As the movie ‘Inglourious Basterds’ opens, the setting is established in the French countryside during the Nazi occupation. But the air is filled with the tinny music of a spaghetti western. This is the first warning audiences get that all their expectations should be thrown out the window.
Unless, of course, the viewer is familiar with Quentin Tarantino’s work-then it is the same old disdain for snobby cinema one expects from Tarantino, as he revels in the fun of genre.
Tarantino is the unrivaled king of postmodernism in movies. “Inglourious Basterds” only serves to solidify that standing. While he uses the same old characteristics of the chopped-up timeline, unsynchronous plots and clever asides highlighted in cheesy flicks that he is known for, he also manages to deliver a fresh take on Nazi movies.
Where one might expect discrimination against Jews in the plot, one finds discrimination against Nazis instead. Where one expects cunning spies, one gets gawdy and obtuse soldiers.
Where one expects a tale of justice, one gets, well, a justice of a kind.
It appears Tarantino’s goal was to reinvent history as some people might have wished it to unfold, and he does so with audacity. His alternative history tap-dances all over reality with bloody glee.
Indeed, this might be Tarantino’s best work to date. He does what he does best: flying in the face of elitist cinemaphiles to pay homage to the B-class movie that is as fun as it is gory.
The film sings with Tarantino’s distinctive dialogue. It is sharp and quick and it keeps the audience spell-bound. One never knows what to expect.
His direction choices are also intriguing, leaving viewers puzzling over quick flashes of unrelated scenes or odd choices of close-ups long after the movie is over.
Yet it is obvious that he isn’t the only one who had fun in this project. The actors embrace their characters and bring this stunning tale to life. Brad Pitt (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) shines as Lt. Aldo Raine, capitalizing on all of the character’s humorous possibilities, including a redneck Italian accent that is comedic gold. Christoph Waltz (“Tatort”) is chilling as Col. Hans Landa, who is so unnaturally calm during his dirty deeds that he easily becomes one of the best villains ever portrayed in cinema. Melanie Laurent (“Voyage d’affaires”) emits such pathos and fear as Shosanna Dreyfus that the audience is almost paralyzed with her while she is forced to calmly eat strudel with her worst enemy.
This movie is an unexpected diamond in the rough that may be the best cinematic representation of postmodernism to date. It capitalizes on all the anti-establishment, anti-art rebellious characteristics inherent in the movement to ironically create a work of art in its own right. “Inglourious Basterds” very well could be Tarantino’s piece de resistance. Viewers who are looking to enjoy a movie of this nature will not be disappointed