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Glorious Bastard

August 22, 2009

Glorious Bastard

So what if he can’t spell, right?  The man’s a genius.  He must have had a good reason for misspelling both “inglorious” and  “bastards”, like maybe getting it past the censors, right?–sort of like “The Spy who Shagged Me?”  I doubt it—he probably doesn’t use a spell checker.  Truth be known it was probably done to distinguish it from the 1978 film “Inglorious Bastards”, possibly to facilitate a more accurate Google search or just avoid copyright infringement.  Trouble is that anyone hearing the title will more than likely search use the correct spelling, thus getting the older film, or if after seeing the trailer on TV, search using the revised Taratino spelling, thus deepening the Katrina flood of illiteracy that already exists in a Bush generation of no children left behind,  listening to rappers with names like “Ludicris” and wearing clothes by “Phat Farm”.  Perhaps Brad Pitt will  build some new schools.

The anticipation of another Quentin Tarantino film creates certain expectations, and “Inglourious Basterds” certainly fulfills them all.  Tarantino follows his formula, replicating himself in movie form as surely as any formula picture from a bloated studio without a clue.

First, there’s the “campy” I’m-too-cool kitsch element that infuses the bad typography, graphics and B-western theme music.  Been there….

Followed by the chapter structure that proved so effective in the nonlinear storytelling of “Pulp Fiction”.  Done that…

And the “coup-de-gras”, snappy Tarantino dialogue…  well it’s Tarantino dialogue but far from snappy—interminably long dialogue, blah, blah, blah, peppered with the occasional over-the-top Tarantino-trademark non-sequitor and a cutaway to a short flashback of violent action.  Apparently, like the theater actor who transitions to film and writes his own monologues,  Tarantino thinks he is immune to the pitfalls of exposition.  If you saw the trailer, you’ve seen just about all the snappy dialog and all the action scenes as well.  The rest of the movie consists of scene after scene of two people sitting opposite one another talking endlessly in static shots, about mostly backstory, of which there’s not really much that matters anyway.

And all this dialogue is not even about the “plastic elements” like the Travolta/Jackson “cheeseburger” exchange in Pulp Fiction is. Tarantino’s writing merely echoes the pattern of those who market themselves to audience expectations, but in his case, with the self-conscious mega-bonus of being defined by unchecked narcissism.

In the early sixties it was much simpler.  It’s Tommy Roe following “Sweet Little Sheila” with the forgettable “Hooray for Hazel”, or Sandy Nelson recording “Teen Beat” and “Let there be Drums”.  “What else you got kid?  Oh that’s it? OK, let’s do it again!!” –except it’s a conversation with himself.

And to validate his status as “Uber-Genius” in the ultimate narcissistic triumph, the writer/director kills Hitler and the entire German high command in a blazing inferno of burning filmstock and machine gun fire delivered by a Jewish vixen, a brutally insane Jewish thug, his hapless Jewish compatriot-hitman, and a handsome, warm-hearted African-French-resistance-type projectionist.

I’ve heard that this film is being touted as a “revenge-fantasy”, some new classification of films, perhaps quite timely.  I suppose in  an age where revenge is so desired and unattainable; where a divided electorate have been repeatedly cheated;  where our finest leaders are assassinated;  where Islamic villains elude the entire combined capability of the world’s best high tech forces and our own villains are promoted to high office, rob us blind and upon getting the presidential “get out of jail free” card move on to celebrity status and a life of wealth, it must be very satisfying for an impotent audience to channel their instincts for revenge safely on the long dead, and by now quite harmless, Adolf Hitler and friends.

But alas, as with his previous films, the truly original scenes are the ones that you find yourself laughing at—not because they are funny, but because they are so sick that someone would dare to put them on the screen at all, a scene like someone getting his head beat in with a baseball bat.  In other words, laughing at the filmmaker’s audacity, shooting brutal violence without a cutaway, for entertainment purposes.

In the end, whether good or bad, Tarantino films are about its star, the director, and just like porno films not about the story. ADHD and narcissism are a potent mix.

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5 comments

  1. Love and agree with “In the end, whether good or bad, Tarantino films are about its star, the director, and just like porno films not about the story.” 🙂 But why a “no-mention-at-all” of Christopher Waltz?


    • Hey Mike, Christopher Waltz was superb and the casting (as Landa) was spot on. As we live in town with strong German ancestry, CIncinnati, I had to laugh at just how much he looked like two different friends of mine, Jack Strietmarter at Sound Images and Dave Ditken at PPS. They could all be brothers. I didn’t mention him in my review because it was about the writing and directing and not the acting. I enjoyed his performance and it may very well have been the highlight of the film.


  2. Mike, your review is spot on. For a film that was conceived more than ten years ago, I feel let down. I am pretty sure that he originally wanted it to be more of an epic like the Kill Bill saga. Could you imagine 4+ hours of that? You focused on the writing and direction of the film, mentioning that it was a lot of the same ole’ Tarantino trademarks. That much is obvious. But what I don’t understand is, why? Everyone wanted to see a war film by Tarantino. But why make it fit into the same old format as his other movies. I mean come on, mix it up a bit. It was missing a lot. The lighting was fantastic when they moved in for the tighter shots. But what happened to the cinematography of Q.T.?!? He used the same DP from the Kill Bill saga when he should moved on to someone else. So many shots that were just a basic approach just befuddled me. I thought the performances were mostly good. I love Brad Pitt, but I thought he could have been much better. I agree that Christopher Waltz was excellent. But the circling dialog that never stopped was killing me. If I wore a watch, I would have timed some of those scenes. I was mostly impressed with Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus. So much so, that I want to check out some of her other work.

    Overall, I enjoyed it. I will buy it when it comes out and add it to my QT collection. I am sure the extras on the DVD will be very entertaining. It just seemed to be missing that WOW factor.


    • Absolutely!! Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus was wonderful and I really enjoy films where “new and undiscovered” talent emerge as stars. Look at Brad Pitt in “Thelma and Louise” and then watch him in this–it’s retrograde, a pale comparison. But as strong or as weak as these actors may have been, they were hamstrung by the writing and direction. Film collections on DVD are important references and I’ll do the same, but not out of love.


    • “The lighting was fantastic when they moved in for the tighter shots. But what happened to the cinematography of Q.T.?!? He used the same DP from the Kill Bill saga when he should moved on to someone else. So many shots that were just a basic approach just befuddled me.”

      There’s a great article in the September 09 issue of AC magazine featuring cinematographer Robert Richardson. He sheds some light on his approach to shooting this picture, and the QT approach in general. Check it out. I for one thought that IB was fantastic on almost all accounts and an extremely satisfying flick. I had to chuckle at the final line of dialog uttered by Brad Pitt’s character… an extreme case of QT’s narcissism coming through on screen? Yes, probably – and every frame of it was a delicious treat.



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