INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, 2009)

A “what if . . . ?” yarn of gargantuan proportions, Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth’s Inglourious Basterds—don’t blame me for the mis[s]pellings—changes the course of World War II history by bringing Allied victory to Europe that much sooner by incinerating and gunning down Hitler, Goebbels, Goering and Bormann in one fell swoop as they attend a propaganda film whose last reel has been doctored to ensure that their final seconds on earth are unpleasant ones. This revenge plot has been engineered by Shosanna Dreyfus, who escaped the massacre of her family in Nazi-occupied France.
     This film, though, is slow and pedestrian in getting to its rousing finale. Indeed, this is a film with an awful lot against it. It is The Dirty Dozen crossed with a spaghetti-Western as a squad of Jewish-American soldiers, commanded by Lt. Aldo Raine, combs field and forest for Nazis and German soldiers, whom they kill, scalp and carve into—this last, for ones that they let live, the specialty of Raine, who cuts into Nazi foreheads a permanent swastika. These “good guys” mirror-image Col. Hans Landa, nicknamed “the Jew Hunter,” who is the one who murdered Shosanna’s kin. Let me add something that reviewers have ignored and Tarantino, who penned the script, may not even have been conscious of: in its historical tables-turning of Nazis and Jews, the film here and there slips into its own air of anti-Semitism. Finally, there is the acting, most of which is either trite or annoyingly broad, with but a single exception: Mélanie Laurent’s lovely performance as Mlle Dreyfus. The plethora of prizes won by Christoph Waltz as Landa, including best actor at Cannes and the supporting actor Oscar, isn’t justified by his (until the very end) one-note performance.

2 thoughts on “INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, 2009)

  1. Well, most of it is elusive, just something in the air that has something to do with Tarantino’s clumsiness with his Jewish characters, except for Shosanna. However, two specific underpinnings come immediately to mind. One is the mirror-imaging of “the Jew Hunter” and the squad of Jewish-American solfdiers, which is a gang of bloodthirsty thugs. Tarantino wants this “wild bunch” to be retributive; it is also offensive. The other, for me, is a stroke so gratuitous that it defies humanity. We take to heart Shosanna in part because she seems to represent the survival of Jewish community against all odds. Perhaps Tarantino might argue, “It is my right to reverse your expectation!” It is also his responsibility to act like a human being for a change. He should let go of manipulating us with his cold-blooded twists and surprises. Shosanna should have been allowed the end she devised for herself—one that showed her the proper respect and didn’t assault our sensibilities. Tarantino is insane as well as cold-hearted if he believes that her triumphant film image (in the film-within-the-film), coupled with the success of her plot to assassinate Hitler and the Nazi machine, trumps Shosanna’s self-determination in the manner of her death. His “one last twist,” which he could not resist, sets Tarantino on the side of the Holocaust.

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