Basterds Disembark on Korean Shores

Inglourious Basterds


Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christopher Waltz

Release Date: Thursday October 29 (in theatres everywhere)

“This is the face of Jewish vengeance!” declares the protagonist of “Inglourious Basterds” as a room full of high-profile Nazi commanders is engulfed in flames, and two machine-gunners riddle their corpses with bullets. Welcome to Quentin Tarantino’s world – one where Nazis fear Jews, and World War II is just the backdrop of a fairy tale.

By far his most accomplished work in a very long time, “Basterds” still suffers from the typical shortcomings of a Tarantino movie. One of my biggest problems with him is that he always manipulates the viewer into not only accepting, but cheering on horrendous acts of brutality. Violence as entertainment is nothing new for the director of “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and “Kill Bill” (2003/2004), but “Basterds” takes this concept one step further. It’s strangely enjoyable to watch a Nazi get his brains bashed in with a baseball bat, or a swastika carved into his forehead. Why? Like all Tarantino movies, the gruesome scenes are ultra-stylized and therefore rendered fairly digestible. But his latest project makes matters even worse – the violence comes off as justified. You never think twice about the terrible things you’re seeing on-screen precisely because it’s Jews dishing it out against Nazis. And, while it’s true that all too many World War II movies sheepishly depict Jews as helpless victims, there’s something a little perverse about portraying them as rigorous exterminators, and then saying their behavior is okay.

Yet, the fact that the film’s bloody climax takes place inside a movie theatre is Tarantino’s way of reminding the audience (and the critics who complain about the violence in all of his films) that it’s just a movie. And, judging in terms of sheer entertainment value, “Basterds” is the equivalent of a Big Mac – disgustingly indulgent but satisfying.

If you can get passed the film’s questionable morality, it really is a fun-filled romp. Everything from the wacky premise to the deliberately misspelled title is a testament to the director’s love for pulp, an art-form he’s crowned himself the king of. That’s all well and good, but I’m still waiting for him to make a movie that isn’t molded from a pile of feces.

If I say that, however, it’s with tongue-in-cheek. The film is by and large a success, and even snobby, pretentious cinephiles like myself can appreciate it as a genuine love letter to cinema. So without further ado, I’d like to end my review of this very respectable movie by adding one final word of praise. While “Basterds” never really ceases from being Tarantino’s movie, for once it isn’t only all about him; he actually removes himself enough to allow someone else to bask in the spotlight. Christopher Waltz squeezes in a show-stopping performance as the villainous “Jew Hunter,” one he was rightfully awarded for at Cannes.

SIDENOTE: The movie is in three different languages (well, four if you count one short conversation in Italian), but don’t worry, there are English subtitles for the parts in German and French on the print being shown in Korea.

Rating: 65/100


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8 Responses to “Basterds Disembark on Korean Shores”

  1. bobby Says:

    Did u see this movie with English subs? If so which theater did u watch it at? cheers

    • Jacob Worrel Says:

      Actually I saw it when I went home over the summer. I’m gonna see it again tonight though and I’ll post whether or not there are English subtitles during the parts in French/German.

  2. bobby Says:

    hi, did the theatre have english subs?

  3. Ian Wright Says:

    I thought that showing Hitler in a theater cackling with glee at enemies of the Reich being butchered was acknowledgment that the violence of the movie shouldn’t be taken as moral.

    • Jacob Worrel Says:

      I guess what bothers me is it’s lack of morality – “Basterds” induces its audience into abandoning the idea that violence is bad, and instead turns it into something fun. And it’s OK because, like I said, it’s Jews dishing it out against Nazis. If this movie was made in the same way, but it was historically accurate, it’d be a huge scandal because it’d be making light of the terrible violence the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. As long as Nazis are the ones suffering, there’s nothing wrong with our gut reaction being “Fuck yea! Bash his fuckin’ brains in!” (imagine a Holocaust movie giving you that feeling!) – in part because it’s all one big fantasy, in part because Nazis are evil scum and thus deserve to die horrible deaths.

      The intercuts of Hitler laughing at something that seems awful to us (allied soldiers getting picked off by the hundreds) is one of the film’s most interesting parts. It’s almost as if Tarantino is putting up a mirror in front of you. Just a few moments before, you were laughing at an SS soldier get his “nazi balls” blown away and now you’re seeing Hitler act exactly the same way you were. So there does seem to be some acknowledgment that the film is operating along the same lines as Nazi propaganda movies. “Pride of the Nation” and “Inglourious Basterds” are more or less the same movie, just with different target audiences. And, just like I wouldn’t review a Nazi propaganda movie without some criticisms, I can’t let this movie off totally scot-free.

  4. Ian Wright Says:

    I see what you mean. But it has to be said, lest those who read this get the wrong idea: as brutal as this film can be (and there are some very brutal moments) the actual violence is far outweighed in terms of impact and in terms of screen time by the scenes of tension and anticipation. The strudel scene, the basement bar scene, and of course the opening scene are three examples of masterful tension-building on a par IMO with Hitchcock. Really gripping stuff.

  5. Top Ten Films of 2009 « YOU’LL NEVER BE HUNGRY AGAIN Says:

    […] Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino) […]

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