Thursday, September 03, 2009


My buddy Bissette and I took an evening for an impromptu boys’ night out to watch the new Tarantino movie. “Inglourious Basterds,” and I have to admit that Tarantino has come back in a big way.

I was not a big fan of “Kill Bill” as I though the film was completely self-indulgent and way too long. “Deathproof” literally made me nod off.

“Basterds” is a rather ingenious film. It has an almost silly comic book/pulp novel exterior with a real story in the core. The film is essentially what comic book writers would have love have done in the 1940s – write a superhero comic in which the hero ends the war by killing Hitler. Why didn’t Superman or Capt. Marvel do that? Of course those fictional characters couldn’t tread on such narrative ground without evoking cries of bad taste as real men and women were risking their lives fighting Hitler.

But over 60 years after the end of the war, perhaps in Tarantino’s eyes it is fair game to produce a wish fulfillment movie the creative team behind Superman in the 1940s would have secretly approved.

The real core of the film is the story of the SS officer played by Christoph Waltz and the Jewish girl he allowed to escape played by Melanie Laurent. These two actors give great, grounded performances that are certainly Oscar worthy.

I’m sure some people will be horrified by the movie’s ending –SPOILER ALERT – that Hitler dies at the hands of a French Jew seeking justice as well as two of the Basterds because some younger people might actually believe that is how the war in Europe ended. My response is: just how ignorant are people today? Unless a movie claims to be a documentary, one should assume everything you see on the screen is fiction, even those movies that carry the tag “inspired on real events” – perhaps especially those films.

Might I add: Puuulleease!

When I saw “District 9” today – a very impressive film that I liked a great deal – I talked a bit with a young man selling the tickets. He made the observation that Tarantino was making movies for older people considering some of the references in “basterds.” The director is 47 years old and while he is younger than me, he is no Gen Xer.

Here are some of the things I caught that might go over the heads of younger audiences:

Brad Pitt’s juts out his jaw at times and I could help but think of heroic actors such as Jack Holt – go ahead Google him. However at times his moustache and hairstyle make him look like Clark Gable.

While the title of the film is a homage to an Italian drive-in movie starring Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson, the gimmick of a terrorist group behind the lines is not unlike “The Dirty Dozen.”

While people easily caught the role played by Mike Myers, I doubt that unless you read the credits you’d realize Rod Taylor, the actor who made dozens of films including “The Birds” and “The Time Machine”, played Winston Churchill.

Max Linder, who is spoken about by the German private as being superior to Chaplin, was one of the earliest stars of cinema and influenced comedian who came after him.

I loved all of the references to film figures. The theater in Paris was playing a mountain climbing film starring Leni Riefenstahl, the German actress turned director who made propaganda movies including “Triumph of the Will.” Most Americans might have heard of her as a controversial, to say the least, director and not know of her acting career.

Emil Jannings was one of the great actors of the 1920s who made films in Europe and in Hollywood. His heavy accent ended his career in Hollywood and he was one of the people in the German film industry who embraced the Nazis instead of fleeing from them.

There is a reference about what Joseph Goebbels was doing to UFA (Uffa) in the film that probably is puzzling to many. The propaganda minister had taken over UFA, the most prominent studio in Germany, in order to produce films to further the Nazi cause and to try to distract the German people from the realities of war.

I’m sure there are more. I’ll catch some more when I see the film again.

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