Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (first thoughts)

It's me and Paula's first wedding anniversary today, and what more romantic a way to mark the occasion that an afternoon showing of 'Inglourious Basterds', Quentin Tarantino's alternative, subversive, brutal and often funny as fuck war movie?

(We're out for a meal shortly, so I've only got a few minutes to blog a quick hit-and-run immediate thoughts type review. Expect a more considered article in the next few days. Oh, and I know I said August was foreign movies month on The Agitation of the Mind, but half of 'Inglourious Basterds' is in French or German and subtitled, so it kind of counts.)

Immediate thoughts, then:

Everything you've heard is true: Tarantino happily rewrites history, sticks David Bowie on the soundtrack of a movie set (mostly) set in 1944, and confounds any and every expectation you go into the cinema with. This isn't so much a war movie as a western (the opening chapter is chock full of iconography that wouldn't be out of place in a Sergio Leone opus, right down to the chapter title "once upon a time ... in Nazi-occupied France") which segues into a men-on-a-mission caper (only without anything as pifflingly audience-pandering as an actual mission*) which then takes time out to spoof the stiff-upper-lip ethos of '50s British war films (the nonsensical verbiage between Mike Myers and Michael Fassbender is a scream) before wandering into a basement bar to revisit the Mexican stand-offs so brilliantly realised in 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction' (only with SS officers, undercover operatives and a glamorous double agent thrown in for good measure), with all of the plot strands resolving at an art deco cinema where 'Inglourious Basterds' stops being anything even genre related and reveals itself as a bullet-riddled, explosive and endearingly self-indulgent love letter to cinema itself.

Maybe I'm throwing this out a little too early (I'll certainly be seeing the film again on the big screen - and soon - so I'll save my more considered write-up till after this second viewing), but 'Inglourious Basterds' is the Tarantino film I've had most fun watching since 'Pulp Fiction'.

"This might well be my masterpiece," Lt Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) declares in the film's last line (apropos of what is something I'll leave you to find out for yourself), and it's impossible not to take it as self-acclamation on Tarantino's part. Thing his, he could - could - be right.

*Broadly speaking, "I need me eight men ... we're gonna kill Nazis" doesn't really constitute a mission. It's more like, you know, a mission statement.


Aaron said...

First of all, congratulations on your anniversary. As far as the movie I enjoyed the hell out of it and it's quite possibly Tarantino's most well-made film. "Most entertaining" would probably go to Pulp or the Kill Bill movies, but Basterds was absolutely brilliant. Can't wait to read a more in-depth write-up if you end up doing one, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts on Christoph Waltz's performance. I would tell you what I thought but then again I still have MY review to write. ;)

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks, Aaron. It proves I married the right girl that she went to a Tarantino movie on our anniversary!

I've got a whole load of thoughts buzzing around in my head which I'll delineate in the full review, not least about Waltz's performance. Also how Tarantino's pop culture sensibility has now extended to world cinema and film history (the movie references are spot-on, particularly the placing of Henri-George Clouzot's 'Le Corbeau').

And I'm looking forward to reading your take on the film, as well.

Aaron said...

Cool, looking forward to it. Outside of horror I wouldn't necessarily ay I'm well-versed in cinema so I'm curious to see what references you point out. That's the thing with Tarantino movies... they're like scavenger hunts. Take it easy, man.