MOVIE REVIEW- Glorious <i>Inglourious</i>: Tarantino's latest a sure classic


I don't know why but I still get pumped for a new Quentin Tarantino movie. He'll probably never top Pulp Fiction, his Citizen Kane, but I keep hoping the next one will be his Touch of Evil. So far that's been Kill Bill: Volume 2 but Inglourious Basterds may replace it.

Tarantino makes movies for people who love movies and references the classics even as he breaks all the rules that made them classics in the first place. Who else, for example, could combine Hitchcock and Cinderella in a single scene?

When Inglourious Basterds is deconstructed, as it surely will be, it will be found lacking on many counts: scenes are too long, major characters disappear for too long at a time, there are too many subtitles for American audiences, and some of the wrong people die. To name a few.

The question is, does it work? The answer is a rousing "Hell, yeah!"

Spaghetti Western guitar chords mingle with Beethoven's "Für Elise" to introduce the title of the first of five chapters, "Once upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France." There, in 1941, SS Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), known as "The Jew Hunter," visits the dairy farm of Perrier Lapadite (Denis Menochet) and his three daughters. Most of the 20-minute scene consists of a quiet conversation, heavy on politeness and pleasantries, between the two men, first in French, then in English. Somewhere along the way we become aware that the Dreyfus family, the last Jews in the area, are hiding under the floor. This increases the tension, which was always there, until the scene ends with a burst of bloodshed and the escape of teenaged Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent).

Chapter II, Inglourious Basterds tells how American Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) forms an eight-man squad of ruthless Nazi-killers. Being part "Injun," Raine demands at least 100 Nazi scalps from each of his men– and they deliver. We don't get acquainted with many of the Basterds, nor learn how they get that name with its misspelling– except that it's carved into someone's rifle butt.

Among those we do get to know are Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger), an enlisted man in the German army until he was rescued by the Basterds after he killed 13 German officers; and Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), known as "The Bear Jew," whose signature move is clubbing Nazis with a baseball bat. Raine says, "Watchin' Donny beat Nazis to death is the closest we ever get to goin' to the movies."

The other three chapters take place in 1944. Shoshanna, with a fake identity as "Emmanuelle Mimieux," is running a cinema in Paris. She catches the eye and heart of Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), "the German Sergeant York," who in a three-day stint in a bell tower shot about as many allied troops as Don "The Goods" Ready sells cars in a weekend.

As it happens, the Germans have made a movie about Zoller, in which he plays himself. A French premiere has already been planned but Frederick gets it transferred to "Emmanuelle's" more intimate venue. It takes on a new importance with the entire German high command – including Hitler (Martin Wuttke) – scheduled to attend.

The rest of the movie is about two unrelated plans to take advantage of the event to end the war. The Basterds will infiltrate the premiere with the help of German film star Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), a double agent. Shoshanna and her Negro assistant (a Nazi no-no) Marcel (Jacky Ido) plan to ignite a cache of highly flammable nitrate films, burning down the theater and everyone inside.

History doesn't record this incident as the turning point of the war, but Tarantino, who developed the screenplay over a decade, beats history into pulp fiction in Inglourious Basterds, a glorious romp that combines adventure, suspense, comedy, romance, film lore, extreme brutality and just enough facts to make the background recognizable– and that's just the trailer.

In other words, it's Tarantino at something close to his best, making another film that will be imitated, dissected, referenced, satirized, enjoyed, and worshipped for decades to come.

Because I see so many movies, I usually can't wait for one to end so I can write it up and move on to the next one. In the case of Inglourious Basterds I wanted it to be over so I could watch it again.