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Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Josh Reviews Inglourious Basterds

September 2nd, 2009

I still remember the first time I saw Pulp Fiction.  I didn’t know anything about this guy Quentin Tarantino, and I hadn’t yet seen Reservoir Dogs.  But in reading about the film in advance of its release, it looked like it had a pretty spectacular cast, and I thought the trailers looked pretty cool.  So, when the film came out in theatres, I corralled a bunch of my high school buddies to go see the flick with me.  Boy, were we totally unprepared for what we were about to experience in that darkened theatre in Milford, CT!  We pretty much had our brains blown right out of our heads.  When the film was over, none of us could really speak — or even move!  My friends and I just sat silently through all of the credits, slowly absorbing everything that we had just seen.  What a movie!  Walking out of that theatre it was pretty much assured that, from then on, I’d buy a ticket to any movie that Quentin Tarantino ever directed.

And, well, I have, and he hasn’t let me down since.  Jackie Brown, Kill Bill (volumes I and II) and Death Proof (Tarantino’s half of Grindhouse — and please lord, can we someday get the complete theatrical version of Grindhouse released on DVD???) all proved to be relentlessly entertaining.  What has really impressed me, though, is that while all retain the distinct signature of Tarantino’s style of movie-making, those four films are all quite different from one another in terms of content and tone.  I am happy to report that I can say exactly the same of Mr. Tarantino’s latest work, Inglourious Basterds.

This is a spectacular film, one of my very favorites of this mediocre summer of movies.  (My other favorite would be Pixar’s Up — see my review here — and two more different movies I could scarcely imagine!)

As with most of Tarantino’s movies, Inglourious Basterds kicks off with a powerhouse of a first scene.  In Nazi-occupied France, dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet, looking quite a lot like Gerard Butler in 300) is paid a visit by “the Jew Hunter,” S.S. officer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who is seeking to determine if Monsieur LaPadite or any of the other local farmers are hiding a family of Jews who have disappeared.  Tarantino is a genius at being able to craft exquisite tension from scenes of simple conversation, and this opening sequence is a master class in this skill (rivaling, in my mind, the deservedly famous “say what again!” interrogation scene from Pulp Fiction).

By the end of this prologue, only young Shosanna (and why her name is spelled that way, … [continued]