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Friday, December 18, 2009

Glourious Basterds

     Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds (the spelling is correct), was released on DVD earlier this week, and it represents a departure or maturing of his distinctive style.  It still has some witty dialogue, long conversation scenes, jarring music, and a bit of blood and gore, but it was much more understated.  The language wasn't as vulgar.  There weren't so many disturbing images.  Yet, it was very intelligent story telling that actually went somewhere.  And it made me think.

     If you had caught the trailer, you'd think the movie was mainly about a gang of Jews led by Brad Pitt that went around killing Nazis.  You would be wrong.  Practically every scene that the Basterds appeared in was present in the trailers.  Instead, there is a deeper story about a woman who watches her family get butchered, the Nazi who hunted Jews better than anyone, and the afore mentioned woman's quest for revenge.  But, no, it's not Kill Bill.  The Jewish heroine is not on a mission, but can't resist a chance when it falls into her lap.  It seems unfortunate that there is so little of Pitt and the others, especially Donny (Eli Roth) and Utivich (B.J. Novak, The Office), as that would have made quite a comedy.  Of course, it would have been close to Tarantino's old schtick, and as mentioned before, this film represents a new direction for him.

     The real stars of the film are Melanie Laurent as the wronged Jewish woman, Shosanna, and Christopher Waltz as the Nazi hunting her people down, Col. Hans Landa.  Both of these characters are fictional, but appear authentic.  Each has deep motivations, and each performer delivered an outstanding feat.  Waltz was appropriately creepy and confident, barely verging on the overly so, and Laurent seethed with hatred, but managed to stay unnoticed by the occupying army in France of the early 1940's.  The opening scene was classic Tarantino, but after that, the paths that these two led, which coincidentally came together, were believable and brilliant.  I even cheered at the twist, history-altering, ending.

     Fans of Tarantino should still enjoy this, as there is enough of his old self left in it to be appreciated, and his new style may be even better.  Fans of the trailer may not like the movie, as they certainly won't get what the expected.  Fans of cinema in general should find this an intriguing plot with wonderful pacing, beautiful scenery, and a fine example of a great film.

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