Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Disappointment of the Year: Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS


How glad is TrustMovies that he waited for DVD and didn't waste any of his slowly disappear-
ing savings by rush-
ing to the theater to view Quentin Tarantino's tiresome INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS? Very. But now, having seen 1-1/2 hours of it on DVD (yep: he skipped the last hour and went back to blogging: time better spent), he admits he is flummoxed as to what all the fuss is/was about.

Starting at the beginning, with the scene between the French dairy farmer and the naughty Nazi, we get it, we know what's going to happen, and then we just wait. And wait. Past surprise, past suspense, past humor, past caring. Later, when we see both the Nazi and the escaped Jewess together again in the same scene, do we really have to be reminded of what happened earlier? Does Mr. Quentin, shown at right, believe his audience is that dumb?

I guess so.

Scenes like this first one -- lengthy, drawn out talk-fests during which we are reminded of things we already know -- keep happening over and over: the cute-meet via ladder, the restaurant into which every noted Nazi in Paris appears, the secret meeting at the how-come-it's-in-a-basement? bar (shown above). And then there is Brad Pitt (below), giving the absolute worst performance I have ever seen from this OK-to-sometimes-very-good (Burn After Reading) actor: one-note, one-expression, with the accent on the accent, an insult to himself and his viewers.

Take away the needless repetition and all the visual and verbal movie references from Inglourious Basterds and that first 90-or-so minutes that I watched might have been paired down to a swift and decent hour. Of course we expect and get over-the-top violence from Mr. Quentin: Here it's scalping, clubbing-to-death, various shoot-outs and the finger-in-the-leg-wound (kinda paltry, really, but I'm not complaining). Well, I am complaining, but not about the violence. Rather it's the film-making in general. This self-bred auteur seems to have lost not just his edge but his overall ability to tell what's funny (or dramatic, suspenseful, and/or necessary) from what's not.
The writer/director does gets points for casting international stars like Mélanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Christoph Waltz and Daniel Brühl (shown, right). But the praise heaped upon the cinematography and sets seems a tad over-the-top. You'll find more creativity and the right "look" from Paris 36 than anything I saw in those first 90 minutes. I'll probably finish the film someday. I've certainly seen worse this year. But nothing as over-hyped, over-rated and obvious. I realize that I am in the great minority on this one. Over the years I've run hot and cold on the work of this particular filmmaker, enjoying some films (or parts of them), disliking others. Until now, however, I had never found myself bored.

Inglourious Basterds makes its DVDebut today -- available for purchase or rental.

2 comments:

GHJ - said...

Hmm...well Jim, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. It sounds like you're pretty adamant about this, so I won't try and persuade you otherwise, even though I think it's one of the best of the year. But I do love how this film gets under people's skin.

James van Maanen, said...

Yes, Glenn -- I figured you'd have a comment to make, as it was your earlier post on this film that made me most interested in seeing it. You're right: don't try to convince me otherwise (I will probably finish the film, someday, so at that point maybe we can hold a conversation). I just yesterday read (most of) the very long review of "Basterds" by Thomas Doherty in Cineast magazine (http://www.cineaste.com), and I found myself agreeing with most of it: all show and movie reference but no real content or feeling. You're certainly right about the movie getting under people's skin, though I do not think this is quite the same thing as its being a good film.