Sunday, 9 August 2009

Inglorious Basterds Review

I saw this in the soon to be demolished, but for this occasion packed, ODEON WEST END a few weeks ago. I really like this screen. Over the years I have seen things like THE NEW WORLD and THE DARK KNIGHT here. I met up with James Tully, from the ODEON in Brighton, and after a couple of lagers we settled in. The scratchy print rolled on (Tarantino has insisted on a 35mm release for this film, and the reasons will become obvious once you've seen the film) and excitement ensued.

I know Tarantino inspires huge hate and love in equal measures - I am neither a hater nor a sycophant. I think Tarantino's first three films are amazing, but I am a little tepid about KILL BILL 1, and definitely dislike KILL BILL 2 and DEATH PROOF. So I was more than skeptical going in, particularly given the awful review by Peter Bradshaw.

So first of all: the film is too long; it doesn't make much sense plot-wise; the violence is gratuitous; its moral compass is visibly off-balance; and it's the most fun I've had at the cinema in a long time.

Although the genre is World War II, Tarantino is mainly working with the Spaghetti Western conventions. And despite the action backdrop, it's in his dialogue where the sparks fly. The real star of the film isn't Brad Pitt, but Colonel Landa (in a star-making turn by Christoph Waltz) as the 'Jew-Hunter'. There is a lot less DIRTY DOZEN style scenes than you get from the marketing of the film, and most of action takes place inside a tavern and a cinema. The latter part of the film at a Parisian cinema, ranks amongst some of my favorite collection of scenes ever - probably because anything taking place in a single screen vintage movie theater immediately has my attention.

Despite the grim subject matter, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments (as you would expect from a Tarantino flick) and the audience I saw it with clapped at the end. It seemed from my perspective like a real crowd pleaser. Apart from Pitt, the cast is full of fantastic unknowns (although Michael Fassbender is a quickly rising actor) and this all adds to the reality of it - particulary because most of the movie is in German, French and Italian - which in turn makes it even more enjoyable.

Most film critics like to play the 'identify that reference' game with QT's films, as it's a magnificent opportunity to show off their own knowledge of the cannon. While I can't identify every source, you always feel like he is using the languages of the genres he is obsessed with (Spaghetti western, World War II movies, mission movies, De Palma, etc) but not unlike a catchy pop tune, the melody is both familiar and completely fresh. Originality isn't the only virtue to value in film; superb craftsmanship and an ear for killer dialogue can carry things as well.

Don't buy into the buzz that this was not well received: it got a standing ovation at Cannes; the TIMES loved it; TOTAL FILM adores it; and even wooly liberal THE INDEPENDENT likes it. Either way, QT is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today and you should make up your own mind.

We have previews 15th and 16th August, late shows on 19th and 20th and then the film rolls on in all shows from the 21st, playing in glorious 35mm on our old projector.

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