Review: Inglourious Basterds

inglourious_basterds_CaptionedDespite being one of the most famous directors on the planet, Quentin Tarantino and his recent few films, notably Kill Bill, Death Proof and his most recent WWII pastiche, Inglourious Basterds (sic) are in an awkward place in popular culture. Serious (one might even say hoity-toity) cinephiles who play in the arthouse sandbox take him to task for not delivering on the promise of Pulp Fiction and in particular, the rapid maturity displayed Jackie Brown which succeeded more as an adult romance than a Elmore Leonard low-life heist. I often read in in print and on the web that it is Tarantino’s wilful lack of maturity that is somehow a problem and that his films should have more human characters instead of cinematic types. Then there is the comic-book crowd that find Death Proof ‘too talky’ and lacking in the cheap thrills and adrenaline par for the fanboy set. That Tarantino elevates the genres he plays with seems like a negative to the Comic-Con types that comprise much of the popular internet forums. Can scalping and cinema history belong in the same movie? You better believe it.

With Inglourious Basterds he is none too shy about how he structures his narrative. One Chapter for fans of Georges Clouzot and Alfred Hitchcock, one chapter for fans of John Carpenter and Mario Bava. Brad Pitt may be the selling point of the film, and he is great, all twitches and ticks, in his scenery chewing (munching on Tarantino’s dialogue, er, monologuing like a pro), it is Christoph Waltz who undeniably steals the show as the Third Reich detective Hans Landa. The first chapter in the film (likely the films best ‘self-contained’ movie) is a thing of beauty, structurally, audience expectation, and the simple pleasure of watching a performer as a delightfully wicked force of nature. Driving onto a French farm, observed in long-shot through blowing laundry on the line, he is all oily smiles and perfectly intoned Français. His interrogation of the farmer suspected of hiding Jews is a master class in how to play with audience expectation whilst ratcheting up the tension. Even something simple as the Red October ‘lets switch to English’ trick to avoid subtitles is (amazingly) factored in a plot point. To write Inglourious Basterds as too knowing for its own good is the highest of compliments embodied in Waltz’s uber-Nazi. This shows up again later in perhaps the films other hyper-tense scene involving a theatre-owner and a glass of milk. Watch closely and marvel how this sort of double-level foreshadowing is balanced with pure showmanship. Some folks are bound to taking issue with Mike Myer’s almost-winky cameo, but it is still a fine piece of abating tension before we build to the next turn-of-the-screw setpiece.

The only weak-link in the cast is Eli Roth, who gets the ‘The Third Man’ level build up, and never really delivers the promise of an interesting character. Sure he is great insofar as the foley on his Louisville slugger, but when called to deliver lines, he fared far better in as a misogynistic sex-seeker in Death Proof than as a murderous Jew thug in WWII. But Til Schweiger, as the silent Sgt. Stiglitz is the real treasure in the Basterds rank-and-file. A tense sequence in a basement bar with drinks and parlour games involving nazi officers, foot soldiers and spies has Schweiger silently glowering and stealing the scene in a subtle and fun way. And considering just how much tension is milked from that talky set-piece, it is an impressive feat.

Contrary to reaction to the Cannes print, the eponymous Basterds are not a side note to the film, they get just about the right amount of screen time. The film after all, is not a man-on-a-mission story, but rather a testament to the power of name, fame and cinema. With the central plot revolving around a high-profile film premiere, Joseph Goebbels’ latest propaganda piece (fittingly replacing a Leni Reifenstahl ‘mountain film’ on the Marquee), and the impressively clever use of film as fuel for an attempted mass assassination (fuel for revolution, fuel for impressionable minds, fuel for the fire), the art-form is celebrated as much or more than in any other Tarantino joint. G.W. Pabst, David O. Selznick, Louis B. Mayer, Marlene Dietrich, and Emil Jannings are all name-checked, as is King Kong (perhaps one of the ultimate examples of the extremes taken for pure showmanship) and Queen Christina. Winston Churchill himself is even shown to be a knowledgeable film buff. And a key military officer is an ‘ex-film critic’ with several books published. The mission is Operation Kino which eventually offers up the opportunity to kill Hitler and all of his high command in one room.

The hint-hint-hint on where Tarantino is coming from (thematically) is that everyone in a position of power in the film from the Basterds themselves to Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa to Joseph Goebbels and his pet-hero/actor Fredrick Zoller (nice to see Daniel Brühl getting mainstream attention here) is obsessed as much with their own reputation (and intimidation) as they are with getting their job done. This is in contrast to the ladies in the film who are more on the defensive; even stalwart in their dignity and grace in to simply hold on to their hats (or in an amusing Cinderella moment, their shoes). The directors foot fetish, and his idiom of female empowerment is very much on display here as well. These women may not have loads of authority, but they have confidence and competence in spades, making the two principle ladies (Diane “Helen of Troy” Kruger and Mélanie Laurent, both excellent) more the real heroes in the piece than The Basterds who function more as traditional Shakespearean ‘tension-relief’ and also serve as hammy-genre icons.

With the focus on celebrity and infamy over battlefields and gallantry, the film becomes a comment on the power of art with the grandiloquence of P.T. Barnum. Structurally it plays more as a series of propositions than actual action; considering the writer-director’s talent for wordplay, this is absolutely a good thing (not unlike Reservoir Dogs’ heist flick without a heist). The final line in the film is as much Quentin Tarantino throwing down the gauntlet on a reflection of his own work, reputation and auteur grandeur, as it is on Lieutenant Aldo Raine’s precision with a carving knife.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Rusty James
Guest

ah. you fucker

Ross Miller
Guest

Great review, Kurt. Glad to see you didn't "turn" on Tarantino (something that for some odd reason I thought you were going to do…). I, too, loved the film, mainly because it delivered in spades everything I love about Tarantino's style of filmmaking. It was like cinematic heaven for me for that 150-plus minutes of Nazi scalping and lengthy dialogue mixed together.

Did that runtime fly by for you? It did me for me.

Absolutely the highlight character (and, indeed, performance) of the movie is Waltz as Col. Landa. It's so tough to create a character like that that stands on his own, distinguished. I really would go as far to say he's one of the best characters to grace the screen in a few years, if not of the whole decade so far. Waltz should get an Oscar nomination I think, and maybe (and this may be too premature considering we still have the "Oscar performances" to come this year) even win it.

I'm just wondering how this movie will fair with the general movie going public who may look at the trailers and posters and expect a bloodbath. Although there's enough carnage in here to satisfy some of that audience want, there's not a TON of it. For those well versed in Tarantino's world should know what they're getting themselves in for. But will everyone else?

I tried to go into IB with an open mind to the fact that I may not end up liking what I see. But I can honestly say, without being biased because of my love for QT as a filmmaker, that I absolutely ADORED this film. I'm just wondering when QT will EVER make anything that doesn't reek of excellence.

(And yes I include Death Proof in that)

Kurt
Guest

Having a conversation with my buds after the movie, trying to slot in into 'best'/'worst' of Q.T. –DIRECTED– flicks, and man that is a tough proposition. I wasn't willing to play along, but my bud, despite loving the film, considered it his 'worst' I'm not sure. Its a toughy, for most of Q.T.'s movie, there are about equal in my book, I'm 90% sure that Jackie Brown is my favorite, and I'm an unabashed lover of Death Proof, and Pulp and Dogs are also great films. Yea. Hard.

Ross Miller
Guest

Haha, me and my dad (whom I saw the film with) had the exact same conversation after it. Pulp Fiction is both my favourite of QT's AND my favourite movie of all time. I think Jackie Brown is technically is most well rounded film, if you get my meaning. My least favourite would probably be Kill Bill Vol.1 if I'm honest, even putting Death Proof above it. (I still don't get the hate for that movie, btw).

I think I need to wait to see IB a few more times, maybe even until it comes out on DVD so that it can be "analysed," before I can truly rank it with the rest of his movies. Right now I can't put it above any of his other movies, just because I'm least familiar with it out of his work (when I say "his movies" I always am referring to just the one's he's written and directed).

But he certainly hasn't dropped the ball, not in the slightest. He's 6 for 6 in my books (counting the Kill Bills as one movie).

Matt Gamble
Guest

Tarantino has said he'll be working on it over the next year. They did just finish re-doing some of the animated scenes.

Andrew James
Admin

Great review Kurt. Insightful bit there on the last line of dialogue.

Loved the movie to death for so many reasons – mostly in the details. More to come on Monday's podcast…

Rusty James
Guest

Awesome! My fears were unwarranted. Biggest surprise for me was that ended up I loving the cast! I didn't get it when they were announcing the cast and it was BJ Novak, Mike Myers, Sam Levine (who ended up not having a single line in the movie). But the true stars of the movie are Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, August Diehl and Jacky Ido . The European cast is great at every turn. This is probably the best ensemble we'll see this year.

Some people aren't gonna get it but Eli Roth is brilliantly utilized in this film. When you get right down to it the Basterds are just a bunch of guys with an overly developed sense of the theatric (which discribes Landa as well) and Roth's big scene is a brilliant illustration of that

For his second film in a row Quentin's pacing continues to be perplexing. I can't blame some people for being thrown for a loop when the scenes just go on and on and on. But the scenes are the length that is right for them. They're long because that's how Quentin builds them. And I think the choice is going to pay off in rewatch value. This movie is going to amass an audience of fans and increase in stature over time because there's so much going on in every scene.

My vote for favorite scene is the cellar bar and I wouldn't want to see it cut down. The scene runs the gamut. It's funny, charming, light hearted, tense, back to charming, back to tense and then ends in blood shed.

All I know is that no one who likes Transformers better complain about this film being too long.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Then there is the comic-book crowd that find Death Proof

oh fuck off. it's not even clever anymore.

Kurt
Guest

This one might just end up the most entertaining film of the year. Watched it again, and man it played like a motherfucker, the pacing is TIGHT.

Ross Miller
Guest

100% agree, Kurt. Went to see it for a second time a couple of days ago (something in these times of 10 movies released theatrically every week, I rarely do), and it was bloody brilliant, even better than the first time I saw it. The first time I was just letting myself be taken in by everything I love about Tarantino's style of movie making, so I missed a few things. But the second time, knowing what's coming. where to look, what to look FOR, knowing the different character's true agendas etc, I was floored.

For instance, I noticed what Fassbender's character did to give himself away in the barn: The first time I thought it was the way he pronounced "Three glasses" but the second time I realised the "3" sign he made with his fingers wasn't the way a real German would (i.e. he did it with his index, middle and ring finger, whereas the German way would be thumb, index and middle).

Did you guys happen to hear who it was that was speaking on the radio to Col. Landa and Aldo Raine, when Landa was negotiating the terms of his surrender? I could have sworn it was Harvey Keitel's voice, but I can't find that info on IMDB.

I really don't understand some people complaining about the scenes, "going on and on," (as you said, Rusty) because whatever length they are that's the right length for them. And besides, even if they DID go on too long (that's IF), then I wouldn't mind because I could listen to the man's dialogue for 24hrs straight.

Definitely my favourite and what I would consider the best film of the year so far, without being biased towards Tarantino. He really has crafted a brilliant piece of filmmaking that mixes so many elements, so well put together, so detailed, such control of his dialogue and his characters.

I actually really liked Eli Roth's role, thought it played well with the tone of the film. His scene where he's banging the bat on the tunnel wall and then that triumphant music blasts on when he appears out of the tunnel… ah! Just BRILLIANT!

(Psst, did you guys know Adam Sandler originally was gonna play The Bear Jew?)

What did you guys think of Mike Myers' being in there? I was worried when I heard the casting (it was originally going to be Simon Pegg but scheduling conflicts prevented it), but the scene he was in with Michael Fassbender made it work well. To me that scene played as a parody, with the two guys discussing what the plan in, with the big map on the wall in a room that's way too fucking big for what they're doing:P Winston Churchill being in there was genius, too.

Andrew James
Admin

The more I think about this movie the more I love it. Particularly when I read about the nods to French and Italian propaganda cinema of the 50's. And all of the subtle winks and nods to other film makers and styles.

As for Eli Roth, I thought he was fine. The look on his face at the movie premier as The Jew Hunter walks away is hilariously priceless. No Oscar obviously, but I thought he was fun for what he was and he did it right.

As for Mike Myers, I love his almost but not quite bit of Dr. Evil infused in there. Can't quite put a finger on it, but it really walked the razor's edge between playing it straight and farce. I thought he worked great and he gave me some laughs – that were intentional I'm sure.

I'll be seeing this again tomorrow night me thinks. Top 10 of the year? Almost certainly (he says as he boards a bus for TIFF).

Goon
Guest

Campea hated it, therefore it sucks.

Ross Miller
Guest

Ha!

Kurt
Guest

Reminder to those meaning to eventually watch Guy Maddin flicks, he has the ultimate spoof/tribute to the Weimar Mountain flicks (Like The White Hell of Piz Palü featured in Inglourious Basterds). It is one of Guys best movies and compulsively watchable. 1992's CAREFUL (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103926/ — My review of the very nice recent dvd release is here — http://twitchfilm.net/site/view/careful-dvd-remas… )

Jay C.
Guest

I can't wait to talk about this film. Inglourious Basterds is bringing out the worst in those who are attempting to discredit it.

Jonathan
Guest

Can I go on record saying that I have a new favorite Tarantino film?

Jonathan
Guest

"Bonjouro."

rot
Guest

Ok my two cents:

There is a lot of hyperbole surrounding this film, on both sides, and I guess that is to be expected as it is an event film for cinephiles. I see it not as a masterpiece, and definitely not the disaster early word from Cannes had us believe, but a pretty solid B+ Tarantino product. It was the right length, it threaded along its suspense, my only gripe is in the end a lot of the payoffs of that threading were not really worth the wait, nor doing things out of left field, they just sort of were inevitable conclusions of the build up… the longer you build suspense the higher the stakes for the payoff. still enjoyable all the same.

Goon
Guest

cant get to IB until tonight or tomorrow but decided today to watch Death Proof again, and man it gets better every time, and I didnt even like it the first time, I guess I was worn out by Planet Terror or expected something else, I dont know anymore. Cant relate.

It occurred to me this time when Mike is meeting Jungle Julia and having a sneeze coming on that never actually happens… I think he's actually covering for jizzing his pants.

rot
Guest

as for ranking Tarantino:

1. Pulp Fiction

2. Reservoir Dogs

3. Death Proof

4. Inglourious Basterds

5. Kill Bill 1

6. Kill Bill 2

7. Jackie Brown

8. Four Rooms

Goon
Guest

are you just ranking his segment or were you under the impression that Four Rooms is actually a full Tarantino film?

rot
Guest

just the segment, which was the best of the bunch.

actually need to correct my ranking, Inglourious Basterds would be above Death Proof.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Then why not include From Dusk Til Dawn as well?

Kurt
Guest

Matt, Why so seri…er…Surly?

Rusty James
Guest

I think thematically this may be Quentin's best film so far, and I think it should give stuffed-shirts like our own Rot cause to reconsider their stance on the guy's work.

Those quick to criticize him for making films about films (I think love of cinema is a perfectly fine subject for a movie) should acknowledge that he takes that same theme and goes a lot further with it than he has before.

You've got film as a bomb, you've got the war hero turned movie star, you've got the overly theatrical Basterds celebrating the power of myth making. I don't think you can just dismiss this movie as fank wankery and empty homages.

It really could be his masterpiece.

Kurt
Guest

I'm agreeing with you on this Rusty. Although Reservior Dogs (manliness vs. intimacy) and Pulp Fiction (Jules/Vincent 'God's Will', learn from your life, etc.) were both very clear themes developed thoroughly and carefully over the course of the film. Yet, the number of facets fame/infamy/rumours/reputation/myth-makng are turned over, and in the meta-aspect of Tarantinos own work, I think you are right, there is some very very smart stuff in there and perhaps Tarantinos best at doing this sort of reflection.

rot
Guest

um, see this is where I diverge, I don't see a lot of smart stuff in this movie, there is some, but mostly its a fun and suspenseful what will happen next romp, and Tarantino on Letterman was saying so much, that this is a light-hearted war flick like they used to make before everything got so serious. Its easy to throw around subtextual observations but I do not see a lot of weight in the film, it doesn't show me something unique about the human condition, it doesn't say anything particularly profound about people or war… I enjoyed how cinema was used in the narrative as a conceit, and the one fascinating use of myth vs. reality in the projector booth, but it is still fundamentally, not wankery, so much as playing with archetypes like action figures and making something entertaining out of it. Within Tarantino's canon I could see it being called a masterpiece I suppose, insofar as it better then most of his films melds together his love of cinema with a story befitting this fixation… it is a masterpiece in the same way I would consider Die Hard a masterpiece within its prospective niche.

To me though, its still not a masterpiece on any level outside of the director's oeuvre, its not a colossus of cinema, a mark of any great aesthetic, emotional or intellectual achievement, nor does it really aspire to be. Thats the hyperbole I am suspicious of.

I don't look to Tarantino for depth or insight, I look to him to be entertained.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Tarantino on Letterman was saying so much, that this is a light-hearted war flick like they used to make before everything got so serious.

I would agree that it's light heart. But that doesn't mean that he's not exploring themes. And you go on about "the human condition" but is that the only valid form of theme? I don't think it's about the human condition, I think it's about mythmaking and pop culture and the power of storytelling. And the film has a lot to say about that. Why aren't those ideas just as valid? Why do these things not count as "great aesthetic and emotional / intellectual achievment"? I think this distinction is superficial prejudice of yours.

It's like I said to you before (which you never acknowledged). Make a movie about loving god or a girl or something and it's deep and shit. But make a film about loving film and it's thin and post-modern all of a sudden.

I agree with Kurt about Pulp Fiction, and Dogs and Jackie. I didn't mean to imply that they didn't have strong themes as well. But I think with IB he specifically answers those that criticize his films for being about films. This is a movie that has a lot to say not just about other films, but about filmmaking, about mythbuilding and storytelling. This is a film about film, and it's also thematically rich.

Rusty James
Guest

@ I don’t look to Tarantino for depth or insight, I look to him to be entertained.

And to some people this is a rigid, untraversable distinction. And I think this film should cause those people to re-examine that prejudice.

Goon
Guest

I'm depressed.

I didn't like it.

Opening caveats: I didnt like Death Proof at first and have come to love it on rewatch. I will absolutely rewatch IB and reconsider it.

And I have absolutely nothing to nitpick or hate on either. I'm almost speechless. After that fantastic opening scene, for the rest of the film I simply was apathetic and unentertained, I didn't care about anyone or about anything they were doing. And I don't mean bored apathetic either, I wanted and needed to see how it followed through, but I didn't feel any tension at any time, everything was just… happening.

So I'm not even going to give a star review, because I'm at the point where I absolutely can't feel like giving it a thumbs down, but am not inclined to thumbs up it either. It's a very good thing nobody would ever pay me to write criticism, because for IB I'm just at a loss to write any more than what you're reading.

Rusty James
Guest

Goon, that's kinda how I came away from Public Enemies.

Goon
Guest

Even within what I just wrote there are what look like contradictions. To better clarify, I wanted to see the story play out, but I didnt care if they succeeded or not, or if any of these characters died, because my apathy is specifically centered around the characters.

You ever read a book where there's a chapter you're not that into, and you take a second to thumb ahead to see how much you have left of that chapter until you can move on? That's how I felt watching the underground bar scene, I was just waiting for the next title chapter card so I could move on. I understand everyone is saying this is the most tense part of the movie, but for me nothing was clicking.

Goon
Guest

Yeah Rusty, its sort of how I initially walked away from Star Trek too, but I was able to identify enough things I didnt like, big and small, with Star Trek after the fact that I come out now thinking I just don't like it.

With this though, I really dont want to entertain too many opinions to swing me either way until I see it again.

Goon
Guest

Attempted argument:

If Kurt gets to complain about the D9 teaser, than the door is open for absolutely anyone to point out how irrepresentative IB's teaser, trailers, tv spots and poster compaigns are. From top to bottom they promise something else. I never cared that there was never going to be as much action as the trailers indicated, but I did hope that the Basterds that fill that trailer would actually have something to do.

For a movie with this much talk, the characters that were well developed… none of em were the Basterds. Brad Pitt and his boys specifically for me were what I was most let down with. Pitt's Burn After Reading character had more depth, and he was about as developed as any of them got.

rot
Guest

"It’s like I said to you before (which you never acknowledged). Make a movie about loving god or a girl or something and it’s deep and shit. But make a film about loving film and it’s thin and post-modern all of a sudden."

not always, I would say Jarmusch's The Limits of Control is very much about the love of cinema, and is profound. But I see it as not merely being about a love of cinema, but using that as a springboard to express something else, something transcendent, and yes, about the human condition. Films that are only thinking about how they relate to other films without some higher aspiration, are to me thin, and to that too I would add a film about God (Keep the Faith) or love (500 Day of Summer) that is only paying lip service to the ideas in service of something more nominal, anecdotal towards a punchline or plot point.

I see this as a fascism of reflection, reflecting back dogmatically what other people claim to think of life, love, existence, without showing any effort to state or express something outside of this incestual orgy of cinematic devices. Its not the devices per se that are inferior in my mind, its the far too familiar intentions made of them.

In the case of Tarantino that is what he does, he reappropriates cinema past and makes something new of it, but it rarely goes beyond lip service to the ideas being reused, his interest is not in human emotions, but depictions of human emotions, its all a foil to plot or to being clever or entertaining. and fine, I can enjoy it on that level… I think fundamentally what Dostoevsky is about and what Elmore Leonard is about are untraversably distinct, what Malick is about and what Tarantino is about, likewise. They are distinct because they aspire for different things, they are playing different sports.

Jay C.
Guest

No offense rot, but that last comment made me want to shoot myself in the face.

Goon
Guest

A twitter post and every one of rot's posts have one very major thing setting them apart, but rot manages to find a passion for both…

but wont give Tarantino the same due.

Pass me the weapon when you're done, Jay.

Goon
Guest

Using one small paragraph in clear language can you explain what the fuck 'fascism of reflection' is supposed to mean? I won't be grading your paper so you can put the thesaurus down.

Rusty James
Guest

@ I see it as not merely being about a love of cinema, but using that as a springboard to express something else, something transcendent, and yes, about the human condition.

And once again you've talked yourself around the point. This film is more about cinema than human beings. Why doesn't that count?

You act like this distinction is some objective marker, but it's just a genre preference of yours.

Tarantino has a lot to say about the powers of storytelling and mythmaking for those with ears to listen. The problem with you is that you've got your schtick so figured out that you're blind to things that don't fit into it. Hence your nicname Martin Luther. You simply characterize the movie as "entertainment" or "archetypal" and that's the end of your analysis.

Well, Quentin is still making archetypal entertainment. But he's also learned and grown and is taking his ideas further than before. You should make the effort to at least acknowledge this.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Using one small paragraph in clear language can you explain what the fuck ‘fascism of reflection’ is supposed to mean?

I bet he can do in twenty five meandering paragraphs.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Using one small paragraph in clear language can you explain what the fuck ‘fascism of reflection’ is supposed to mean? I won’t be grading your paper so you can put the thesaurus down.

Best Rot related post ever.

rot
Guest

yeah admittedly not too clear, I wrote that pretty fast on my way out.

what I was trying to say is there is a distinction to be made between films according to what they aspire for, not necessarily what they are comprised of (i.e. because there are gangsters in a film doesn't make it merely a gangster film). Rusty was implying that I am bias against Tarantino films because of its post-modern use of cinema history, and what I am saying is I am biased against his films because they all aspire towards being entertaining foremost, if they are about revenge, love, jealousy, they are only superficially about these things, what they are about in actuality is plotting and punch lines, keeping people interested in a story as it unfolds and enjoying the ride. On that level, I think they are great.

what I meant by 'fascism of reflection' is that it is conceivable that a film could exist solely of cinematic references just like Girl Talk's music is made up solely of samples… but in this case it is more than what it is comprised of, the intent is also derivative, hence a kind of fascist limiting to reflections (i.e. things derived) at the expense of all else. A Tarantino film, in this analogy, is sort of like two mirrors reflecting back into each other ad infinitum. The distinction with The Limits of Control is while it is comprised of the same sort of cinema cache, the intent is to make you unsettled and involved in something more than plot, more than being clever… what that more is is largely left up to the individual.

I engage with Tarantino films mostly as stories told well, not as stories worth telling.

Goon
Guest

Try again

Rusty James
Guest

@ Rusty was implying that I am bias against Tarantino films because of its post-modern use of cinema history

except that's really only half of what I'm saying. I'm saying you categorize the film instead of engaging with it and I'm not defending IB based on it's plot mechanics or what it has to say about shooting and punching. I'm defending it for what it has to say about myth making and the power of stories and films. Lt. Aldo is the PT Barnum of guerilla terrorism, the Bear Jew is his bearded lady.

That's what it is about the story that I think is worth telling. And although you've found time to accuse Quentin of "facism of reflection" you haven't bothered to respond to any of my points. You just stamp your feet say "it's genre! it's low brow! there is no truth about the human condition!"

Rusty James
Guest

please don't try again.

rot
Guest

reflection bad. being good.

film about being good.

film about reflections not as good.

Rusty James
Guest

worst haiku ever

rot
Guest

"I’m saying you categorize the film instead of engaging with it and I’m not defending IB based on it’s plot mechanics or what it has to say about shooting and punching."

I am categorizing it after the fact… after seeing the movie. You can say all you want what I am doing before I see the film, that I am willfully paying for a movie ticket not to be entertained, looking to savage the film with analysis, but that is not what I do. The generalizations I make about Tarantino films are from exposure to seeing all of his films and seeing this same limited aspiration again and again. You can have your epiphanies with Tarantino, I don't even understand how the Barnum subtext has anything to do with the category of the profound, but sure, whatever gets you off.

All I am saying is he is an entertainer, he is Vaudeville, he is not fucking Shakespeare, NOR TRYING TO BE, which is my point, which is why I enjoy him for what he does, not for what he doesn't try to do. When he makes a film that makes me think otherwise you will be the first to know.

rot
Guest

Also, I kind of hate subtext as a general rule, it is something film geeks live for, it gives an appearance of profundity because something works on a different level from the explicit (but considering some of the comments here I can see how this extra layer could be construed as profound). I am more interested in the immediate effects of a film that aspires to be more than a story (even if on two levels), that opens up to the possibility for some kind of personal revelation. I will leave it at that because I know how odious poeticizing feelings can be.

Rusty James
Guest

@ All I am saying is he is an entertainer, he is Vaudeville, he is not fucking Shakespeare, NOR TRYING TO BE

see. You may judge them after you see them but you judge them for their genre not what they have to say.

Quentin's responding to your genre of criticism in a big way. But it goes completely over your head because when you see HUGO. STIGLITZ. your brain turns off.

You rant and rave about THE HUMAN CONDITION. Fine, but this film's about something else. Why is THE HUMAN CONDITION the only valid subject matter for a film?

By stamping your feet and saying genre. vaudville. entertainment. again and again you admit that you didn't really give this film proper consideration.

Rusty James
Guest

And the worst part is that Limits of Control is not at all any smarter or more thoughtful than this film. The characters are thinner and a waste of good actors. The philosophical musings are amateur.

It's just more pretentious.

Goon
Guest

more pretentious = higher aspirations = better than

rot
Guest

Herzog's Minnesota Declaration

"5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization."

I am essentially talking about this, this is what is not in any Tarantino film I have seen, although it is possible there have been rare glimmers of it, they haven't lasted, because I can't think of a single one. Can we agree on this, yes or no? To me, there is no real thought about such a thing as Herzog is talking about, in Tarantino, not your Barnum subtext, not any subtext (TEXT should be a clue), its about something of profound experience, you feel it.

I disagree in part with Herzog on his Declaration, and am writing a VERY LONG post around the topic I am sure you will all enjoy, so let's say the 'stylization' aspect of this quote I am not entirely backing, but the gist of it, yes.

so, in conclusion, to get off this merry-go-round

I am saying

– The films of Tarantino show no aspiration towards this poetic ecstatic truth

– that's ok, on their own level in accordance with their own aspirations they are generally good

– I prefer ecstatic truth because I am a living being who will die and when I breath my last breathe and the pang of life makes it unavoidable to lose myself in distraction I will consider, I think, the most important experiences of my life to be those that affected me on this level, not on a plot mechanics level, not on an entertainment level, but things that widened my perspective of life.

celluloid can disintegrate along with the film theory books.

rot
Guest

now you're getting it Goon

Henrik
Guest

"if they are about revenge, love, jealousy, they are only superficially about these things, what they are about in actuality is plotting and punch lines, keeping people interested in a story as it unfolds and enjoying the ride."

So why defend LOST?

Unfortunately haven't seen IB yet, but I will sometime after next friday. I'm quite excited for it, it should be a lot of fun.

I think rot is right though, to praise Tarantino for his content is like praising Michael Moore for his truthspeaking. It's not worth praising, yet Rusty and Goon, I think you guys are being too defensive. You must accept that there are things that you like, and things that I like, that are not, when push comes to shove, things that matter. It's fine that the shit doesn't matter, don't be offended when people tell you this, just like you are not offended when people tell you Michael Moore isn't telling the truth.

Goon
Guest

for the record, I wrapped my post in snark web tags, but they disappeared when i hit post.

Rusty James
Guest

@ I think you guys are being too defensive.

I'm pretty sure I was being offensive.

Goon
Guest

"You must accept that there are things that you like, and things that I like, that are not, when push comes to shove, things that matter."

Thats different from saying that things dont matter because they dont aspire to speak of the human condition, or are more about their process or pure entertainment than something "deeper". I think we've been through this before. Slayer sing about a zillion ways to kill people, Motley Crue sing about fucking and getting fucked – I argue that both of them even on their base level are more important than a vast number of bands with 'something to say' and have more poetic words or methods of instrumentation.

Henrik
Guest

Oh, I misunderstood. I thought you were fighting for your right to enjoy something pointless. You're saying IB actually is a meaningful film?

KwonSangWooFan
Guest

The Declaration is true!

Mr. Sloan point making indoubetedly awesome time of success clarity.

Tarantino fail mind ecstacy in natural favor of extreme seclusion of Herzog's life truth. To beyond gore unveil divine, deliverance of broken nose cinema dumb society to leper brain cell mechanisms.

Hard understanding? Return to childs visual aids, leave art to grown brain physiques! We decay not junior thoughts heretofore.

Goon
Guest

"I thought you were fighting for your right to enjoy something pointless."

Sort of. I'm saying that higher aspirations don't inherently make something better or more meaningful. One simply because execution matters, and Two because those supposed base level pointless pieces of art can often positively shape your world and train your mind in ways you can't acheive through more 'high brow' films.

I could expand but I'd get into flowery artspeak about some buffet table of life and a bad calorie analogy.

Goon
Guest

KwonSangWooFan is my adopted Korean child.

Rusty James
Guest

@ You’re saying IB actually is a meaningful film?

You got bingo! And it offends me not that Mike doesn't agree but that he doesn't even seem to acknowledge the points I'm making. He goes back to the same refrain. Genre. Entertainment.

Well, that's the point I'm making at least. Goon doesn't even like the movie.

Goon
Guest

IB wasn't the only war film I watched today. I also watched Waltz With Bashir, and while I liked it overall, I found it didn't nearly live up to the hype.

Rusty James
Guest

Yes, the number one star KwonSangWooFan makes a motion the fact that wears out at the enterprise which encourages excellent post.

Rusty James
Guest

And lets just all agree that viewing films through the prism of their trailers is not the correct way to watch a movie.

It's funny that not that long ago Andrew was complaining about trailers and everyone was calling him an idiot. And now everyone's trailers ruined a movie. Ironic.

Goon
Guest

whats funny is I actually prefer any kind of misleading trailer over one that tells you everything. That Law Abiding Citizen trailer summarizes the first 5/6 of the movie within 2 minutes, and the mystery sixth isn't luring me in.

Kurt
Guest

Agreed Goon.

I guess if the misleading trailer 'gives me what I want in the form of a surprise' I complain less than if the misleading trailer 'gives me what I did not want'. Selfish, but fact.

I recall that the Korean Alien-Invasion-Torture-Character-Study-Comedy SAVE THE GREEN PLANET was marketed/teased on home soil as a ROMANTIC COMEDY and even released on Valentines Day. Oi. Surprised Koreans. Film Bombed. Which is too bad, because it is a great little offbeat curio.

Mike Rot
Member

can we just go back a minute, Christ I feel like I am in In The Loop here, you guys are all hard on to fight for your right, going on the reactions to my comments alone you would think I am saying IG is a piece of shit and that all that matters is art.

i.e. Goon:

"Thats different from saying that things dont matter because they dont aspire to speak of the human condition, or are more about their process or pure entertainment than something “deeper”."

I said there is no ecstatic truth like Herzog talks about in IB, nor is it aspiring towards that. Is that such an inflammatory statement? Please point out this ecstatic truth in the film, I am interested to see it now.

That it is not aiming for that, but trying something else and succeeding at what it aims at, is no fault to the film, nor have I said it was. Again, Tarantino said himself this is light fare, a throwback to fun cinema. I am calling it what it is, and I am getting Transformer like blowback for it.

I get that you guys like your geek fetishes, I do, I am not pissing on your deity, I am merely not worshiping it.

also, is it really such a crazy notion to make a distinction between films that tap this ecstatic truth about life, and those that don't, that rather be entertaining foremost? I clearly said it is not what a film is comprised of, but what it aspires towards, and yet Rusty time and again clamors on about how I am against genre, show me where I said that here? What I said actually was (in illustration of my point for the slowest among us) that because a film has gangsters in it, does not make it merely a gangster film, that what needs to be observed is what the film is aspiring towards.

if I am wrong about what IB is aspiring towards, if in fact it is striving to get at the root cause of human nature, of ecstatic truths about life and death, to forgo platitudes and ring true in our bones, than point it out to me.

Mike Rot
Member

but you will have to do better than simplistic subtext, x actually is representative of y, something clever in the plot construction and execution. I can admire such conceits, but that is not profound, thats a quality of craft.

A film geek may see no distinction, the higher strata being, I'm guessing, that something be as cool as possible, but if that is the case, than no wonder we can't see eye to eye on this point.

Goon
Guest

"you would think I am saying IG is a piece of shit "

Pipe down, we all know how much you love Inspector Gadget.

Mike Rot
Member

@Henrik

I defend Lost as pure entertainment, it too is not aspiring for much else. I enjoy lots of different experiences, I enjoy the suspense of IB, the mystery of Lost, the comedy of Tristram Shandy, and in whatever film if it hits me on a level that stirs something in me, irrespective of genre categories, I take note and value them more.

Rusty James
Guest

You should have Mike on the podcast this week to talk about IB and Inspector Gadget too, I guess.

Henrik
Guest

It just seems weird to me that you have no problem worshipping the deity of Lost with the rest of these guys, but on IB all of a sudden you feel a need to point out that it doesn't aspire towards an ecstatic truth.

Mike Rot
Member

remind me where I said Lost changed my life? Whenever I talk about it, I talk about it as entertainment, a fun story. Lost is something I am geeky about, I admit that, but I don't worship it, I see its flaws and am one of the most critical of us Lost bunch here.

as for the podcast, no thanks. the jizz can fly without me.

Rusty James
Guest

eccestatic truth is just when you get a boner while watching a movie. And Mike is totally mischaracterizing Herzog's use of the term anyways. He's talking about his approach to making documentaries. And he's using the term to draw a distinction between what he's shooting for and what we conventionally mean by "truth".

Mike's turned his words into some kind of weirdo religion.

If a facile silly movie like Limits of Control has this ellusive x quality then Basterds can have it too.

Mike Rot
Member

Herzog speaks of ecstatic truth in contrast to Cinema Verite's implied factual reality truth. He is saying it is not enough to just document reality to get to truth, or at least the higher strata truth, you have to create it, modify reality, until what is onscreen pierces something inside you, you feel it even if you can't fully articulate it. Look at his body of work, its pretty clear that what he is interested in capturing is pathos, is this 'weirdo religion' of deep impressions of what it is to be alive.

He is an agitator, story is secondary to this primary interest in stirring his audience into some kind of revelation. He has got to be the most earnest director in this respect I can think of, outside maybe Bergman.

I suppose Bergman just wrote stories for a lark?

Mike Rot
Member

also look at the term 'ecstatic truth', derived from ecstasy, which has big time spiritual connotations. to suggest Herzog is not interested in this kind of metaphysical realm to his films would be incredibly stupid.

the ending of Stroszek is my go to example of ecstatic truth, on a strictly narrative level it doesn't really make a lot of sense, but for someone who has lived and felt suffocated by the absurdity of life it resonates all the more sharply, it is this wince inducing gaze into the abyss, no words really do it justice. you either feel it or you don't.

Mike Rot
Member

this is why I was saying before the quite literal subtext observations you may make about Inglourious Basterds are not what I am categorizing as profound, they are qualities of adept storytelling, they draw out arguments to be pondered, but for them to work you have to articulate them, they feed into this geek fetishism of talking oneself into revelation (which is fine, my point is it is different).

this other thing I am talking about is immediate, its not in need of articulation, its profound and qualified as profound because of how it shakes you out of passive appreciation. It is categorically different, and Herzog categorically distinguishes it in his declaration.

Your Barnum subtext, does that stir you at all? Do you feel any kind of re-evaluation of your life, of where you belong in the world, has it made a dent in your reality whatsoever?

if so, lucky you.

to me, its a footnote, a mark of skilled writing, nothing more.

Rusty James
Guest

"ecastic truth" is fast becoming a buzz term you invoke to reinforce your prejudices without actually having to think about them.

I wish Werner Herzog would show up in this thread. I can't imagine he was trying to endorse this kind of narrow mindedness.

And even if he was, it's still not intelligent or well thought out.

You're like those christians who show up at christian rock fests chasing their jesus high. I'm sure they're also all too glad to wax poetically (and almost certainly more coherently) about the higher truths of their terrible terrible music.

Werner Herzog
Guest

Mr. Mike Rot is decieved. Truth respects the highest thing does and only the beyond normality of Kwon Sang Woo movies is there a possibility of truth being visible. His acting and conduct is a best.

Mike Rot
Member

great points Rusty, really, you have opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking with your cogent analysis of where I went wrong. And thanks again for your illustrations of where IB is unquestionably a film warranting the term masterpiece, not just for its enjoyment but because it has important things to say above the call of duty.

Also in the future I will try not to repeat terms over and over again when challenged to explain them, I will just create new words, not like we need to affix meaning anyways.

ha ha.

Mike Rot
Member

Werner in his own words, also awfully vague and poorly thought out… what a Christian:

"Why do you like traversing the boundary between reality and fiction by mixing documentary footage with fiction?

I've always postulated, not just in documentaries but in my feature films as well, that reality is a superficial layer and what we should be looking out for is a deep strata of truth. I've always been after what I call an ecstatic truth. It is very strange because this term has caught on and it has spread like wildfire, almost everyone talks about it. The background to all of this is that there is a very real necessity for redefining reality.

Can you think of a moment that is ecstatic truth? Is it like seeing your favourite football team score a goal?

That is more a physical ecstasy, an exhilaration, that you feel and you share it with other spectators. Ecstasy of truth you would find in the practice of mystic monks, for example. Anyway, I don't want to define it. The term 'ecstatic truth' is searching for truth beyond the facts and much deeper than facts; that is something I look out for and 'Grizzly Man' is a very good example of it."

http://www.timeout.com/film/news/901/

Werner Herzog
Guest

Don't pull the cogent analysis card on me buddy. Up thread I laid out exactly what I thought merrited discussion about the film, and why I thought it deserved more consideration than his usual detractors were giving it. It was like pulling teeth to get to stop dropping vocab words from Pretentious Prick Monthly and actually respond to what was being discussed. I still don't think you could pass a test on what I've been saying.

And you're the one who compared us to Transformers fans, who I'm on record as loathing. So I think christian rock crack makes us even.

The thing is, in theory, this is a really good conversation about what exactly the merrits of the film are. And charting Quentin's growth as a director and the themes he tackles…

but in practice it's really just you saying "ecstatic truth" over and over again.

By insisting on talking about whether or not you had a religious epiphany during the film you've wrangled into it's narrowest and most subjective confines.

So, you weren't running through the parking lot naked afterwards, basking in the heavenly glow of ecstatic truth. Great.

What about Quentin's brilliant sense of cinema? What about Quentin depicting the war as being fought through the medium of film? What do you think the significance of that is?

An angel may've come and visited you in the theater during Limits of Control. But by every other relatable, discussable measure this is the much better film.

Rusty James
Guest

Whoops. I guess Mr. Herzog and I were on the same page there… how odd…

From now on I'll leave that (still hillarious) schtick to Goon who is clearly better at it than me.

Mike Rot
Member

I liked the projector room scene, the interplay of fact and fiction and the imagery of the final events in the theater were quite beautifully rendered. I loved the acting of everyone involved, I am sure there are many nods to cinema throughout the film I don't care to archive or know about… I laughed, I found it suspenseful, and as I said originally, I think the main complaint about the film is that most of the suspense was overwrought only to lead into something inevitable and undeserving of the tension. Tarantino was much more imaginative with his storytelling in Pulp Fiction, he would play the tension card but then actually come up with something surprising (like a shoot-out where none of the bullets hit the hitmen). Here it is… are they going to get caught, this is dangerous, this dangerous, are they going to get caught, oh, caught, and inevitable shoot out.

Like I said before, within his work I think this is one of his finest.

Rusty James
Guest

the PT Barnum remark, which you persist in not getting at all, is part of a larger context. I'm not saying the film is great because it's about PT Barnum.

And I don't think it has something profound to say about me, personally. That's a silly criteria to judge a film by. That's not cinema you're evaluating at that point.

But personal feeligns aside, for me a profound experience can come from just watching great cinema because it's a medium I love. When I watch Kill Bill I appreciate that the film is largely about film history, which is a subject near to my heart. That, in some sense, moves me on a personal level. What do you have to say about that?

The part that has me most frustrated is that while you claim you're evaluating the film's message on "the human condition" you pretty clearly mean "the Mike Sloan condition". After all, how would you go about determining that the film isn't speaking to part of the human condition that you haven't experienced? How do you know that Jaws wouldn't speak more deeply to a scuba diver, or Death Proof to a car enthusiast? How do you determine that the filmography of Steven Segal couldn't inspire a convicted armed robber to turn his life around and to one day become greatly acclaimed for his writings on such?

My ability to relate to a film's subject matter on a personal level is only one aspect of consideration. I don't simply dismiss things I don't relate to as having to say at all. But based on our conversations I'm pretty confident in saying you do.

In labeling the movie "non-ecstatic truth" you've completely blown off anything the film has to say.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Werner in his own words, also awfully vague and poorly thought out… what a Christian:

I'm pretty sure Herzog is a catholic. He at least went through a period.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Tarantino was much more imaginative with his storytelling in Pulp Fiction, he would play the tension card but then actually come up with something surprising (like a shoot-out where none of the bullets hit the hitmen).

I think Quentin was quite good at throwing me for a loop. Wilhelm as the lone survivor of the shoot out. Landa's double cross. The frenchman breaking down and confessing. The Bear Jew being some scrawny kid from Boston with a baseball bat. Hammerstien's death.

Also they killed Hitler.

Mike Rot
Member

"What about Quentin depicting the war as being fought through the medium of film? What do you think the significance of that is?"

I think it means he is infatuated with cinema, the same message I got all the way back to Reservoir Dogs. I mean really, is this supposed to be significant? Is he making that profound statement that how a war is perceived is just as valuable as how it is fought, and that propaganda is a vital form of coercion?

" I’m defending it for what it has to say about myth making and the power of stories and films. Lt. Aldo is the PT Barnum of guerilla terrorism, the Bear Jew is his bearded lady"

I am still waiting to hear what it has to say. you act as if you have already stated your points, but I just looked again, and this is all you have said… the only other example I could find is

"You’ve got film as a bomb, you’ve got the war hero turned movie star, you’ve got the overly theatrical Basterds celebrating the power of myth making. I don’t think you can just dismiss this movie as fank wankery and empty homages."

and

"Tarantino has a lot to say about the powers of storytelling and mythmaking for those with ears to listen."

and you talk about me just reiterating a term over and over without explaining… hmmmm.

Mike Rot
Member

"you’ve completely blown off anything the film has to say."

please… continue…

when I hear what I am missing I will re-evaluate my position.

"The part that has me most frustrated is that while you claim you’re evaluating the film’s message on “the human condition” you pretty clearly mean “the Mike Sloan condition"

you got to be kidding me… is there any other kind but personal? should I talk about the human condition in the abstract outside of any personal experience… that should be fun.

"My ability to relate to a film’s subject matter on a personal level is only one aspect of consideration"

because you are a film archivist? me, I am only interested in being entertained and moved. the wankery of cinema I leave to other people.

"for me a profound experience can come from just watching great cinema because it’s a medium I love. When I watch Kill Bill I appreciate that the film is largely about film history, which is a subject near to my heart. That, in some sense, moves me on a personal level. What do you have to say about that?"

then we are talking about the same thing, just different triggers.

Rusty James
Guest

@ I mean really, is this supposed to be significant?

Yeah, I think it is because he takes the ideas further this time around.

And because of the historical significance. The Nazi's were obsessed with propaganda and the power of the image. That's why Quentin concieving of Goebels as the Nazi David O. Selznik is so interesting.

Quentin envisions the movies as being the front lines of the war and that's why his warriors are producers, movie stars, film projectionists, critics and theater owners.

And the Basterds are guerilla terrorists, meaning they also must recognize the power of mythmaking and images. The Bear Jew isn't some awesome tough guy. He's a scrawny kid from Boston who walks out of a cave dramatically. Instead of giving us the grizzled unflappable tough guys; the products of hollywood myth; he gives us the mythmakers. They're not tough guys, they're just great at theatrics.

It is at the very least, an interesting application of Quentin's familiar infatuation. And it answers his critics in a major way. His films are just about films… well, maybe films are important. Storytelling and myths have power.

murph
Guest

herzog? a catholic? bullshit.

anyway, loved this movie. the ending was unbelievable. the entirety of it was epic. so, some people got more out of it and others saw it as strictly entertaining and that's all. so what?

i also love the complete disregard for actual history.

Rusty James
Guest

@ you got to be kidding me… is there any other kind but personal?

But that's my criticism. You're not evaluating the artistry of the movie. You're just talking personal gut reaction. I'm sure to some 15 year old kid in a garage band Bandslam was a very moving experience. But it's not a very good film.

@ because you are a film archivist?

What do you mean "archivist"? I'm someone who appreciates the art and language of cinema. It's that's what you mean then I agree.

Rusty James
Guest

@ herzog? a catholic? bullshit.

any particular reason? He mentions converting to catholocism as a young man, I think in the commentary track of Fata Morgana.

Although his commentaries tend to be a little redundant so he might mention it in a couple of them.

Rusty James
Guest

@ the wankery of cinema I leave to other people.

I can't believe you just called the art of cinema wankery! No wonder you don't appreciate Quentin.

Rusty James
Guest

@ some people got more out of it and others saw it as strictly entertaining and that’s all. so what?

I love that the spirit of this site is lost on most people.

wpDiscuz