Inglorious Bastereds is a fuck you to the totalitarian cinema of any sort.
I just saw Inglorious Basterds and have yet to fully mull its many splendors and so I’m using the venue as a way to do said mulling. Excuse what comes, please.
This is an odd, odd film. But it is not for naught. On the contrary, it seems that for Tarantino in oddity — in images and affects that meander and linger, that cut and tease — there is a certain freedom, dignity, and justice.
The undeniable climax of the film — we’ll have to return to what a climax is — is exquisite, mad, and patently untrue. That is, in a film that takes on the timbre of the historical, IB conspicuously flaunts its inaccuracy. This is not Valkyrie (a film I’ll admit I a) have not seen; and b) want to see just to get a glimpse of Tom Cruise as a pirate Nazi with a heart — which may be stranger than anything QT can create).
In disregarding historical fact in a film that seemingly borrows much from the historical record, Tarantino makes a claim about the status of film: it is distinctly not a referential creature. It is not beholden to the presumed real; it is the real. Yes, the reel is the real and vice versa.
And yet then what of propaganda? What of Nazi film making? If we disregard film’s obligation to the presumed real, then does it not open the door to what some might call irresponsible image making? To mass coercion?
Inglorious Basterds takes this question head on — and sideways and backwards and not at all. It is a nasty, funny, bloody, beautiful film that is itself multiple films, or at least a film with multiple threads. It begins one way, moves to another, then picks up the earlier thread years later then watches the two threads collide, synergistically and indifferently, in a fuck you all, we win, woopeee of an event.
And this — this power of film to literally burn the audience, to move them, and to do so with no allegiance whatsoever to ideology, concept, or narrative — is Tarantino’s answer to propaganda. Film serves no end other than itself — and that itself is (in)glorious and may be a basterd but it is free and lovely.
Inglorious Bastereds is a fuck you to the totalitarian cinema of any sort. This film does not flow and build. It builds, jumps, forgets, remembers, jumps, rams. And yet it cops the thrilling tension of narrative. Scene after scene is ripe and peculiarly taut. Resolve is often surprising and grotesque in a Coen brothers sort of way.
And tempered with the beautiful, tender, rowdy, and heart breaking (sort of). In these moments, strewn together in odd ways, there is a power and a love that is palpable and real.