Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inglourious Basterds: celluloid assassins

Writer/director Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is more comedy than drama, more suspense than action. That's what makes it worth the effort of a cinema viewing. He rewrites the history of the Third Reich in true comic-book fantasy style. Always the risk-taker, Tarantino teases us with some lengthy dialogue-rich scenes that stand apart from his trademark graphic violence.

The opening sequence,as SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the "Jew Hunter", parries with French farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet), is a tingler as they switch between French and English. The 'La Louisiane' bar scene, as actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) meets with English spy Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), accelerates to its inevitable derailment.

There are the usual visual allusions to cinema classics, so beloved by the buffs. IMDb has a list of movie connections. Fittingly the plot's epicentre is a Paris cinema owned by Shosanna Dreyfus/Emmanuelle Mimieux (Mélanie Laurent), a very fatale femme. Laurent and Kruger are highlights, continuing Tarantino's penchant for powerful female leads.

Nation's Pride, a fictional Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) propaganda film within a film, is the story of hero Private Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl). Tarantino's view: “I like that it’s the power of the cinema that fights the Nazis,” he says. “But not just as a metaphor, as a literal reality.” David Bowie's song Cat People (Putting Out Fire) reinforces the message.

Brad Pitt as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, the hillbilly leader of the assassin squad, shows that his comic display in Burn After Reading was no fluke. It's no Oscar winning performance but he carries off the role with a fine touch of Tennessee fun. "We're in the Nazi killin' business and business is a boomin."

Talent packs the screen. The strong cast are too numerous to mention. Eli Roth who plays basterd Donny Donowitz also directed Nation's Pride with his brother Gabriel. Apparently the black and white Stolz der Nation runs for seven minutes, though only parts are shown in the movie.

While Inglourious Basterds is a long way from Tarantino's best, this modern mixture of The Dirty Dozen and Flame and Citron will appeal to lovers of the heroes versus villains genre.

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