After seeing the first trailer for Inglourious Basterds, and learning that Quentin Tarantino’s next flick would be a World War II movie, I could not wait to see it.
I’ll admit it up front; I’m a huge fan of Tarantino’s work. The more seemingly-pointless dialogue, the more senseless bloody violence, the more homage and in-jokes, the better.
But here and there, little hints seeped in. I saw the headline of IO9’s review, but did not read the body, and saw the phrase “alternate history”, for example. Well, sure. That makes sense. Any movie is going to be fictionalized. So I had some hint that maybe things wouldn’t turn out the way they did in our timeline.
And the satirical article in The Onion, headlined “Next Tarantino Movie An Homage To Beloved Tarantino Movies Of Director’s Youth”, followed by a rant from a co-worker who had seen the movie about how every Tarantino pastiche was on display in Inglourious Basterds, gave me another hint. “48 minutes of two people talking while sitting at a table!” he said. “They don’t leave!”
That was all I knew. Oh, wait, one more thing; several folk on Twitter told me to go see this movie.
Saturday I finally did. The short version is, I enjoyed it very much. The long version, mild spoilers included, begins now.
And it was, indeed, a Tarantino movie. There wasn’t one single 48 minute long scene of people sitting at a table, however. There were, by my hazy memory, 5 or 6 scenes that were people sitting around a table and talking about something other than the obvious topic. And in each of those scenes, the tension is incredible, because the audience knows something that not everyone at the table knows. The cumulative effect of scene after scene after scene of this, though, is a ridiculous (but enjoyable, to me) self-awareness that this is, in fact, a Quentin Tarantino movie.
The action, when it comes, is heightened by all the tension created through dialogue, and all the more so because it’s often so matter-of-fact to the characters – casually cutting scalps from Nazi soldiers’ heads while discussing something else entirely, for example.
And even though Brad Pitt is shown, prominently, in the trailer, hamming it up with his chaw-filled mouth and his goofy Tennessee accent, this movie is not about Lt. Aldo Raines at all. It’s about Shoshanna Dreyfus, a Jewish girl who tries to hide from the Nazis in occupied France and operates a movie theater. Yeah, Quentin loves old movie theaters, so how perfect is it that so much of the film is set in one?
Except for a few background-fillling-in flashbacks, though, the story is told in a straight linear fashion, which is not a Tarantino cliché at all. Instead of jumping around, as he’s done in so many other movies, this one is a direct line from past to present. Perhaps he focused on the “table dialogue” so much to counter the fact of such a simple story?