[Moving the media updates to Thursday, to even out my weekly schedule a bit.]
Movies: Inglourious Basterds [spoilers]
Inglourious Basterds [spoilers]
This is Quentin Tarantino's 2005 picture about a team of American guerrilla fighters in Nazi-occupied France.
It's rare that I feel disappointed when something is spoiled for me. Sure, sometimes, before watching a movie, I find out things I didn't want to, and I'm something of a master of reconstructing the remainder of a movie from even the most elliptical trailer, but when that happens, I'm not *terribly* disappointed. If it's a comedy, I see the jokes I expected, and I laugh. If it's a mystery, I watch the hints crop up, and see how they slowly piece together to the known solution. It's all good.
But I wish I had gone into Inglourious Basterds with no idea that they'd kill Hitler. I wish I could have watched this whole movie with my brain working overtime, knowing how history turned out, desperately trying to piece together exactly how our heroes were going to get so very close to winning, and then lose. I can imagine watching, stunned, as Hitler gets mowed down with machine-gun fire, and then having some small, stupid part of my brain ask me, "Wait, is Hitler actually... dead? Whaaaa?"
It would have been a hell of a surprise. It's a bravura move on Tarantino's part.
So instead, I was watching a straightforward revenge fantasy, set in an alternate history. Well, okay, then.
As it is, it's still a hell of a movie. Its long opening scene -- a masterful interrogation scene where the Big Bad, Hans Landa (AKA "the Jew Hunter"), gets a French farmer to admit to having a Jewish family hidden away beneath his floorboards -- is amazing. Had the entire movie been on that level of quality, I would have watched it all in one gobsmacked sitting, wondering aloud why it hadn't won the Best Picture Oscar.
That scene did one wonderful thing that I see too rarely in movies these days: it establishes a villain primarily by how people *respond* to him. Every movie is willing to show us how evil a bad guy is by having him do something bad ("Ooh, he just put a cigarette out on a kitten!"), but what's unnerving is to have a guy who is not giving off any obvious "villain" vibe, but still inspires terror in the people around him. And the farmer in that long scene perfectly plays "I'm terrified but I can't reveal that I'm terrified."
So basically, I saw that scene, and I was expecting a sharply intelligent, relentlessly tense film that focused on psychological realism in horrific war scenarios.
And I suppose I got little flashes of that. The Mexican standoff in the basement bar, for example, had a similar vibe for a while. But in retrospect, that long opener feels like more of a counterweight. It was something that was very psychologically realistic, something not especially stylized, something that put you in the room -- something grounded that served to counterbalance the rest of the movie, which went to crazy, over-the-top Grand-Guignol land and just kind of luxuriated there.
I don't really have a problem with that, though. Sure, after a while, I stopped sympathizing with anybody -- neither the Nazis nor the Americans (who stopped just shy of putting out a cigarette on a kitten). But *shrug* giant shootouts are fun to watch, and Tarantino does a great job setting huge, violent plot lines in motion. By the end of it, we're waiting for Shoshanna to burn the theater down, for Raine's men to blow it up, and for Landa to catch up on the whole lot of them. That's a lot of shit to send arcing towards the fan.
So it was exciting and spectacular, and I'm glad I watched it. I watched it from something of a remove, both because of the violence and because it's so hyper-stylized. But the opening scene will stick with me, as will the equally long, tense barroom conversation, and the massive, hellish conflagration at the end.
And dude -- they killed Hitler. Who *does* that?
For next week: still listening to podcasts. Also, I've started watching Thor for some reason.
Mood: contemplative · Music: none