YOU! YOU BASTERD!

basterd

I  would never call myself a huge Quentin Tarantino fan.  Sure, I like most of his movies, but I never “rush” out to see them, and other than Pulp Fiction, and to a lesser extent Reservoir Dogs,  I don’t think his movies are amazing.

So, as I parked my ass into the seat for a Sunday afternoon showing of his latest flick, “Inglorious Basterds”, I was expecting to be entertained. However, I was not only entertained, I was  blown away.

The movie gets off to a rousing start with its opening chapter, “Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France,” when we are introduced to Tarantino’s single best character to date, the somewhat charming Nazi Col. Hans Landa,  played by the amazing Christoph Waltz, who won the Best Actor award for this role at the Cannes Film Festival.

Landa at first doesn’t seem befitting of his nickname, “The Jew Hunter.” During his talk with a local French dairy farmer, Landa is polite as can be, seemingly wanting to do little more than follow-up on a previous visit by another officer about a local Jewish family who may have fled, moving the conversation from German to French and finally to English. As they speak, we start to realize that moving to a language both Landa and the farmer know isn’t just for the audience’s benefit, giving them a moment’s reprise from what will be many subtitled sequences, but setting a trap for the farmer which will make many in the audience squirm as they realize what is about to happen.

Making audiences squirm seems to be what Tarantino wants to do most with “Basterds.” You may be aware from the commercials and trailers that Brad Pitt leads a group of Jewish-American soldiers who are set upon terrorizing the Nazis, leaving their marks by scalping those they kill and carving swastikas into those they leave alive. You may also be aware one of the Basterds, Sgt. Donny Donowitz (“Hostel” filmmaker Eli Roth) has a special skill amongst the team by taking a baseball bat to those who, as his Lieutenant likes to say, “want to die for their country”.

Many heads are scalped, a few are bashed in or carved up. Someone pokes their finger into a bullet wound to get to the truth of what just happened. Thousands of bullets fly, and a number of gallons of blood are splattered.  It’s quite gruesome at times.

Pitt is the name that will get butts into seats, but it’s not his movie. Along with Waltz, who is deserving of every accolade he’ll get the rest of the year, “Basterds” belongs to Mélanie Laurent, the equally little known French actress who plays Shosanna Dreyfus, a survivor of one of Landa’s hunts now operating a movie theatre in Paris under an assumed name, who devises a plan to take down the man who killed her family when an unexpected German movie premiere falls into her lap. And believe me, in one unforgettable piece of cinema,  this bitch means business when she decides to get her revenge.

With out ruining anything, the last shot of the film is of one of the “basterds” staring into the camera after he has just carved up a Nazi soldier.

“This may just be my masterpiece,” he says, of his handy work.

Fittingly, the same can be said of Tarantino’s latest film.


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