Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France

That was apparently what Tarantino wanted as the title of Inglourious Basterds, as much as I like the actual title with its characteristic Tarantino-esque misspelling, I really like that and wish they had kept it. I was also tempted to title this post “I love numbers” which isn’t actually a line from the film, it’s a comic mishearing by a critic (from Sight and Sound I think). They thought that’s what Landa had said when he uttered one of his best lines (I know all of his lines are his best lines, but it’s my favourite in particular) “I love rumours.” Though for obvious reasons it would have been, in a very dark way hilarious, if that’s what the Jew hunter had said.

Inglourious Basterds delivers upon what if offers on the poster, an uproarious, inglourious thrill ride of vengeance. It’s enjoyable for film buffs and casual fans alike, if you get the references it just adds to the fun and if you don’t it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

Some people have voiced the opinion that whilst the first twenty minutes or so is undeniably sheer genius, that the film loses its way later on, in particular what QT refers to as the “French film” segment being criticised for its slowness compared to the rest of the film. I don’t think so; my view on it can be summed up with a quote from The Wire: “and all the pieces matter.” I think it all fits together perfectly; each and every segment is required. The film is pretty long, two hours and thirty-two minutes (including in the credits) and yet I couldn’t imagine a single thing that could be cut or that would need to be.

Nor do I think that the film suffers when Landa is not on-screen, despite my considerable appreciation for the character, it’s almost a relief when he’s not on screen for the simple reason that the scenes he is in are so fraught with tension that it’s a relief not to see him for a while. The relative calmness of the French section counteracts the intensity of the rest of the film nicely I think.

I honestly don’t have a single thing to criticise, there isn’t anything I think could have been done better or improved in any way. From a writing perspective, I think it may be the best thing QT will ever do and maybe from a directorial standpoint as well. The casting was simply unbeatable, I obviously hugely appreciate the fact that you have Germans playing Germans; in fact my favourite thing about the film is that the correct languages are spoken. I also like how speaking or not speaking a particular language, or rather speaking it correctly is an important part of the story. On this note my favourite scene is the one with the solider in the bar after Hicox and the two Basterds have been shot. The exchange goes something like this:

Aldo: What are you?
Werner: I’m a German you idiot.
Aldo: You speak pretty good English for a German.
Werner: I agree.

To me, that was QT mocking all of the films that have had English speaking actors play Nazis over the years.

Overall, the film is so perfect it really is impossible to pick a favourite scene. If I were to list my favourite scenes I would just ending up describing the film from beginning to end. Nor could really I pick a favourite character, Landa I obviously like, but I equally like Wilhelm Wicki, Lt. Aldo, Frederick Zoller and there are many I like amongst the characters who don’t have a great deal of screen time as well such as Richard Sammel as Seargent Werner Rachtman, Christian Berkel as the bartender and Denis Ménochet as the farmer in the very first scene. And not forgetting the truly disturbingly perfect Sylvester Groth as Joseph Goebbels. Nevetheless Landa is the one I have written pages and pages about, in fact I have so many notes on him and my interpretation of his character that I think it’s best to give him a post of his own so that he doesn’t steal this post like he stole the film.

The film ends with the words “you know, I think this may be my masterpiece”. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. He may have won the Oscar for best original screenplay for Django Unchained but in my mind, he should have won it for this. Whilst both films have great quotable dialogue, Django obviously having the advantage given that almost all of the film is in English, for me it’s Inglourious Basterds that is better overall and that showcases Tarantino’s talents as a writer.

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