With the release of “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino has shown that he has matured as an auteur–even though he’s as prone as ever to creating funny-ha-ha sequences of joyous cinematic revelry just for the sport of it.
Tarantino deploys virtuosic use of character, dialogue, suspense, and surprise in each of this film’s five chapters. A tense opening sequence titled “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France” sets the filmmaker’s darkly comic yet heavily dramatic tone with Nazi Colonel Hans Landa’s (diabolically played by Christoph Waltz, who won Best Actor at Cannes for his performance)—and his small group of soldiers— visit to a remote farmhouse inhabited by dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) and his three daughters.
The objective, naturally, is to search for Jews whom LaPadite may be hiding. A polite battle of wits and willpower between the two adversaries plays out with a savory drama that is astounding for its layers of subtext, precise execution, and originality.
The following chapter introduces Tennessee-born Lt. Aldo Raine (played with gusto by Brad Pitt), who indoctrinates his elite squad of Nazi scalpers (Aldo is part Apache Indian) with a speech spun of richly-humored narrative gold.
The remaining chapters–each reflecting a different film genre– build on one another toward a new kind of World War II fantasy climax that is cathartic as it is bittersweet for its inevitable collateral damage.
Loosely inspired by Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 B-movie of the same title–that was itself modeled on Robert Aldrich’s “The Dirty Dozen,” “Inglourious Basterds” (purposely misspelled to foreshadow the film’s tenor as a foreign war fantasy complete with subtitles) is a project Tarantino has kept simmering on a back burner for years.
The movie is full of gentle nods to a collection of styles ranging from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns (there’s more than a little Ennio Morricone music on hand) to the fetishistic WWII films of Tinto Brass (“Salon Kitty”).
Next to Martin Scorsese, there isn’t another filmmaker as eloquent and passionate about cinema as Tarantino. Like Scorsese, Tarantino involves himself with his audience on a journey about how to enjoy it in the same way he does.
“Inglourious Basterds” is a five-course meal created by one of the world’s finest chefs. Not since Scorsese’s “The Departed” has anyone made a film that’s as much fun.
Tarantino masterfully employs an economy of action, thought, and movement that takes you on a wartime movie excursion you never want to end. Every film that Quentin Tarantino makes is a cinematic event of mammoth proportions, and this one is no different. It lives up to the director’s brilliant international reputation, and accordingly so does he. “Inglourious Basterds” is Tarantino’s best work yet.