The late war veteran Harry Patch once said, “Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims”, (I only know this because Radiohead have just released a song dedicated to him) and these words resonate throughout ‘Inglourious Basterds’.
A balanced and well-thought out treatise on the horrors of war, where both sides are evenly represented and there is both good and evil presented on both… ah, bollocks to this.
I am, of course, jesting, because ‘Basterds’ is pure Hollywood cinema, full of ‘goodies vs baddies’ sentiments and featuring some of the most horrific and hysterical violence since, well, ‘Kill Bill’.
As Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine says “The Nazi’s ain’t got no humanity and need to be dee-stroyed!”. Double negatives aside, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
From the opening, borderline-genius title card of “Once Upon A Time…In Nazi-Occupied France”, QT’s latest is a rip-roaring orgy of revenge against the worst of history’s bad guys. With a 20 minute opening as suspense-filled as its inspiration (Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time In The West) the film is as engrossing and playful as any of the big-chinned wonder’s previous work.
To just have memorable characters (Col. Hans Landa and Shosanna Dreyfus stay long in the mind), quotable dialogue (“That’s a bingo!” and “Attendez la creme!” being just two of many highlights) and some offensively shocking, but balletic, violence (of which there is much) would have been enough of a treat, but Quentin goes above and beyond with his sharing of movie love. Having cinemas, projectionists and film reviewers feature is tantamount to declaring every day “Steak and blowjob day” for the happy cine-geek writing these here words.
Some may find ‘Basterds’ tough to handle. Its mainly talky, talky, the in-jokes are plentiful and the idiosyncratic take on history is as hard to swallow as hearing Bowie’s ‘Cat People’ playing in 1944. And while the characters are well-drawn out you don’t particularly care for any of them. But that’s just as well, for the chances of any of them making the end credits are pretty slim.
Yes, the Nazis are straight out of the Spielberg playlist of boo-hiss bad guys (except Schindler of course) and while the goodies are absolute psychopaths, they’re our psychopaths. As an audience, the film-maker wants us to cheer on the Jew Bear (Eli Roth in, quite frankly, a role that has actually made me like him for the first time in his career) as he swings away. Quoting Raine once more, “Watching Donny beat Nazis to death is the closest we ever get to going to the movies”.
This will horrify as many as it turns on. But turning people on is Tarantino’s thing. As long as the violence stays on screen where it belongs I’ve got no problem with it. (Certainly nowhere near the problem I have with the violence in a kid’s film such as GI Joe).
And so to all the naysayers, remember when you enter the theatre that you’ve entered QuentinWorld, where the revisionist take on history is okay and the violence all part and parcel. For QuentinWorld is a place I’m more than happy to visit a couple of times each year.