Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith gives us an advance view of the new Tarantino film.
By Adrian Smith
Back in 1995, I
thought Quentin Tarantino could do no wrong. After the quadruple whammy of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance
and Natural Born Killers, it seemed
as though he was just about the coolest man on the planet. He even polished the
Crimson Tide script, causing Denzel
Washington to wax lyrical about the Silver Surfer.
However, I managed
to miss Jackie Brown and had no
interest at all in the Kill Bills.
Earlier this year I finally tried Death
Proof, but gave up after half an hour out of sheer boredom. Perhaps I’d
outgrown Tarantino. His constant recycling of older, better movies and juvenile
glee in violence just weren’t for me any more.
Or so I thought.
This evening I
attended a preview of Inglourious
Basterds, as part of the Empire Movie-Con II, held at the BFI in London. No
doubt many of you are aware that there also exists an Italian war film from
1978 of the same name. QT has stated that he only used the title and basic idea
(essentially a re-working of The Dirty
Dozen), and the script was all original. The plot follows the exploits of a
group of American Jewish soldiers in Nazi-occupied France. As you are no doubt
expecting, in true QT style there is a lot of talk. A LOT of talk. The opening
scene is a conversation between two people which lasts twenty minutes. There is
a barroom scene featuring Nazi drinking games which easily lasts half an hour.
QT certainly likes his characters to chat. It was this propensity which I felt
killed Death Proof before it even got
going. Here however these scenes work brilliantly. This has to be down to the
fantastic performances, most notably from Brad Pitt as Lieutenant Aldo “the
Apache” Raine, and Christoph Waltz as his nemesis, the Colonel Hans Landa,
known as “The Jew Hunter”. Waltz in particular is a mesmerising actor. He
manages to turn what could have been a cardboard movie villain into a complex,
nuanced, basically human character, and also provides much of the film’s
humour. Did I mention it’s a comedy? There are scenes of action and violence,
but there is also a lot of comedy in this film. This is essentially an
irreverent take on the WWII film, and it is easy to see why it will upset many
people. It is another example of Hollywood
re-writing history to show that the American’s won the war. However I would
argue not to take it so seriously. The film begins with the caption “Once upon
a time…”, and if you treat it as a fairy tale, albeit a gruesome, often
sadistic one, with more twists and turns than a roller coaster, you will find
yourself going with it.
Inglourious Basterds has certainly restored my faith in Tarantino as a
filmmaker. His personal video introduction this evening reminded me that he is
still quite twitchy and irritating, but he does deserve for this film to be a
success. In his version of events it is cinema itself that triumphs over evil,
and the closing line of the film is “I think this could be my masterpiece.” He
could be right.