Having read several reviews of Quentin Tarantino's latest work "Inglorious basterds" I had thought that Hollywood had finally managed to brainwash him and was fully prepared to see something like "Rambo meets Dirty Dozen" on steroids along with historical revisionism to boot. After actually seeing the film I'm glad to say I was wrong.
"Inglorious basterds" are on one hand classic Tarantino, and on the other hand they are not. There is the wanton violence and foul language brought to the absurd sometimes as well as the synopsis formed as a sort of an omnibus consisting of seemingly unrelated yet strangely interweened stories, but there are also hommages to earlier works of other authors as well as short narated flashbacks when introducing new characters in the "Lock, stock and two smoking barrels" mould.
The film begins in occupied France in 1941 when SS standartenfuhrer Hans Landa(Cristopher Waltz) finds a Jewish family Dreyfuss hiding in a cattle farm and brutally murders them. Only the daughter Shoshana survives miracolously. Three Years later Lt. Aldo Raine(who would have thought that Brad Pitt coul do a Southern accent so well) forms a small unit of American Jewish servicemen in order to drop behind enemy lines into France and literaly terrorize the Germans. At the same time Shoshana gets a chance for revenge and starts planning it...
Much praise was given to the opening scene of the film, or rather the first chapter, when the aforementioned murder of the Jewish family occurs. I can tell you that it fully lives up to the hype and is almost worth the price of admission alone. It is a fantastic hommage by Tarantino to Segio Leone's spaghetti-westerns all along with the musical score that mixes Beethoven and Ennio Moricone. The quasi-philosophical pleasant-toned conversation Landa engages in with the owner of the farm that hides the Jews only completes the sinisterness of the character, and the pipe gesture that some have interpreted as a comical or even pharsical undercut enhances the impression even further. Whether the director meant it or not, the whole thing strikingly resembles that statement of one of Isreali reporters from the Eichmann trial that the most terrifying fact about Eichmann is that he is not terrifying at all.
From there it is a bit of a roller coaster rhytm-wise, with action and violence interchanging with conversations that at times seem pointless but whose purpose is revealed very soon and the director and writer manage to stop them just at the moment when the viewer is tempted to look at his watch. Tarantino should also be praised for having his characters speak in their proper languages, not ridicolously accented English as it is custom in Hollywood, although it somewhat defies belief to see some of the characters as bilingual.
As usual with Tarantino, the seemingly separate stories eventually confluate into one. Just like the beggining, Tarantino's end is an hommage, this time to "The Dirty Dozen" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark". It is the end that was deemed most controversial. Tarantino was accused of re-writing history but the film itself has a perfect answer to that charge. The re-writing of history by the powers-that-be ready to do anything to achieve their goal goes on within Tarantino's alternate reality itself, abd Brad Pitt and one of his men manage only partly to tell the world the real truth through a symbolic(literally) gesture. After that, you can not help but wonder whose revisionism is more dangerous? And who the real "inglorious basterds" refered to in the title?