Inglourious Basterds [Blu-Ray]
Director : Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay : Quentin Tarantino
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2009
Stars : Brad Pitt (Lt. Aldo Raine), Mélanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus), Christoph Waltz (Col. Hans Landa), Eli Roth (Sgt. Donny Donowitz), Michael Fassbender (Lt. Archie Hicox), Diane Kruger (Bridget von Hammersmark), Daniel Brühl (Fredrick Zoller), Til Schweiger (Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz), Gedeon Burkhard (Cpl. Wilhelm Wicki), Jacky Ido (Marcel), B.J. Novak (Pfc. Smithson Utivich), Omar Doom (Pfc. Omar Ulmer), August Diehl (Major Dieter Hellstrom), Denis Menochet (Perrier LaPadite), Sylvester Groth (Joseph Goebbels)
The fact that the title of Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist World War II fantasy Inglourious Basterds is purposefully misspelled--for reasons that we can imagine reside solely in Tarantino’s overstuffed imagination--is perhaps best understood as a subtle hint that the film is nothing like what most expected it would be. As a project that has been anticipated for more than a decade as Tarantino’s metacinematic answer to The Dirty Dozen (1967), the abstract idea of Inglorious Basterds had taken on a life of its own long before the film arrived in theaters, fueled primarily by rumors of a massive, constantly evolving script and trailers that suggested a nonstop orgy of violence ala Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). However, if there is one consistency in Tarantino’s cinematic oeuvre, it is that he never produces exactly what you would expect, and Inglorious Basterds is no different.
For starters, the “basterds” of the title are not the main focus of the film. These Jewish-American soldiers who are recruited solely to wage a grisly guerilla war against the Nazis in France by Brad Pitt’s Appalachian-born Lt. Aldo Raine are not even introduced until half an hour into the film, after which they disappear for several reels before resurfacing for the final third (Pitt, despite minimal screen time, makes an indelible impression with his jutting jaw and good ol’ boy vernacular, once again proving that he is one of the greatest and most underrated comic actors working today). And, while the trailers have self-consciously made the film appear exceedingly violent, Tarantino is much less interested in the gory possibilities of the premise than he is in old-fashioned suspense and tension, most of which is generated in lengthy, carefully calculated sequences of people sitting around tables and talking (mostly in French and German). Granted, we do get one protracted sequence in which Raine and his men have already slaughtered (and are in the process of scalping) a number of Nazi soldiers, which culminates in the German commanding officer having his head bashed in with a baseball bat by Sgt. Donny Donowitz, nicknamed “The Bear Jew” (who is played by Hostel director Eli Roth). However, the vast majority of the film is fueled by the jittery threat of violence, rather than its outbreak (until the fiery climax, that is, which rewrites history with such operatic verve that you can’t help but get swept up in its ludicrous exhilaration).
The majority of the narrative and empathy is given over to a young Jewish woman named Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), who escaped the Nazis as a girl and hid her Semitism while running a small theater in Paris. She catches the eye of Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a handsome young German war hero who is the star and subject of a new Nazi propaganda film. When Zoller convinces Joseph Goebbles (played with cartoonish grotesquerie by Sylvester Groth) to premiere the film at Shosanna’s theater with the most important members of the Third Reich in attendance, she hatches a plan to burn down the theater using hundreds of highly combustible nitrate prints, a plot device that allows Tarantino to fantasize that the war could have been won with celluloid--the ultimate movie geek trip. Meanwhile, the British have their own plan to detonate the theater, which involves help from the basterds, as well as Lt. Archie Hicox, a British film-critic-turned spy (Michael Fassbender), and a German movie star named Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger).
With the exception of Death Proof (2007), Inglorious Basterds is Tarantino’s most linear film. He dispenses with the temporal gymnastics that defined his early works and instead adopts a relatively straightforward narrative approach that never veers outside of flashbacks. The film opens in 1941 during the German occupation of France with a brilliantly executed sequence in which Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), nicknamed “The Jew Hunter,” interrogates a French dairy farmer (Denis Menochet) about the whereabouts of his Jewish neighbors. At some 20 minutes in length, this sequence, which is comprised almost entirely of dialogue around a kitchen table, is sustained by the relentless emphasis on the tension between Landa’s surface niceties and the clear-cut sadism that lurks just beneath it (Waltz, an Austrian actor who won the Best Actor Prize at Cannes for his role, is a commanding screen presence who adeptly mixes gentility and malice with such cunning that you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins). This sequence is matched only by a later scene in which Hicox, who is impersonating an SS officer, and Bridget find themselves trapped in a basement pub with a roomful of drunk Nazi soldiers and a real SS officer whose constant inquisitiveness is destined to eventuate in bloodshed.
Although Tarantino is clearly playing off the historically inaccurate, but gratuitously satisfying WWII exploitation flicks of the ’60s and ’70s, his continual emphasis on dialogue as opposed to action suggests that he’s attempting to rewrite, rather than just regurgitate, his grindhouse predecessors, with more than enough Tarantino-isms (odd use of fonts in the credits, clever deployment of pop music, and, of course, a nod to foot fetishism) to constantly remind us who’s behind the camera. It has been suggested in a few quarters that Tarantino’s taking of real-world history and putting it through the trash-movie blender is insensitive and callous, but that’s a given. What works in Inglourious Basterds is Tartantino’s fundamental understanding of the appealing nature of art’s ability to rewrite history to our liking, which in this case involves incinerating the Third Reich and pummeling Hitler and Goebbels with a hail of Jewish machine gun bullets. If there’s one subject that Tarantino knows well after Jackie Brown (1996), Kill Bill (2003-2004), and Death Proof, it’s the complex pleasures of vengeance, and Inglourious Basterds allows him to indulge them to their fullest. It’s not his finest film by any stretch of the means--too much of it feels like isolated setpieces that are brilliant in isolation, but don’t really cohere--but it still suggests that Tarantino is a much more complicated artist then either his fans or his detractors often suggest.
|Inglorious Basterds Two-Disc Blu-Ray Set|
|This two-disc set includes the film on one Blu-Ray disc a digital copy of the film on a second disc.|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||Universa Studios Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||December 15, 2009|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Although not necessarily his best film, Inglourious Basterds may very well be Tarantino’s best-looking film, and the 1080p high-definition transfer on this dual-layer BD-50 disc does it full justice. From the gorgeous pastoral setting of the film’s opening sequence to the hellish flames of its apocalyptic finale, the film looks fantastic, with excellent film-like detail, beautifully saturated colors (especially all those strong reds in both splattering blood and Nazi flags), and excellent shadow detail that makes the darker, noir-ish sequences really pop. The film features the typically eclectic Tarantino soundtrack, and the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-surround soundtrack sounds great throughout, whether it be reproducing the heavy thuds of machine gun fire or the complex layers of David Bowie’s pop anthem “Putting Out the Fire.” I can’t image the film looking or sounding better on home video.|
|The supplements are a strangely mixed bag, with some shedding great light on the film while others simply make you say, “Huh?” The extras open with three alternate and extended scenes, all of which are essentially longer versions of scenes in the movie, including Shoshanna’s tense lunch with Goebbles (7:10), the drunken card game in the basement pub (2:07), and the beginning of the Nation’s Pride premiere (2:09). Speaking of Nation’s Pride, the faux Nazi propaganda film that plays a prominent role in the plot, is well represented here. First we get the full extent of what was shot in the film, which basically amounts to the opening credits and about six minutes of the battle sequence. We also get the eight-minute “The Making of Nation’s Pride” featurette, which would have been interesting had it been done seriously, but instead it is presented as a faux featurette with Eli Roth doing a bad German impersonation as the film’s egotistical director and the actors playing Goebbles and Frederick Zoller staying in character to discuss the movie’s “production.” Much more insightful is the 31-minute roundtable discussion with Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt moderated by New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell. Although somewhat short, they hit a lot of high points, discussing how Pitt created his character and Tarantino’s various inspirations. One of those inspirations, of course, is the 1978 Italian exploitation film The Inglorious Bastards, which is profiled in the 8-minute “The Original Inglorious Bastards” featurette. The highlights include interviews with original director Enzo Castellari and star Bo Svenson, both of whom have cameos in Tarantino’s film (it also ends with the entirety of the original theatrical trailer, if only to show how the two films have nothing in common outside the title). Actor Rod Taylor, who plays Winston Churchill in the film, appears in two interviews to discuss his experiences working with Tarantino. A couple of the stranger featurettes include “Quentin Tarantino’s Camera Angle,” which is little more than a 3-minute montage of the production’s amusing clapperboard girl doing her thing and “Hi Sallys,” which cuts together various bits in which Tarantino and the actors offer quick greetings to editor Sally Menke at the beginning or end of various takes. Elvis Mitchell returns for the 11-minute “Film Poster Gallery Tour,” in which he discusses the real-life and fabricated movies whose posters appear throughout the film. There is also a poster gallery of more than 40 international one-sheets, the “Killin’ Nazis” Trivia Challenge, and four theatrical trailers (U.S. theatrical and teaser trailers, a general international trailer, and a Japanese trailer).|
Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick
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