Last night, we saw INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (a title designed to give copy editors fits) at the Landmark Theater. (Digression: A few years ago, the Japanese manga title "Bastard!!" was reprinted as a monthly comic book in the U.S. That led us to go to our local comic shop and ask, "Is there a 'Bastard!!' in the box?" or, if we were trying to find it on the shelves, "Where is that 'Bastard!!'?" Eventually, we imagined, if the title gained popularity in the U.S. (it didn't), folks could be buying boxes of "Bastard!!" by the boatload, for beaucoup bucks . . . .)
As with many Quentin Tarantino movies, I left the theater shaking my head at Tarantino's raw talent, and how he devotes it to making deliberately trashy movies. BASTERDS, as you may have heard, is a take-off on every World War II mission/caper movie ever made, with a healthy dollop of the SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS comic series thrown in. (The scene of Hitler raging about the latest antics of the Basterds is certainly reminiscent of SGT. FURY; and the saga of Hugo Stigler brings back memories of Eric, the German soldier who became a Howler.)
Also as with many Tarantino movies, the film delights in its inconsistencies and indirection. Characters and backstories that seem to be of great consequence are dropped unexpectedly, and plotlines don't lead you where you think. Although the movie follows the path of an action film, great swaths of it are taken of with dialogue and character development. The movie ads lead you to think that Brad Pitt's character Aldo Ray, the Basterd topkick, is the lead character in the movie; but in fact the lead may be the most prominent villian, one of those aristocratic Teutonic egomaniacs it's so easy to hate. And although the film purports to be about the Basterds' exploits, most of those exploits take place off-screen.
Against all odds, the audience we saw it with loved it; and we were entertained throughout its two-hours-and-forty-two minute length. Will Tarantino ever assay a non-genre movie, one of those cinematic classics that he adores? Or will he keep making tributes to flicks past?