I think my Screenjabber editor will be furious with me for writing this. He himself actually worked on Basterds so this is like telling he’s the worst film-maker guy ever. He is anyway, doesn’t need to be told that, I kid I kid. Basterds for me, like any other Tarantino films, seems to live off of escalation and its pacing. There’s a true weight to the characters in this one and how they all get caught up in one delicious scheme to do what every time-traveller dreams of: shoot Hitler in his face. Not exactly that but it does involve destroying the Third Reich.
It’s either fate or some lousy God who has decided that Tarantino just happens to announce his new film today. Well, kind of today, but still close. I’m already looking forward to it as I was looking forward to Basterds. I think Tarantino is probably one of my favourite modern directors along with Nolan and the Coen Brothers doing their thang. I love his work, all of his work, Basterds is one of his best and it’s practically the film of 2009… if Moon didn’t come out in the same year I mean. I loved it from beginning to end, with that final chapter being Tarantino’s finest film-work.
So, what didn’t I like? What can I take apart from this masterpiece? I won’t even touch the acting given Christoph Waltz (Hans Landa) challenges Heath Ledger as the best villain of the decade, Brad Pitt’s “Bonjourno!” had me crying with laughter. The subtlety behind the laughs is what is missing from a lot of comedies nowadays, the script is (in my opinion) the absolute star of the show. It just bursts out now and then for all to see. Not literally of course but for some reason I find the writing g more hypnotic than the actors performances, Waltz included. I’ve recently read Kubrick’s un-produced script of Napoleon and Tarantino’s Basterds and I’m still weighing up the two together.
There’s a trouble with Basterds, obviously, otherwise there’d be no point in Film Critique Corner if I can’t critique the uncritiquable if that’s even a word. Microsoft Word doesn’t seem to think so but screw that, my middle name is “Dictionary”, and by that I mean it’s actually a mis-spelling of “Reece”. It’s embarrassing, but it’s more embarrassing when you deviate from the topic at hand like I’m doing. I have one small problem with Basterds and it’s the fact it’s so good, but it’s perhaps inconsistent at times. I once critiqued something saying the audience would be the problem, they still are, given most of them will find the tavern sequence ‘boring’ when I found it entrancing.
Tarantino’s finest film-making lies in that final chapter and the whole film is a good example of how to pace a film outside of a typical three-act structure. There’s only a slight problem I find with the pacing in that the film is spread across two plot-lines, two groups of characters, who eventually cross paths. It isn’t thinly spread like Spider-Man 3 (I like the film, but it feels dirty to place it in the same field of Tarantino) with all the characters at play but it feels kind of weird when Basterds asks me to care about characters/fear characters I haven’t even seen the faces of. Case in point: Eli Roth’s character.
Eli Roth is strangely enough the doppelgänger of my Screenjabber editor, seriously just take a look. They’re like brothers, except one played a character I don’t care about as much as the others. When he’s introduced as this mad, mad baseball bat wielding psycho then I’m a bit taken back about the believability that I should fear this guy. I’m about to see him wail on a Nazi, but I’m not exactly fearful or thriller when he makes his entrance. The build-up is full of these visual horror clichés which I know for a fact Tarantino likes to plays with, guy made Death Proof duh.
When the guy goes “Fuck a duck!”, after they find out Hitler will be showing his toothbrush-tache wearing face at the theatre, I’m with him but not 100%. He grew on me during the final chapter and I was rooting for them all the way, especially during that elegant use of slow-motion close the ending. I feel slightly weird however when I can’t actually remember his name. I do now, don’t even have to check imdb, Sgt. Donny Donowitz and all that. It’s not that I don’t like the character, don’t get me wrong, It’s just odd when I’m asked to care about someone who got such a weird introduction.
It’s like an already established menace who has done terrible things such as… Waltz himself. When he makes that entrance when Shosanna has been forced into the dinner with Gobbels, and he just teases the poor girl, it’s some damn good stuff. You feel all twitchy and you can feel the tense atmosphere just grip and grip tighter. He’s Hans Landa, he killed her family and he knows who she is. He makes a similar entrance to Roth’s character, semi-mysterious whom it might be and then when he sits down you’re into the scene. I buy that, what I don’t buy is being told Donowitz is “The Bear Jew” when I haven’t seen him whack a German. I buy it a little bit after he breaks a Nazi’s skull, but it’s still hammered in.
I feel like I’m making empty comments, that I’m trying to find the smallest criticism. I am, actually, I’m not making a comment that doesn’t carry any weight though. Some of the reviewers even hate the use of Bowie’s ‘Cat People‘ which I think is the best use of a music license since… yeah since ever. Some reviewers missed the point completely with one saying “All the trademark Tarantino flourishes are here — the joyous splaying of gore; the self-referential dialogue; the artful artificiality and the juxtaposition of humor and violence — but they don’t add up to much.” that’s Joanne Kaufman of the Wall Street Journal, missing the point of Tarantino’s film entirely.