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Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Bending History for the Sake of RIVETING Cinematic Amusement

Tarantino Marathon Part VII of IX, 4th Viewing 

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

In 2009, while long-beloved yet undoubtedly controversial director Quentin Tarantino was primarily greeted with positive reviews for his new film Inglourious Basterds, many felt as if the ambitious filmmaker was violating and desensitizing World War II and the remembered victims that passed away because of it. In my eyes, after four viewings of the motion picture, the last thing Tarantino is doing is s****ing on history. The movie is not saying to forget anything that happened on the account of our shameful past, otherwise, it would’ve blatantly told you to rather than letting you unreasonably assume. It’s simply modifying the plot of history to make a sheerly entertaining picture that witnesses an alternative “what if.” The movie openly knows that it is utter fiction, and Tarantino is only using historical information to familiarly amplify the protagonists and antagonists for the audience. He’s using our knowledge to build a distinct type of archival art that admirably works as enjoyment and not something that needs to advertise political commentary. 

Now, speaking of this fun movie, as purely a fun movie, Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s example of a supernova project in which the writing and execution go along better than peanut butter and jelly. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino can make an entirely meaningless and irrelevant conversation seem interesting. In Inglorious Basterds, which does quite the opposite, many pieces of the dialogue are so ingeniously implemented into the plot through personified juxtapositions—think of Hans Landa’s theory of the rats to the squirrels in the opening scene. As a result, Tarantino’s seventh feature-length produces some of cinema’s most unexpectedly intense and flawlessly crafted sequences ever put to the art of film. 

Some of my favorite editing choices in Tarantino’s filmography come from Inglorious Basterd’s music arrangement. For one, there is a bundle of Ennio Morricone tracks that slide so harmoniously into the film as if they were specifically made for Tarantino’s picture. To name a few: II Ritorno Di Ringo (Violence) (used during Shosanna’s escape), La resa (used during The Bear Jew’s slaughter), and Rabbia E Tarantella (used during the final scene of the motion picture). Some great examples of other artists being implemented to help enhance Inglourious Basterds include Tarantino’s decision to reuse Charle Bernstein’s White Lightning (from Kill Bill Vol. 1) when Major Hellstrom comes to kidnap Shosanna or when they use Bernstein’s heart-bolting Bath Attack as Hans Landa’s theme. 

As per usual, Tarantino perfects his raw ability to squeeze the finest gags out of dark comedy. The Bear Jew getting all amped up after beating Sgt. Rachtman to death like he just hit a home run in baseball still catches me off-guard every time. To drift completely off-topic, however, Tarantino’s framing in Inglorious Basterds is so damn resourceful, as well. For example, when Hans walks into the dining hall that Frederick, Shosanna, and Joseph Goebbels are eating at, the camera is only fixed on Shosanna’s face and we only see Hans’s waist standing high above her to symbolize his authority in the situation while exemplifying that Shosanna can recognize this intimidating individual just by his voice. I furthermore respect how everybody else in the dining hall seem so insignificant to Hans since you can basically only hear their voices as they briefly exit the room. 

Hans Landa, in my eyes, is Tarantino’s greatest character yet. He’s a man who uses the most delightful of surroundings (milk, pipes, or even cake slices with a touch of cream on the top) to arouse the heaviest amount of intimation and expose the clearest weaknesses from his victims. He’s a commanding officer who only does what’s best for him, putting either side of the war on the line only for his success. He is Tarantino’s ultimate villain: a man with egotistical intentions that actually make sense and aren’t lamely obliged to some sort of “pride” for their sinister institution. In the end, the villain always believes he’s right, and Hans Landa wanted to end his career by allowing the world to believe he was some sort of hero in the history books despite who he truly was. As evil as he is, he’s an absolute genius. And, let’s face it: the scene where Hans isn’t able to control his laughter when he’s lied to about the “mountain climbing” accident and then proceeds to screw around with the three basterds for fun by making them pronounce their fake Italian names should’ve won Christoph Waltz the Oscar alone. 

There simply can’t be a spoiler review of Inglourious Basterds without, of course, mentioning the infamous basement scene. From the parallel that’s made out of the charades game and how it connects to the Basterds who are pretending to be nazi officers, to the brilliant inclusion of the “three-finger manner” and the intriguing history behind it, to the soldier figuring out their true identities by noticing something so little and the turmoil that transpires from it, to the placement of the characters to show who actually had guns on who the whole time, to Fassbender’s final line that quickly revolts into a command, and to the demolished compromise with the german soldier who is shot down in cold blood in spite of him becoming a father that day (in order to show how evil cannot be concealed by enemies with no mercy); yeah, this sequence is top-tier cinema. 

The third act of Inglorious Bastards, to me, is Tarantino’s real “masterpiece.” To name a few scenes that delegate the perfection of this act, it’s hard to forget the darkly comedic build-up to the grand theater showing, the emotive timing of Ennio Morricone’s Un ameico as Shosanna and Frederick kill each other, the jaw-dropping cinematography that compliments the divinely stacked-up nitrate reels that Marcel later “flicks” into ignition, the weirdly enchanting conversation that the Bastards and Hans have while producing compromise, the red and orange-infused lighting blended with the roaring wind that shrieks from the frightening projection of Shosanna snickering at her victims from the dead, and the deformation of Adolf Hitler’s face as the Basterds blow him to literal smithereens. Plus, it’s the ultimate “cherry on top” when the film decides to conclude with Hans Landa finally having his wit overruled by a Tenessean, nazi-killin’ Brad Pitt. 

It appears that Inglorious Bastards still holds like cement nearly a decade later. It goes without saying that a movie made purely to be entertainment has yet to exceed past this checkpoint! 

Verdict: A+

Quentin Tarantino Ranked 

“Inglourious Basterds” is now available to stream on YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.

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