Inglourious Basterds (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Inglourious Basterds</strong> (2009)

(In theaters, August 2009) Quentin Tarantino is, if nothing else, a film-lover, and that’s why his movies are always worth seeing by those who feel let down by the rest of American cinema: There’s always something interesting in what he does.  This doesn’t mean that his material is always successful… but that too is part of the fun.  Few would expect Inglourious Basterds to be such a surprising film, for instance: The film promised by the premise and the trailer (American Jewish soldiers go killing Nazis in occupied France) is replaced by a talky drama that manages to make World War Two hinge on a movie showing.  Characters die when one doesn’t expect them to, and even the fabric of history isn’t immune to the twists.  One can quibble with the film’s casual regard for historical fact, but on the other hand it’s hard to dismiss a film that dares push a revenge fantasy to its logical extreme.  It’s easy to say that Inglourious Basterds is too long at two hours and a half, but at the same time the dialogue seems so tight that it’s difficult to say exactly where snippets should be cut: the deliberate atmosphere of the film is such that when character engage in a round of game-playing, we can rest assured that we’re going to see the entire thing play out.  Oh well; fans of Tarantino’s usual violence will be reassured that the bloody incidents are few, but explicit in all of their head-scalping, skull-batting, forehead-slicing gore.  The result is both satisfying and unfulfilling: While the film we have seen is a good chunk of cinematic goodness (and the performance of Christoph Waltz as the Nazi antagonist is simply magnificent), it wouldn’t have hurt to actually see the film promised by Brad Pitt’s superb southern cadences.  But, hey, my feeling is that Inglourious Basterds is going to be even better once the fully-loaded DVD edition comes out.  Which, considering Tarantino’s glacial pacing when it comes to special-edition DVD, may not be anytime soon.

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