Okay, so there’s all this hype about Inglorious Basterds, and it’s a war film, and I see it at the Arclight, just like The Hurt Locker… the big difference: the conceit is not supposed to be “serious,” though some of the content truly is.
Tarantino is all surface. What you see is what you get. The self-referencial message about film and the cinema embodying the ability to escape, re-write history, and prove cathartic is all well and good, but he spells it out for you… if you think something else is going on, you are over-thinking it.
That said, there are a couple of scenes that carry a great deal of dramatic weight and affect the audience without gimmicks or hooks, but with real craft… something I don’t think Bigelow’s Locker quite gets. The first scene in Basterds, when we are introduced to the conditions of WWII might be Quentin at his best. Here he establishes the weight of the camera, the importance of character, and the true inhumanity of some really nutzo individuals standing at the helm of mass genocide, while marking a scene we eventually flash back to with some memorable shouting in French. Of course, violence is this guy’s specialty, and the expectations are met… I can always go for more gore. The trick though, is cutting it right, and, man, Menke is just getting better.
Strangely enough, the titles breaking this film apart do exactly that… in Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs, they held the film together.
As in all of his other films, we see a pastiche of his favorites dealing with similar subject matter and those he draws from stylistically. What most impressed me was the beginning of “The Attack of the Giant Face” scene. David Bowie leads us into it with some amazing 80’s, alien beats as we cross-dissolve from one orb shot to the next of Shosanna Dreyfus standing radiant beside a window that looks like it came straight out of the Millennium Falcon. She prepares for war.
In this po mo or, slash that, poo moo, we can only come away from the latest Tarantino jigsaw with the knowledge that meaning is meaningless.