through Sal's window at the end of Do The Right Thing was a hamfisted plot element, but it was a brilliant way of forcing the viewer to walk away with more than they could easily chew. The right people doing the right things, to the end, isn't particularly challenging. Ironically, you seem to be charging Tarantino with doing the easy thing, which would have been to do exactly that, with a few slick film tropes. But he didn't. Whether that was intentional or not is up for grabs, I guess.

It certainly wasn't handled sensitively. But no one walks out of a sensitive movie feeling anything they weren't prepared to feel before. Perhaps that's why this bothers you? Because there is, and should be, only one way to feel about this subject?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:14 PM on February 11, 2010


Because there is, and should be, only one way to feel about this subject?

Hardly. There are a million stories that can be told about the Holocaust. I didn't think the YAY JEWS TERRORIZE AND MURDER AND SCALP NAZIS was a very good one, and I though Shoshanna was far and away the weakest character in the film, which seemed like a horrible waste of an opportunity to me.

Tarantino obviously was enjoying his Nazis a lot more than his Jews. We barely meet most of the Basterds, and the renegade Nazi mudering German officer is given much more screen time than any of the other Basterds, as is the non-Jewish officer (except perhaps the Bear Jew, who Tarantino also obviously thought was fun.)

I like stories that challenge me. I'm not sure I like stories that challenge me to have fun with this sort of story. I guess I feel like it's like mounting a comedy in a graveyard.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:20 PM on February 11, 2010


And, to make clearer my objection, it's the graveyard of my ancestors, and the fun that's being had is with their deaths.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2010


No, you made that point quite clear.

I agree with all of your comments above, regarding (lack of) characterization.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:27 PM on February 11, 2010


You seem to miss my point, which is that I feel like the subject was handled insentively. And, since the shadow of the Holocaust falls across this film, sensitivity is required.

Astro Zombie,
No, I understand that.

You and I appear to disagree about the subject of Tarantino's movie.
I think his subject was movies about the war.
And, by extension, how our generation has been shaped by them.
You don't.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:28 PM on February 11, 2010


I think his subject was movies about the war.

No, I agree. I just don't think he realizes that thge subject also intersects with history. It's not simply an essay on films about war he's making, it ends up being a film that addresses an actual historical moment, and not a small one either. That's where I find him to be shallow.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:34 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just don't think he realizes that thge subject also intersects with history.

And I regard what he does to Hitler as addressing this very point, unambiguously.

(Thanks, btw, for keeping incredibly courteous about this disagreement.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:41 PM on February 11, 2010


I get the sense most people just straight-up enjoyed the violence in an unironic fashion.

Well, the same is true of Natural Born Killers and A Clockwork Orange. Just because Stone's and Kubrick's point about the effect of violence-as-entertainment on its viewers flew over the heads of many people doesn't mean the point wasn't there.

I haven't read/heard the Tarantino interviews AZ cites, so I can't comment on whether Tarantino intended the message Alcott sees in IB. But like I said above, I like IB better now after reading Alcott's analysis (initially, I wasn't thrilled with the movie because I thought it was too over-the-top, even for Tarantino), and the idea that the movie can be viewed in that way, whether Tarantino intended it or not. (And I like The Merchant of Venice with Shylock as a sympathetic figure even if Shakespeare didn't intend it that way.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:51 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Inglourious Basterds...

Sweet cookie cutter was that an awful film.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:03 PM on February 11, 2010


Since a couple of people have mentioned Natural Born Killers as examples of a film other than Tarantino's work that is similarly violent, I feel the need to point out that Quentin Tarantino wrote Natural Born Killers. He just didn't direct it.

So, whatever point people think Oliver Stone was trying to make with Natural Born Killers could just as easily be a point that Tarantino, who wrote the story, was trying to make.
posted by The World Famous at 3:05 PM on February 11, 2010


Since a couple of people have mentioned Natural Born Killers as examples of a film other than Tarantino's work that is similarly violent,

Well, actually that was just one person (me) who mentioned it twice. But thanks for pointing out that Tarantino wrote it; I hadn't realized that.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:13 PM on February 11, 2010


Your point was a good one, DevilsAdvocate - but it is a little different in context of the writer. Tarantino also wrote True Romance, for whatever it's worth.
posted by The World Famous at 3:22 PM on February 11, 2010


Shoshanna, the cinema owner who actually, apparently, owns the films and programs them. She's mute on the subject of films ... But Tarantino is too obsessed with his thuggish strike force and his dazzling Nazi to be bothered to give the film lover a line about how much she loves film. Probably because it didn't strike him as being badass, so it never occurred to him that the film might benefit from the moment, especially as Shosanna's revenge is the one that relies most on the character articulating the transformative power of film.

What? No. I think it's true that Shoshanna is the character with the best understanding of the REALITY of film, that's it's all nice little fantasies. And she knows better than anyone how those film-inspired fantasies can hurt people, that polite joking and playing along in the fantasy movie world has to end because shit is real (this is reflected in the cafe basement scene). She knows there's nothing special about film.

And really I think Shoshanna hates film. In the climax of the movie she ignites a giant pile of it in order to burn down the theater and kill the whole fucking audience. I walked out of the theater thinking she's the only real character in the movie.

I think what is confusing about Tarantino is that I don't think he doesn't often synthesis his kewl stuff very well. He does have some moments of structural brilliance but I think he considers those to be just another kewl thing to add into the mix, instead of as an organizing principal. So his movies often come out a bit jumbled. and open to your criticism of "It's just a meaningless assemblage of tropes, innit?"

So in general I'm agreeing with you about Tarantino, AZ, but somehow I'm not agreeing with any of your finer points about IB.
posted by fleacircus at 6:10 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think AZ's main problem with IB is his Jewish connection, and he's basically saying that for him, from his perspective, it's too soon.
posted by hippybear at 6:44 PM on February 11, 2010



And really I think Shoshanna hates film.


Interesting take! Material to think about.
posted by The Whelk at 6:45 PM on February 11, 2010


FWIW, my wife and I both saw the movie semi-involuntarily and had basically Astro Zombie's reaction to it. (With a bit of Elsa.) That is, both of us are English majors, and we both about halfway through the movie turned to each other and said, "Does he realize he's making the Nazis more human, nuanced, and sympathetic than his protagonists? Does he realize that Hitler laughing at the Allied deaths could be read as a subtle commentary on the audience?" (Who, at our screening, WERE laughing and clapping and cheering the gruesome Nazi deaths, apparently without realizing the irony.)

We ended the film feeling sick and angry. We actually considered walking out; the only reason we didn't was because it was a party for a friend of ours.

I went and read some of Tarantino's comments and interviews, just to check and see if he'd actually turned into a brilliant postmodern filmmaker who used alienation and subtle role reversal to make a cutting commentary on the state of modern culture/war movies/etc. And there I found the same old Tarantino, talking about how awesome all of it was and how many movies he managed to reference at once.

While I support the idea that a text can be read without recourse to authorial intent, Tarantino's authorial intent is pretty goddamn awful to me. Inglorious Basterds still makes me queasy to think about. (God, he wanted us to cheer at the end. Ugh.)
posted by Scattercat at 7:13 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


He does have some moments of structural brilliance but I think he considers those to be just another kewl thing to add into the mix, instead of as an organizing principal.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when the Butz guy is telling Hitler about the Basterds and getting a swastika carved into his forehead, we not only get a flashback of that incident, we get introduced to Hugo Stiglitz with a fancy retro font within that flashback, and then we see flashbacks regarding Stiglitz within Butz's recollection flashback.

Again, unless I'm remembering that incorrectly, that's some pretty sloppy storytelling and film-making there.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:20 PM on February 11, 2010


I went and read some of Tarantino's comments and interviews, just to check and see if he'd actually turned into a brilliant postmodern filmmaker who used alienation and subtle role reversal to make a cutting commentary on the state of modern culture/war movies/etc. And there I found the same old Tarantino, talking about how awesome all of it was and how many movies he managed to reference at once.

On the other hand, for the director of Pulp Fiction to make a movie about the pulp fiction elements of countless war movies doesn't seem such a stretch to me.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:49 PM on February 11, 2010


Stinkycheese: This is where our opinions differ. I thought that flashback was one of the smartest things in that film. It was splendidly done.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:07 PM on February 11, 2010


It's not a stretch, Jody; I just find his worldview unpleasant and his moral sensibilities vaguely repugnant, and am vaguely resentful that the shock of seeing Hitler laughing and then seeing that echoed in the faces around me being some sort of Lucasian fluke instead of the expression of an artist trying very hard to say something meaningful.
posted by Scattercat at 8:21 PM on February 11, 2010


It may not be possible to fully understand this film without watching the "full" (though quite limited) version of the Nazi propaganda film included on the DVD.

Does he realize he's making the Nazis more human, nuanced, and sympathetic than his protagonists? Does he realize that Hitler laughing at the Allied deaths could be read as a subtle commentary on the audience?

This actually is the key to the movie. Put simply, IB is the propaganda movie the Nazis are watching. Sympathetic Nazis. Violent, uncouth Jews. A Jewess making love to a Negro, plotting the death of the Fuhrer. In the end, classless American perfidy. The true irony is that if you watch the bits of the film-within-the-film Nation's Pride, it actually portrays the Americans as pretty professional soldiers. An American even rescues a baby (although ambiguously holding it up as protection [the real reason for the scene is of course for QT to create an Eisensteinian reference])! In the film, Frederick isn't actually given any American brutality to punish. If anything, he's shown as emotionally drained by the violence and brutal himself -- shooting a medic and a wounded man. The American general is even adamant about protecting the Italian church spire (dialog clearly echoing the almost sympathetic German commandant in Is Paris Burning?). If this were truly a Nazi propaganda film, it would be an exceptionally weak one. But on the other hand, IB is everything Nation's Pride isn't, yet because it's inverted, the genius is that we don't see it even though it's right in front of our faces.

Sorry, AZ, this could only have been done by invoking the Holocaust.

that's some pretty sloppy storytelling and film-making there

No, that's some pretty exact undercutting of expectations.

And really I think Shoshanna hates film.

I don't think so. I think she has a realistic understanding of its unreality. For QT, the ultimate film archivist, to place her in the position of igniting all that history doesn't seem likely unless he's trying to make a larger point.
posted by dhartung at 11:18 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does he realize that Hitler laughing at the Allied deaths could be read as a subtle commentary on the audience?

Oh, I think he loved taking a parody of a propaganda film (Nation's Pride) and wrapping it in a part of the movie which was the same sort of propaganda-ish slaughterfest itself, then lighting it on fire and flipping it into the audience's lap.

I think it was supposed to make you uncomfortable in your response, much like the accidental shooting in Pulp Fiction. In that instance you might allow yourself to laugh because you know it's just a movie. I think when you watch IB you can also think: you know, c'mon, fuck the Nazi High Command.

(I don't listen to Tarantino's interviews much. I think he's a big movie nerd and likes to talk about his favorite movie nerd subjects to those people who might read interviews. The movies stand on their own. If you go to work for 12 hours then someone asks you about your day you're going to say what it amuses you to say at the time.)

I think AZ's main problem with IB is his Jewish connection, and he's basically saying that for him, from his perspective, it's too soon.

That's sort of the way Abigail Nussbaum feels about it. Personally my call is: no foul.
posted by fleacircus at 12:30 AM on February 12, 2010


No, that's some pretty exact undercutting of expectations.

Well, that's a generous reading, to say the very least. When a character in a film starts telling a story to another character in a film, & we get a flashback of that first character's recollection, my expectation is that the recollection is that of the character telling the story.

So having Raine start narrating in the middle of Butz's flashback is certainly undercutting my expectations, yes. I don't see anything exact about it though. Again, it just seems sloppy to this viewer.

I like Tarantino as a filmmaker generally, and I was really looking to IB after years of hearing him discuss it, but disappointing barely begins to cover my reaction upon actually seeing the film.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:36 AM on February 12, 2010


Let me be clear: flashbacks within flashbacks can certainly work in film, but it's important the audience understand what's going on (unless confusion is actually your intention). In reading various plot synopsis of IB, what's actually going on seems not at all clear; interpretations of the interrogation scene vary greatly. Is it Butz's memory? Is it Raine's?

Pulp Fiction was initially confusing because of its structure, but there is a 'consistent reality' there which becomes more obvious once the picture is complete. The more I watch IB, the more scatter-shot and confused it seems.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:04 AM on February 12, 2010


Pulp Fiction was initially confusing because of its structure, but there is a 'consistent reality' there which becomes more obvious once the picture is complete. The more I watch IB, the more scatter-shot and confused it seems.

Stinkycheese,
I've been a Basterds booster in this thread, but I agree the film is not a miracle of cohesion by a long shot.

Even Todd Alcott - for all his wonderful insights - is not entirely plausible on that score.

I still think there is at least some room for arguing that Tarantino - at times - is asking: "oh, so you thought you were watching THIS sort of war film? Guess again, maybe it's THIS sort of movie after all!".

On the other hand, maybe that's QT apologetics too far!

I just revisited The Dirty Dozen for the first time in years. I found it hard to take - but fascinating viewed as a major back story to Basterds.

Many of the criticisms of Tarantino in this thread would be dead on target if aimed at The Dirty Dozen (which sure as hell did NOT play as much more than a fictional crowd-pleasing gore flick about bad ass renegades).

There was some defensive muttering at the time of the earlier movie (1967) that it was partly intended to show that courage doesn't always have a noble face in war - as if that POV had never been previously explored in the cinema!

If that had ever been the intention behind The Dirty Dozen, most of it definitely got left on the cutting room floor!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:22 AM on February 12, 2010


Going to have to risk comments on the fly if I'm not to be left commenting in a long-dead thread. No time for more.

Thought the review was in places informative ("bushwackers") and incredibly insightful ("Zoller wants Shoshanna to see past his uniform, but Shoshanna knows she can't open that door -- she, herself, is wearing a "French civilian" uniform, a disguise that's keeping her alive in Nazi-occupied France."). I completely accept that, beyond a certain level, the interpretations are not likely to reflect Tarantino's intent. Yet when I consider particular odd little bits of the movie -- like (mentioned by the reviewer) von Hammersmark's comment about characters and nationalities -- I can't accept that this was just a bit of filler dialogue, even if the reviewer in this case plays coy about it meaning anything.

What I didn't get, but accept as common reaction, is the "thrill" of Nazi deaths in this movie, though I do remember that kind of audience complicity when I saw Natural Born Killers back in the day.

Probably the most surprising thing is how quickly 2 1/2 hours went by. It felt like 40 minutes, which, considering its long tension-building scenes, is quite a trick.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:43 AM on February 12, 2010


It's not a stretch, Jody; I just find his worldview unpleasant and his moral sensibilities vaguely repugnant, and am vaguely resentful that the shock of seeing Hitler laughing and then seeing that echoed in the faces around me being some sort of Lucasian fluke instead of the expression of an artist trying very hard to say something meaningful.

Scattercat,
I just googled your splendid phrase "Lucasian fluke" - and got a bit lost in a flurry of references, including whether physicist Stephen Hawking, Cambridge's Lucasian Prof of Mathematics has any right to make authoritative pronouncements about astrobiology - since it's not his field and therefore his guess, if correct, would be as much of a fluke as the next guy's!

Ummmm:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:56 AM on February 12, 2010


Jody Tresidder: There was some defensive muttering at the time of the earlier movie (1967) that it was partly intended to show that courage doesn't always have a noble face in war...

The Dirty Dozen is what I was most reminded of while watching IB, at least initially (the whole 'we're gonna kill Nazis' speech in particular). And I agree, you get set up for a story about these handpicked soldiers and assume we're going to get to see each of them highlighted in some sequence or other - but then, the next thing you know, half of them are already dead! I certainly get that aspect of the film.

Unfortunately, I think Tarantino's 'revised' war movie was often very boring compared to a standard genre war movie - the scene in the tavern, for instance, would have been five minutes tops in such a standard film, and would have likely demonstrated how good our protagonists are at what they do (instead of the rather bumbling slaughter the scene became). Frankly, I'd have preferred that.

For me, the strongest image in The Dirty Dozen was the dropping of grenades into the Nazi party at the end (through shafts in the ceiling, as I recall). The first time I saw that, it really shocked me. I thought: wow, that doesn't seem very brave or noble whatsoever (I was quite young at the time). So yeah, what you're described was very much what I took from it!
posted by stinkycheese at 8:04 AM on February 12, 2010


Unfortunately, I think Tarantino's 'revised' war movie was often very boring compared to a standard genre war movie - the scene in the tavern, for instance, would have been five minutes tops in such a standard film...Frankly, I'd have preferred that.

Stinkycheese,
You didn't ask yourself WHY you'd have preferred that scene to be shorter?

Obviously, that's a rhetorical question.

Since the answer (I insist:)) is something like "oh, here we are in the standard genre war movie tavern scene. Good. Right, so here is the evil, watchful nazi - and over here is the secretly sweating disguised airman - and any moment the latter is going to do something to betray his American nationality - like swap his fork to his right hand" -I seem to remember a Click and Clack Brothers NPR car show riddle about that! - "and then it'll LOOK like the nazi will "win" - but here comes the barman - who you thought was a nazi sympathizer - but actually he's Resistance - and bam-o! - the scene is over, and we're off to the next standard genre war movie scene"

Instead of which, Tarantino fiendishly messes with your war movie expectations - again.

Because that's what Basterds does - over and ingloriously over.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:30 AM on February 12, 2010


Quentin Tarantino interview about IB on Rachel Maddow (who may or may not have read this MeFi thread before the interview.) [WARNING: features Tarantino talking]

May have some salient points, for those who are interested.
posted by hippybear at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2010


Instead of which, Tarantino fiendishly messes with your war movie expectations - again.

I really do honestly understand this point -- but whereas I enjoyed these reversals in his earlier films, I thought they were boring or confusing or both in IB and, for that matter, in Death Proof as well.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:23 AM on February 12, 2010


I really do honestly understand this point -

Stinkycheese,
Yes, you do. And you said so. Very well.

I think I've become a bit unhinged about all this - and haven't noticed I've really been arguing in my head with my distant and disapproving dad (who loathed both the film and the notion that I dared recommend it to him.)

Even though, actually, I STILL think that when you say "x", what you really mean is.....etc blah blah etc:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:40 AM on February 12, 2010


Let me be clear: flashbacks within flashbacks can certainly work in film, but it's important the audience understand what's going on (unless confusion is actually your intention). In reading various plot synopsis of IB, what's actually going on seems not at all clear; interpretations of the interrogation scene vary greatly. Is it Butz's memory? Is it Raine's?

The initial flashback by Butz is Butz' memory. The "flashback" within the flashback is Butz recounting the legendary backstory as he understands it - which is not actually true. And that's why it's confusing: It's not a flashback. It's a lie designed to scare Nazis and propagate the Basterds fame and terror.

Hugo Stiglitz' backstory is a convenient fiction that Butz recounts because it's what Butz believes is the backstory. Is the viewer confused? Good. So is Butz and so is Hitler. In real life, people tell stories that include backstory elements that they couldn't possibly know firsthand. And that's what Butz is doing.

Also, if you think of it as a Sergio Leone film, the slow pacing makes a lot more sense. And if you like Sergio Leone films, you'll probably like the slow pacing instead of thinking that scenes like the tavern should have been shorter.
posted by The World Famous at 9:58 AM on February 12, 2010


I'm definitely a Tarantino superfan, and to me Basterds is at once his most flawed film, and maybe also his greatest. I've seen it over and over again now, and there are some things I still don't get, and I'm not sure there can be a satisfying answer to some of them. Why do the two plots never meet - even for the purposes of complications? Hell, even just a scene of Shoshana noticing that Landa was leaving with Raine and Little Man, and trying to convince him to stick around 'til the end of the picture.

Also, as cool and fun as it was out-of-context, the blaxploitation-style mini-story of Hugo Stiglitz was jarringly out-of-place in the greater film. That's a lot of hyphens.

But what the movie gets right is unlike anything I'd ever seen in film before (yes, even for all that it references) and what it gets wrong is still compulsively watchable. (I thought the "That's a bingo!" bit was the one blemish on Waltz's otherwise perfect performance, but it also stuck in my head like crazy.)

The first thing you've got to recognize about the movie is that it's a war movie without any war. The closest we get to any actual battle is the quick shot of Samm Levine firing into that windshield. No, this is a film about the power of images, and every single scene is about who someone is versus what they are seen as. Reputations are cultivated for maximum impact, enemies are reduced and dehumanized, covers are created, maintained, and blown, and people become brands like Aldo the Apache and The Bear Jew or, simply, Hugo Stiglitz.

The interrogation scenes are as fascinating as they are tense. While Tarantino doesn't ever put the Nazis on the same footing with Shoshana or the Basterds - Nazis are Nazis, after all, and we can all expect to come into the theatre with the understanding that killing Nazis is a noble endeavor - he does introduce us to Germans that we stay with for long enough to view as individuals, in a movie whose supposed "hero" is hell-bent on equating the man with the uniform. Zoller was a masterstroke - at the end I was almost pissed that I couldn't justify liking him, which I think is the exactly right reaction to have to such a character.

In the end, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel about any of it, particularly how things ended up for Landa, who deserved far worse than he got, and yet chose to bring the war to an end as well. Again, I feel like this was right. But I know that I, for one, had no feelings of ambiguity when the theatre was burning down and the Basterds were firing their machine guns willy-nilly, because it's fucking Hitler. And the rest of the high command. I'm not going to feel bad for enjoying that.

I'm going to stop here because I could just keep going on about IB indefinitely. But while I get AZ's point about the insensitivity of the subject matter, I disagree that Tarantino just stumbles into depth ass-backwards. This movie was meticulously constructed around its themes, and for me, at least, it worked gangbusters.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:14 AM on February 12, 2010


The World Famous: And if you like Sergio Leone films, you'll probably like the slow pacing instead of thinking that scenes like the tavern should have been shorter.

Ugh. I love Sergio Leone films. I've happily watched Tarkovsky and Ozu films too. Thanks for the condescension.

I thought the tavern scene was too long not because I'm a pleeb who can't handle the lack of MTV cuts but because it was - here's that word again - boring. It was like listening to some bore at a party drone on and on and on... Sometimes Taratino just goes too long on something. I even thought Jules' last monologue in PF was overlong.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:26 PM on February 12, 2010


Ugh. I love Sergio Leone films. I've happily watched Tarkovsky and Ozu films too. Thanks for the condescension.

No condescension intended.

I thought the tavern scene was too long not because I'm a pleeb who can't handle the lack of MTV cuts but because it was - here's that word again - boring.

I don't think you're a pleeb who can't handle the lack of MTV cuts and I didn't say or intend to imply that you are. You thought it was boring. I didn't. For whatever it's worth, I thought Death Proof was boring.
posted by The World Famous at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2010


Well then, let's agree on that.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:44 PM on February 12, 2010


Yay! Consensus!

(Seriously, though, anyone who finds it worthwhile to argue about film is ok in my book, no matter what their opinions are.)
posted by The World Famous at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2010


I think Basterds fails because, even if Tarantino is implicating the audience, he doesn't implicate himself. And that makes the film unforgivably smug, in my opinion.

It's an interesting film, and a well-made film, which allows people to write boatloads of critical essays about it. But it's not really a good film.
posted by speicus at 2:54 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And if you like Sergio Leone films, you'll probably like the slow pacing instead of thinking that scenes like the tavern should have been shorter.

I just want to pop in here right quick and second stinkycheese. Sergio Leone films give me boners while IB left me worse than bored. Not angry, not frustrated, not confused - just bored and then bored some more. If you feel that a scene's length or it's pacing are the prerequisites to quality, then go watch Jeanne Dielman. In great films, lengthy scenes and slow pacing are the results of a master filmmaker building tension, suspense, or emotion - it doesn't work the other away around. To compare Sergio Leone films and IB simply because they both have slow pacing is like saying someone would like a Tyler Perry movie if they also liked Killer of Sheep because both have black people in them.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:42 AM on February 13, 2010


I think Basterds fails because, even if Tarantino is implicating the audience, he doesn't implicate himself. And that makes the film unforgivably smug, in my opinion.


I just wanted to say that this really hits the nail on the head for me.

I would suggest that many moments in Tarantino's work come across as essentially aimed at shaking up or shocking the audience. Many film-makers do this, of course, and for a wide variety of reasons, but I think it is particularly important to Tarantino.

Sometimes this is very entertaining; sometimes, though, it can feel a bit as if Tarantino is protecting himself from criticism, almost by counterattacking the audience. Also, I think there is a difference between depth and irresolvable ambiguity - I'm not sure that IB reveals hidden depths to me the more I think about it, so much as it does counterpoints to anything you might think it was saying ("you think violence is good? well what about this bit?"). And I don't think that that is quite the same thing - as a way of writing, it feels more like constructing a hall of mirrors that endlessly bounces around and defeats meaning. And that, in turn, protects the "cool stuff" from having to mean anything.

But that, clearly, is not an opinion everyone shares.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:00 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shorter Inglourious Basterds:

Do you know who else liked war movies?
posted by zamboni at 4:06 AM on February 18, 2010


Do you know who else liked war movies?

If you're thinking of who I'm thinking of...

Wasn't the Lives of a Bengal Lancer his favourite film?

Weirdly, it is apparently the source of the much misquoted line "we have ways of making men talk..."
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:12 AM on February 18, 2010


Boy, I just read that breakdown of Death Proof, and it is the most slavering, desperate piece of garbage I've seen in a while. Jesus Christ.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:02 PM on March 7, 2010


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