Inglourious Basterds

Movie Information

The Story: World War II action with sardonic humor and a fantasy twist about efforts to blow up a cinema filled with Nazis. The Lowdown: Quentin Tarantino's new film is brilliant and unabashedly (and genuinely) quirky -- a truly personal work in a sea of largely impersonal movies.
Score:

Genre: Postmodern Alternative-Reality Revisionist War Movie
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl
Rated: R

A sprawling feast of a movie that’s by turns funny, exciting, outrageous and just plain exhilarating, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds actually is the event—make that Event—it was touted to be. That in itself is deliciously apt since a large part of the movie’s plot—and certainly its raison d’être—centers around the idea of film as an event. Inglourious Basterds culminates with a film premiere that manages to place most of the Nazi high command—including Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth, The Reader), Hermann Goering and Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke) himself—in the same movie house at the same time.

A movie geek of Tarantino’s standing is hardly likely to be unaware of the claim that was once made that the premiere of a new Fritz Lang film in 1920s Berlin was such a big deal that if a bomb had gone off it would have removed most of Germany’s intellectual and political bigwigs in one fell swoop. Considering that Tarantino’s movies are largely about his own love affair with the movies and with the history and esoterica of film, this is precisely the sort of anecdote that one might rightly expect to fuel a Tarantino film (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this was indeed the genesis for the story in the film). What’s surprising is how well it works. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything in Inglourious Basterds that doesn’t work.

As with most of Tarantino’s films, Inglourious Basterds is pulpy trash. It’s the form he most likes to work in, because it’s exciting and inherently cinematic. Plus, its very pulpiness makes it a little subversive—possibly because Tarantino is one of the few working filmmakers who revels in the fact that there’s a fine line between exploitation and art. Tarantino makes movies that become films because of their total immersion in film culture. I sometimes find Tarantino a little too full of himself and a bit grating, but he’s almost certainly right when he claims that he knows more about movies than most of the people who write about them for a living. That’s neither arrogance, nor a put-down. Were it the latter, one of the heroes of Basterds would hardly be a movie critic and film historian (Michael Fassbender) who has written a monograph on German director G.W. Pabst.

Although there is more to the story line than the film’s last—and most spectacular—act, Basterds is all about the movies one way or another. Its opening—“Once upon a time in Nazi-Occupied France”—sets the tone not just in fairy-tale terms, but in movie fairy-tale terms by invoking Sergio Leone movie titles (Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America). Tarantino then proceeds to create a scene that deliberately recalls Leone’s style. The Basterds themselves are a movie construct—by way of Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Enzo Castellari’s Italian variant The Inglorious Bastards (1978)—reimagined as vengeance-seeking Jews (led by a bizarre hillbilly-ized Brad Pitt) terrorizing Nazis behind enemy lines.

It may even be that the slightly preposterous casting of torture-porn director Eli Roth (Hostel) as Sgt. Donny Donowitz (aka “The Bear Jew”), who specializes in bludgeoning Nazis to death with a baseball bat, is a movie reference to Roth’s films. (This is suggested by the assertion, “Watching Donny beat Nazis to death is as close as we get to the movies.”) Everywhere you turn, this is a movie about movies—from making them, being in them, showing them, promoting them, writing about them, using them as a means to revenge and as wish fulfillment. There’s even a lesson—complete with a split-screen insert of an educational film (actually a clip from Hitchcock’s 1936 film Sabotage pressed into service in this capacity)—about how flammable nitrate movie film is.

The structure of the film is really little more than three fairly involved setups that merge into the movie’s frankly astonishing and beautifully crafted final act. The first part sets up both a central revenge scenario for Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) and introduces us to the movie’s primary villain, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz in a show-stealing performance), who has Shosanna’s family slaughtered. The second jumps ahead in time and brings in Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) and his Basterds, who are the bane of the Nazi’s existence, jumping and killing and scalping groups of soldiers—and leaving one alive with a swastika personally carved into his forehead by Raine. (This—and the whole presentation of the Nazi elite as self-absorbed, absurd buffoons—makes one wonder if Tarantino has managed to see Ken Russell’s “banned” 1970 TV film Dance of the Seven Veils.)

The film then turns to its third setup with Shosanna, who is now running a cinema in Paris, and the romance-minded pursuit of her by Nazi “war hero” Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl, Ladies in Lavender), who wangles the premiere of a propaganda film about his exploits (produced by Goebbels) at her theater. Enter the British high command’s plot, Operation Kino, to take out the Nazi elite at the premiere with the help of double-agent actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) and the Basterds.

What follows is certainly not history (by the time David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” appears on the sound track while Shosanna readies her own plan against the Nazis, you will have guessed that). But it’s remarkable filmmaking, even more remarkably satisfying—and a spectacularly twisted version of using art to make something more “right” than reality. In essence, it’s the ultimate war-movie fantasy. And why not? Inglourious Basterds is kind of the ultimate war movie. It’s the film of the summer that actually is an event—and it just might be what Brad Pitt’s closing line suggests as concerns Tarantino’s oeuvre. Rated R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

41 thoughts on “Inglourious Basterds

  1. J. Carter

    “The structure of the film is really little more than three fairly involved setups that merge into the movie’s frankly astonishing and beautifully crafted final act.”

    Any follow-up on that? I only ask because an appreciation of Tarantino’s films (or style) is so difficult to articulate. You cite his movie knowledge and ladle on a few other choice compliments, but other than that, I’m blanking while looking for substantive markers of the plus-sides of the film.

    I saw it this past weekend. I thought the opening scene was brilliant, but other than that, I saw a lot of sharp dialogue and some mildly interesting acting. I was missing out on the story. The Basterds were reduced to Jewish or Southern-fried (Pitt) stereotypes, tossed in with some therapeutic Nazi slaughter. Did you connect with Shoshanna? I thought Landa was interesting, for sure, and I enjoyed each moment he was on the screen, but a Nazi linguist and manipulator doesn’t exactly set the foundation of a story/film.

    I still don’t know whether or not I like the film. I want to see it again, though, which might say something in itself.

  2. Dread P. Roberts

    Not to ruin anything for anyone, but the end of the movie, when the last film reel starts up, and the climax kicks into high gear, was one of the coolest finales that I’ve seen in quite some time. It was one of those rare moments when I’m thinking to myself as I’m watching, “wow, I wish I would have thought of, and filmed this!” I also noticed a few nods to some of Tarantino’s previous movies. The climax of the bar scene in particular, seemed reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs.

    There were one or two moments were I felt like it might have been beneficial to ‘trim the fat’ – even if it was just a little – in editing. But that is often the case to one small degree or another w/ Tarantino’s movies, and his love of slick dialog and idle chatter. Of course, I still loved every bit of the movie (and it’s dialog), and I never felt in any way perturbed – in fact, I didn’t really even notice the length. I later read on Wikipedia that Tarantino only had six weeks to do any editing before it was shown at Cannes, if that’s an consolation.

    On a bit of a side note – I recall a scene in the trailers where Eli Roth is wildly firing what appears to be an Uzi, while running down some long, dark corridor; but that particular scene wasn’t in the movie. I hate when scenes are cut from the final film that were shown in the trailer. Then I can’t help but wonder what that scene was like, and where it fit into the rest of the movie.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Any follow-up on that?

    Not really in this kind of format, based on a couple viewings and knowing the film less than a week. All I’m saying there is that the bulk of the film is set-up for that final act. Of course, because it’s Tarantino, that set-up is filled with interesting, quirky digressions.

    I saw it this past weekend. I thought the opening scene was brilliant, but other than that, I saw a lot of sharp dialogue and some mildly interesting acting. I was missing out on the story. The Basterds were reduced to Jewish or Southern-fried (Pitt) stereotypes, tossed in with some therapeutic Nazi slaughter.

    These are not criticisms I would make or that even occur to me, but that may be simply because I don’t go to a Tarantino picture expecting much of anything in the way of depth. In a sense, you’re echoing my own statement about it all being set-up. The difference is that it bothers you.

    Did you connect with Shoshanna?

    Actually, yes. And more than I have ever connected with a Tarantino character.

    I thought Landa was interesting, for sure, and I enjoyed each moment he was on the screen, but a Nazi linguist and manipulator doesn’t exactly set the foundation of a story/film.

    Although I think that assessment sells the character a bit short, I’m not sure why that character wouldn’t make a good foundation for a story or a film.

  4. Ken Hanke

    This sounds like my kind of Postmodern Alternative-Reality Revisionist War Movie!

    You find me a better one.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I didn’t really even notice the length

    Neither did I — and when I screened it, it ended at 4:30 a.m.

    On a bit of a side note – I recall a scene in the trailers where Eli Roth is wildly firing what appears to be an Uzi, while running down some long, dark corridor; but that particular scene wasn’t in the movie. I hate when scenes are cut from the final film that were shown in the trailer. Then I can’t help but wonder what that scene was like, and where it fit into the rest of the movie

    That is so common that I almost never think about it unless it’s really excessive or it’s a trailer I’ve seen to death. In the latter category, more than a year’s worth of the trailer for Original Sin — constantly delayed for recutting and maybe even reshooting — made it easy to see the differences. It helped that probably half the trailer wasn’t in the final movie.

    Used to be back in the “golden” days of movies that trailers were almost entirely assembled from alternate takes and other odd pieces. The original trailer for Dracula actually includes what appears to be Edward van Sloane’s screen test — a cheaply staged scene from the play that isn’t in the movie. In the film Helen Chandler says, “He opened a vein in his arm and he made me drink.” In the trailer it’s “a vein in his wrist.” (In the play, by the way, it’s “a vein in his chest,” but I reckon that was too suggestive.)

  6. Dread P. Roberts

    Actually, yes. And more than I have ever connected with a Tarantino character.

    This reminds me that I forgot to mention my one and only big gripe with the movie.
    *SPOILER*
    Why is Shoshanna made to be such a primary, sympathetic character, and then tossed away in the end like an old shoe? Maybe I’m just being too sentimental over a movie like this, but it bothered me that she seemed to be so disingenuously disregarded after we’re supposedly left to care about her. Things like this should be – and usually are – handled a little more respectfully and appropriately.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Possible spoilers continue below:

    Maybe I’m just being too sentimental over a movie like this, but it bothered me that she seemed to be so disingenuously disregarded

    I’m not sure what you would suggest in place of what happens. But in my mind, what does happen feels right — and it feels like it was being set up (not in specifics, but in results) as inevitable all along. She is the film’s tragic figure — and something of a standard war movie character because of that. If nothing else, she goes out quite glamourously. Ever see what happens to Lilli Palmer at the end of The Counterfeit Traitor? I saw that in 1962 when it came out (I’d have been seven) and it depressed the hell out of me. (It may have been my introduction to Nazis, though I guess Guns of Navarone preceded it. However the tone is very different.)

  8. Dread P. Roberts

    *SPOILER*

    I’m not sure what you would suggest in place of what happens.

    Ok, so I have to suck it up and admit that I can’t think of a better alternative for her death; it’s just that it seems to happen so quickly. I almost felt like the only reason for her death was for an unpleasant shock factor. Anyone else could have died and I would’ve cared less. So, yeah, I just wanted her to survive. Maybe it was well-done, and I just don’t want to admit it because her death bothered me anyway you look at it.

    Ever see what happens to Lilli Palmer at the end of The Counterfeit Traitor?

    No, but I can’t say that I’m really looking for more depressing wartime death depictions in order to compensate for this one.

  9. Wow. I didn’t expect such a high review. It obviously lives up to the hype.

    Out of curiosity Ken, did you expect to like it so much before the screening? Or did you have a totally open mind?

  10. Come_on

    “I almost felt like the only reason for her death was for an unpleasant shock factor.”

    This was also my reaction. We don’t need a tragic figure in a pulpy movie without any “depth,” right? Also, the fact that the one villain we had any real stakes in got off so easy bothered me a bit, too.

    I wish Tarantino were more consistent with the motifs he set up. The “Hugo” 70s graphics and the Sam Jackson narration were fun and exhilarating, but it was a bit puzzling that they never happened again. Sure, this film gives Ken a chance to dork out about movies, but many people, myself included, were crazy about parts of this movie while remaining indifferent to the whole, probably because of the above-mentioned inconsistencies and other structural (and moral) problems. I look forward to watching it again, though.

  11. Ken Hanke

    No, but I can’t say that I’m really looking for more depressing wartime death depictions in order to compensate for this one

    I wasn’t really suggesting you should, merely noting that the approach is part and parcel of the war movie genre — only here it’s pretty much in glamour mode of the operatic variety.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Out of curiosity Ken, did you expect to like it so much before the screening? Or did you have a totally open mind?

    No one going in to see a movie where they’re familiar with the filmmaker’s previous work has a “totally open mind.” That said, I went in with little preconception of exactly what Tarantino was doing here. The main notion I had was that I was hoping the presence of Eli Roth wouldn’t spoil it for me. It didn’t, even though some of his subsequent claims have made me like Roth even less than I did.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Sure, this film gives Ken a chance to dork out about movies

    Kinda funny to have that said about me (no matter how true it is) when dealing with a movie that’s one big dork out for the guy who made it.

  14. Dread P. Roberts

    …only here it’s pretty much in glamour mode of the operatic variety.

    That is a great way of looking at it, but something like this, with such an important character, why not play it up a little more before cutting to the next scene? Play some loud, operatic percussion instruments along side a classical score (something along the lines of O’Fortuna, but maybe more original) as the camera fades farther and farther away, while maintaining it’s birds eye view. Make the audience (or give them a little more of a chance, anyway) want to cry, instead of just being bummed out. It’s funny how these things don’t bother me in movies that DON’T toy with greatness, but in an instance like this, with something that excites me, I seem to be more picky.

    I was hoping the presence of Eli Roth wouldn’t spoil it for me. It didn’t, even though some of his subsequent claims have made me like Roth even less than I did.

    Just out of curiosity, do you care to elaborate?

  15. Dread P. Roberts

    Also, the fact that the one villain we had any real stakes in got off so easy bothered me a bit, too.

    Maybe it’s just the fact that I was so amused by Christoph Waltz’s outrageously wonderful performance, or maybe it’s the somewhat refreshingly non-cliché approach, but this didn’t bother me personally. I kind of had a bit of a feeling beforehand that he was going to end up under that particular fate, and if he had died then that punishment wouldn’t have been able to transpire. Plus, I don’t know about anyone else, but if I was a Nazi, and would forever be very obviously labeled as one, then I might prefer a quick death. No doubt he would be humiliated and tortured as the scum of the earth for the remainder of his life.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Make the audience (or give them a little more of a chance, anyway) want to cry, instead of just being bummed out.

    I guess it’s just me, but I wasn’t bummed out. It seemed perfectly in keeping with the rest of the movie.

    Just out of curiosity, do you care to elaborate?

    Some of the reasons aren’t exactly mine to elaborate on, but in the more public realm, Roth is the guy who when his Hostel 2 died at the box office, posted a long rant on his website (quickly removed — presumably on the advice of his manager) lambasting his fans for not supporting this “great” movie he’d made for them, and further telling them that they’d killed any chance for other R-rated horror movies (yeah, right) by not going to see his movie. After this movie came out, he started spouting off that he had proved he could have a second career as a movie star, since he’d held his own on the screen with Brad Pitt. (I believe these were the statements that prompted someone to tag him “grostesquely self-mythologizing.”)

  17. Dread P. Roberts

    Ah yes, I remember hearing about the Hostel 2 incident before, but I kind of just wrote that off as harmless (though annoying) idiotic childishness. But to say that he held his own on the screen with Brad Pitt?! Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t remember him talking in more than two scenes – the baseball bat scene he says like two or three words, and the ‘Italian’ introduction he says like two or three words. I guess “grostesquely self-mythologizing” is a nicer, more fun way of saying what I’m thinking, “what an arrogant jerk.”

  18. Steven

    [b]Some of the reasons aren’t exactly mine to elaborate on, but in the more public realm, Roth is the guy who when his Hostel 2 died at the box office, posted a long rant on his website[/b]

    This is the first time I’ve heard about this. It upsets me that I can’t read his little rant.

    I think that he’s the only weak link of Inglorious Basterds – well, maybe not, Mike Myers just popped into my head, but he didn’t irritate me like Roth did. I was literally cringing after he bashed that nazi’s head in.

  19. Sean Williams

    I find the complaints that Inglourious Basterds panders to American cultural guilt and is unsympathetic to the Nazis rather…wrongheaded.

    It’s is an examination of jingoistic, revenge-fantasy war films. It’s supposed to test the boundaries of your sympathy and taste by dehumanizing Nazis in the same way that the Nazis dehumanized the Jews. (Interesting to note that the fictional audience’s reaction to Nation’s Pride were uncannily similar to the real audience’s reaction to Inglourious Basterds — at least in my theater.) We laugh at the carnage — and then we’re forced to do some serious soul-searching about why we’re laughing.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Plus, I don’t know about anyone else, but if I was a Nazi, and would forever be very obviously labeled as one, then I might prefer a quick death. No doubt he would be humiliated and tortured as the scum of the earth for the remainder of his life.

    Well, a pudding bowl haircut might hide it for the most part, but your point is well-taken. The punishment he receives is much more apt and ironic than just shooting him would have been. As for him being the only villain given any development, it’s as well to note that a little shorthand is all that’s required to establish the perfidy of Messrs. Hitler and Goebbels.

    Ah yes, I remember hearing about the Hostel 2 incident before, but I kind of just wrote that off as harmless (though annoying) idiotic childishness.

    Bed-wetting brat comes more to my mind than childishness. The idea that the horror genre rises or falls on the fate of one Eli Roth torture porn opus is stupefyingly arrogant.

    I guess “grostesquely self-mythologizing” is a nicer, more fun way of saying what I’m thinking, “what an arrogant jerk.”

    Well, yes.

  21. Ken Hanke

    This is the first time I’ve heard about this. It upsets me that I can’t read his little rant.

    I’m pretty sure it can still be dug up. I think Tonberry did that a few days ago in fact.

  22. Ken Hanke

    I find the complaints that Inglourious Basterds panders to American cultural guilt and is unsympathetic to the Nazis rather…

    I find the idea that anyone is concerned with the question of being unsympathetic to the Nazis rather incomprehensible. Actually, this is the first time I encountered the idea. I’ve seen the film attacked for being disrespectful of Jews and actual freedom fighters, but not for lacking in sympathetic Nazis. (Mind, I’m not saying Germans, but Nazis. The two are not interchangeable.)

    It’s supposed to test the boundaries of your sympathy and taste by dehumanizing Nazis in the same way that the Nazis dehumanized the Jews.

    I know this is a strange thing for me to be saying, but this is a case where I think you may be reading more into a film than is there. I just don’t think the film or Tarantino is that deep. I would agree that the film deliberately evokes and mocks bonafide Hollywood product propaganda films.

    Interesting to note that the fictional audience’s reaction to Nation’s Pride were uncannily similar to the real audience’s reaction to Inglourious Basterds—at least in my theater

    I haven’t watched the film with an audience, but I do think there’s a difference — unless you managed to personalize the laughter the way it is in the movie. By this I mean that the close-shots of Nazi higher-ups — especially Hitler — make it very clear the kind of laughter is born of delighting over scenes of the enemy being killed. In my case at least, when I laughed at the carnage in Basterds I was laughing at the deliberately absurd, over-the-top presentation. This is what I also laughed at in Nation’s Pride — the silliness of it. Hitler et cie clearly don’t see the silliness and aren’t laughing at that. As I understand it — and this may be worth noting — the Nation’s Pride footage was directed by Eli Roth, which, considering Roth’s pedigree, could be a comment on it as torture porn. (It could also be a joke being made at Roth’s expense, but that’s probably wishful thinking on my part.)

    Actually, a case can be made that Daniel Bruhl’s character — the very subject of Nation’s Pride — is somewhat humanized, since he is depicted as actually troubled by what he sees on the screen. That may be a stretch, however, since he’s also motivated by a desire to leave the theater and hit on Shosanna.

  23. Justin Souther

    This is the first time I’ve heard about this. It upsets me that I can’t read his little rant.

    I’m pretty sure it can still be dug up. I think Tonberry did that a few days ago in fact.

    Indeed it can be:

    Hey Everyone,

    I’m in Paris, doing press for the French release of Hostel Part II, and tonight I’m off to Rome for the last leg of the press tour. After that I’m going to take a long overdue break, since I’ve gone from one film to the next without stopping, just to recharge my brain a bit.

    I want to thank all of you for your kind e-mails and incredible support for the film. However, piracy has become worse than ever now, and a stolen workprint (with uninished music, no sound effects, and no VFX) leaked out on line before the release, and is really hurting us, especially internationally. Piracy will be the death of the film industry, as it killed the music industry, and while it makes a smaller dent in huge movies like Spider Man 3, it really hurts films like mine, which have far less of an advertising and production budget. Not only that, critics have actually been REVIEWING the film based off the pirated copy, which is inexcusable. Some of these critics I have actually known for a few years, and while I wouldn’t dignify them by mentioning them by name, I know who they are, as do the studios, and other filmmakers, and they will no longer have any access to any of my films.

    What I’m saying is, this is your last chance to see one of my films for a while. If you haven’t seen it, go now, because after next weekend the film will be gone from theaters. There are too many other summer movies coming in, so basically we get two weeks in cinemas, and then the film will live on DVD. I am not directing CELL any time soon, and I most likely will take the rest of the year to write my other projects. Which means I wouldn’t shoot until the spring, and you wouldn’t see a film directed by me in the cinemas until at least next fall. If everyone on my friends list went to see the film this weekend and brought a friend, it would make a huge difference. Bring a non-horror fan – try to convert them. It’s the only way these films will live. But right now the R rated horror film is in serious jeopardy. Studios feel the public doesn’t want them any more, and so they are only putting PG-13 films into production. The only way to counter this perception is to get out there and support R rated horror. It’s the only message they’ll hear. People love the movie, and even though it only cost $10 million dollars (as opposed to the other summer tentpoles which cost $300 million), and has already earned its money back, if it’s not a massive money earner then they’ll just continue to make the same PG-13 films everyone complained about a few years ago.

    To counter piracy, fans can flood file sharing services with fake Hostel II downloads just so no one can ever actually get the movie, but the only thing that really makes a difference is supporting the movie in the theaters. Also – the theater OWNERS know this as well. If horror movies aren’t bringing in customers, they’re not going to program them. If we are going to send them a message, we have to do it with our wallets, and we have to do it now. I’ve done all I can to make a great film for the fans, as violent and bloody and fun as possible. The rest is up to you guys…

    Thanks again for all your support,

    Eli

  24. Dread P. Roberts

    Thanks for taking the time to find this letter and share it, Justin.

    So, I know this might be a bit much of a trivial nerd rant for some, but I’ve been racking my brain since I last saw Inglourious Basterds, trying to figure out what might have inspired some of the clever idea’s that Tarantino used in this movie. Namely, I’m wondering about the superb ‘laughing burning chaos’ scene in particular. It just strikes me as something that is – or damn well should have been – at the very least similar to a scene in another older film. If that’s not the case, then that is perfectly fine, but if anyone has any idea what might have been an inspiration for this, then I’m rather curious to know more. The only thing that I can think of as being even remotely similar (and I’m using this term rather loosely), is the scene towards the end of “The Princess Bride” when Fezzik don’s the big black robe, and they light it on fire to help with invoking terror, as they storm the castle.

  25. Sean Williams

    I find the idea that anyone is concerned with the question of being unsympathetic to the Nazis rather incomprehensible.

    Certain people — viz., crazy people — seem to feel that Basterds is symptomatic of guilt-driven pro-Zionist filmmaking.

    I know this is a strange thing for me to be saying, but this is a case where I think you may be reading more into a film than is there.

    Ordinarily, I would defer to your expertise, but I’m going to press this point. I can’t believe that the thematic emphasis on identity is accidental — all of the talk about reputation, nicknames, identifying marks, uniforms, screen personae overshadowing and even outliving their real-life counterparts.

    By this I mean that the close-shots of Nazi higher-ups — especially Hitler — make it very clear the kind of laughter is born of delighting over scenes of the enemy being killed.

    At the risk of sounding uncharitable, that’s precisely the kind of laughter I heard from the sizable teenage contingent in the theater.

    I was laughing at the deliberately absurd, over-the-top presentation.

    But even in the midst of that presentation, there were scenes that gave me pause. I mean, there’s a gag about a man being beaten to death with a baseball bat after saying that he won a medal not for killing Jews but for bravery, while his loyal subordinates look on and weep. And a gag about a new father being shot to death after he’s promised safety. I’m pretty sure those set-ups were intended to make the audience uncomfortable.

  26. Ken Hanke

    Indeed it can be

    What I’d forgotten and what’s interesting is that it’s all the fault of film piracy and people thinking the movie was bad because they saw an improperly finished version. Maybe to some degree, though if the internet can’t make a film (Snakes on a Plane, anyone?), neither does it seem likely it can break one like this. But the big fact that he overlooks is that Hostel came out in January, where there was no competition in new movies, making it pretty easy to take the opening weekend box office. Hostel 2 opened in June. The fact that there were more choices available to the viewer couldn’t have had any bearing, huh? And as for the future of R-rated horror being in jeopardy, that particular claim looked pretty silly come August 31 and the release of Rob Zombie’s Halloween.

  27. Ken Hanke

    Namely, I’m wondering about the superb ‘laughing burning chaos’ scene in particular. It just strikes me as something that is – or damn well should have been – at the very least similar to a scene in another older film. If that’s not the case, then that is perfectly fine, but if anyone has any idea what might have been an inspiration for this, then I’m rather curious to know more.

    Sure. It cross-references the robot Maria laughing out of the flames in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis where even though she’s being destroyed, she’s satisfied her (or her master’s) purpose.

  28. Dread P. Roberts

    Sure. It cross-references the robot Maria laughing out of the flames in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis…

    YES! That is a Bingo! I knew I wasn’t crazy when I kept telling myself that I’d seen something like this before. Thank you, Ken.

  29. Sometimes with all of the obscure film references that Tarantino is making films just for me…

    I absolutely loved this movie. Christoph Waltz is the best bad guy in the past 20 years (and one of the best in movie history), and will be a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination. There’s talk of him as the next Blofeld and I can definitely see that.

    One interesting point that a friend made however. With this film being fantasy, we now wonder how many young people will think that this is what actually happened to Nazi leaders!

  30. Ken Hanke

    There’s talk of him as the next Blofeld and I can definitely see that.

    I’d really rather see the James Bond series put out to pasture altogether. That’s not a knock against Waltz, but against a series that has outlived its value to me.

    With this film being fantasy, we now wonder how many young people will think that this is what actually happened to Nazi leaders!

    Quite a few, I’m afraid. Then again, in some cases, this could be the first time they’ve encountered these people.

  31. JJ Funky

    “I was literally cringing after he bashed that nazi’s head in.”

    I think Eli Roth’s part was appropriately played and well-acted; I don’t understand the criticism.

  32. JJ Funky

    The one thing I was not prepared for was the serious tone of this movie. There was much more uncomfortable dark or questionable humor than I was expecting. Overall, this was Tarantino’s most straightforward and serious film.

  33. Ken Hanke

    I think Eli Roth’s part was appropriately played and well-acted; I don’t understand the criticism.

    I think it’s less criticism over the acting (which was adequate at least) than over the the fact that the viewer is presumably supposed to applaud the act. But I could be wrong.

    Overall, this was Tarantino’s most straightforward and serious film.

    In a relative sense, I guess so.

  34. JJ Funky

    “the viewer is presumably supposed to applaud the act.”

    That was the discomfort for me. I turned my head, because I definately was not going to laugh. Did the same for the scalping. I made myself watch the last scene when Pitt carved the symbol into his forehead, smiled and applauded.

  35. T_REX

    Could not agree any more Ken! This is a great film and if Chris Platz does not win an oscar for best supporting actor….. well, It will be just as wrong as Slumdog Millionaire beating Benjamin Button for best picture! LOL

  36. jasondelaney

    I didn’t know that was Eli Roth, just figured he was some guy with big eyebrows, so he didn’t bother me at all. I guess I can just take it for what it is cause the man behind the character means nothing to me. In fact, I went into this movie with no preconceptions at all. I didn’t know who was in it or what it was about, just that it was a Tarentino movie. That’s probably the best way to watch this type of film. It constantly surprised me as I had no idea what to expect.

    Oh, and I think most of you are missing the point of the violence. I thought it was done very realistically, not meant to be a gag or be funny but brutal and uncomfortable. This is war. I thought it was brilliant how everyone just rolled with the gruesome nature of it as if they were cutting the grass. If you talk to some vets they’ll likely have similar stories where the really gory stuff is treated nonchalantly, not to be funny but to stay sane.

  37. At long last, I saw this.

    I certainly liked it more than any other Tarantino film, with the possible exception of REINHARDT UNCHAINED. That had the advantage of a cinema presentation instead of a living room though.

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