Tarantino — finally — produced a worthy follow-up to ‘Pulp Fiction’
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
With Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Til Schweiger, Diane Kruger
Opens today in wide release.
2 hrs. 32 min. R
I don’t know why but I still get pumped for a new Quentin Tarantino movie. He’ll probably never top "Pulp Fiction" — his "Citizen Kane" — but I keep hoping the next one will be his "Touch of Evil." So far the closest he has come is "Kill Bill: Volume 2" but "Inglourious Basterds" may replace it.
When "Inglourious Basterds" is deconstructed, as it surely will be, it will be found lacking on many counts: scenes are too long, major characters disappear for too long at a time, there are too many subtitles for American audiences and some of the wrong people die, to name a few.
But the question is, does it work? The answer is a rousing "Hell yeah!"
Tarantino makes movies for people who love movies and references the classics even as he breaks all the rules that made them classics in the first place. Who else, for example, could combine Hitchcock and Cinderella in a single scene?
Spaghetti Western guitar chords mingle with Beethoven’s "Fur Elise" to introduce the title of the first of five chapters, "Once upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France." There, in 1941, SS Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), known as "The Jew Hunter," visits the dairy farm of Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) and his three daughters. Most of the 20-minute scene consists of a quiet conversation, heavy on politeness and pleasantries, between the two men. Somewhere along the way we become aware that the Dreyfus family, the last Jews in the area, are hiding under the floor. This increases the tension until the scene ends with a burst of bloodshed and the escape of teenaged Shosanna (Melanie Laurent).
Three years later Shosanna, now going by the name Emmanuelle, catches the eye of Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), "the German Sergeant York" and the subject of a German propaganda film in which Zoller plays himself. Its French premiere will feature the entire German high command, including Hitler (Martin Wuttke), in attendance. The rest of the movie is about two plots, mounted by an eight-man squad of ruthless Nazi killers — the "Inglourious Basterds" — to take advantage of this event.
American Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) leads the team. Being part "Injun," Raine demands at least 100 Nazi scalps from each of his men — and they deliver.
We don’t get acquainted with many of the "Basterds," although among those we do get to know are Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger), an enlisted man in the German army until he was rescued by the Basterds after he killed 13 Germans; and Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), known as "The Bear Jew," whose signature move is clubbing Nazis with a baseball bat. "Watchin’ Donny beat Nazis to death is the closest we ever get to goin’ to the movies," Raine says.
History doesn’t mention this incident as the turning point of the war, but Tarantino, who developed the screenplay over a decade, beats history into pulp fiction in here, a glorious romp that combines adventure, suspense, comedy, romance, film lore, extreme brutality and just enough facts to make the background recognizable — and that’s just the trailer.
In other words, it’s Tarantino at something close to his best, making another film that will be imitated, dissected, referenced, satirized, enjoyed and worshipped for decades to come.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 21, 2009.