Friday, March 25, 2011

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino is known for is appetite for blood and violence. Inglourious Basterds (2009) is no exception. It stars Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent (Le Concert), Diane Kruger and Christoph Waltz, a real discovery. The name is derived from the movie The Inglorious Bastards (1978), by Enzo Castellari, who plays a German general in Inglourious Basterds as a friendly reference. Hence the wrong spelling of the name.
"Once upon a time, in Nazi-occupied France", we follow the paths of Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), part of the SS and nicknamed the "Jew Hunter", of Shosanna Dreyfus, whose entire family was killed by Landa and who managed to escape, and of the “Basterds”, a group of Jewish American soldiers who kill and scalp Nazis, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt). The stories are intertwined and connect as the movie moves forward.


Lt. Aldo Raine: Every German we meet wearing a Nazi uniform... they're gonna die.


Lt. Aldo Raine: You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business; we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin'.

Two separate plots to kill the entire Nazi establishment finally meet and collide, thus ending the war. So, clearly, this is not a historical movie, and it has no historical accuracy whatsoever! This is a bit like the Asterix series, a fun, yet violent tale, in a war context in France.

A fun fact, like Hitchcock in his films, Quentin Tarantino appears in the movie, where he plays the first scalped Nazi.

What really makes the movie go is how big this is – I saw critics that said how unrealistic it all is: well, sorry, but if you want realistic, you do not watch Tarantino movies! This is not as “cartoon like” as Kill Bill (well, at least Volume 1), and Brad Pitt is brilliant. Everything is completely over the top, and that is why it is so great. The introduction of Hugo Stiglitz (played by Til Schweiger) is, to me, the point where it all goes from what I would call a “normal”, albeit a bit unrealistic story, to pure delirium. Love it, love it.

Narrator: The reason for Hugo Stiglitz's celebrity among German soldiers is simple. As a German enlisted man, he killed thirteen Gestapo officers, mostly Majors. Instead of putting him up against a wall, the High Command decided to send him back to Berlin, to be made an example of. Needless to say, once the Basterds heard of him, he never got there.

Apart from Hans Landa, chilling as an SS officer, the rest of the Nazis are portrayed as losers: Hitler almost getting nervous ticks when he hears the names “Basterds” or “Bear Jew) or Goebbels as a movie artist concerned only about his movie are hilarious. This is not necessarily to everyone’s taste, but Tarentino does not care if he offends, and that is what makes it great to watch. Of course, everything should not be taken at face value, it is not first degree humour

Adolf Hitler: [at the premiere of "Nation's Pride"] Extraordinary, my dear. Simply extraordinary. This is your finest film yet.
Joseph Goebbels: [Goebbels' eyes fill with tears] Thank you, mein Führer. Thank you.

We are also able to see the war from the British, American, German soldiers, and from French civilians, collaborators or resistance.

Shosanna Dreyfus: [to Fredrick] If you are so desperate for a French girlfriend, I suggest you try Vichy.

Shosanna Dreyfus: [threatening a French film developer] You either do what the fuck we tell you, or I'll bury this axe in your collaborating skull.
 Brad Pitt as Lieutenant Raines is great, I thought it was a good change compared to his usual “I look good, I am a bad boy” roles like in Fight Club or Ocean’s Eleven, or “Look at how pretty I am” like in Meet Joe Black. Don't get me wrong, I liked those movies, a lot, but I am getting a bit tired of him. It happens. But not here!


Christoph Waltz is simply amazing as Hans Landa. He is the only character that is terrifyingly credible as a Nazi, from the start, when he interviews Perrier LaPadite, playing with him so he will reveal what he cannot reveal, being seemingly friendly and understanding, but threatening at the same time (“Monsieur LaPadite, to both your family and your cows I say: Bravo”) and getting him exactly where he wants him, and being ruthless. He is the kind of person who knows everything and likes to play cat and mouse with his victims. It is impossible to escape him – the scene at the theater, where he starts speaking fluent Italian to the three confused Basterds, is hilarious. Plenty of other scenes featuring him are excellent, especially towards the end.


Hans Landa: [to a bound and blindfolded Lt. Aldo] You've had a nice long run, Aldo. Alas, you're now in the hands of the SS.

[raises hands in a dramatic manner]

Hans Landa: My hands, to be exact. And they've been waiting a long time to touch you.

[fingers reach out and poke Lt. Aldo in the face; Lt. Aldo flinches]

Hans Landa: [chuckling] Caught you flinching.


Col. Hans Landa: [opens a bottle of Chianti] yes, some Germans will die, and yes, it will ruin the evening, and yes, Goebbels will be very, very, very mad at you for what you've done to his big night... but you won't get Hitler, you won't get Goebbels, you won't get Göring, and you won't get Bormann. And you need all four to win the war. But if I don't pick up this phone right here, you may very well get all four... and if you get all four, you'll end the war... tonight.


Col. Hans Landa: [to Aldo] So you're "Aldo the Apache".

Lt. Aldo Raine: So you're "the Jew Hunter".

Col. Hans Landa: A detective. A damn good dectective. Finding people is my specialty so naturally I work for the Nazis finding people, and yes some of them were Jews. But "Jew Hunter"? It's just a name that stuck.

Pfc. Smithson Utivich: Well, you do have to admit, it is catchy.

Col. Hans Landa: Do you control the nicknames your enemies bestow on you? "Aldo the Apache" and "the Little Man"?

Pfc. Smithson Utivich: What do you mean "the Little Man"?

Col. Hans Landa: Germans' nickname for you.

Pfc. Smithson Utivich: The Germans' nickname for me is "the Little Man"?

Col. Hans Landa: And as if to make my point, I'm a little surprised how tall you were in real life. I mean, you're a little fellow, but not circus-midget little, as your reputation would suggest.

The amazing cast makes the movie great, and Christoph Waltz in particular. It is a must-see, but be prepared for some violent images, and a lot of blood.

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