Inglourious Basterds: The Good, The Rad and the Ugly.
So I have now seen this film three times in the theater, and given it has been in release for less than a week this fact probably makes me, at least, partly insane. It is also a personal record. Fight Club is the only other film I saw multiple times in theaters during its first week of release. Needless to say I think it is a masterpiece, Tarantino's best film, and one of the greatest films of the decade.
Much has been said about Christoph Waltz, and I agree he is amazing. However, I fear his showy role is shadowing other great performances. I think Mélanie Laurent equals Waltz in her portrayal of yet another "Tarantino woman", equal parts sexy and dangerous. The rest of the cast is also very good, including Pitt and Roth.
The film is filled with some of Tarantino's best dialogue scenes. His writing is poetic. He can fit more action into two people having a conversation (Chapter one) than Micheal Bay could create with a 500 million budget. The many dialogue scenes are even better in this film as they are each punctuated with a short staccato burst of violence. They are framed like the 1812 Overture, slowly building to a loud and visceral crescendo.
The chapter structure gives the film a forward momentum that has been lacking in some of Tarantino's last films (Kill Bill vol 1 and Death Proof). Not since Pulp Fiction has a film felt so swift and seemed to be over so fast. At almost 2 1/2 hours, it feels like 45 minutes. Some have complained that the bar scene was too long, but the dialogue is so good it is riveting and never drags.
Visually this is the best looking Tarantino film. He is really maturing as a film maker. The makeup scene is pure cinematography and is art at its highest form. Cut out from the film it would make a riveting short film even though there is not a word of dialogue.
In some ways this is the most violent of his films. Unlike most of his other movies, where the violence it actually off-screen (even though it is so well done that some people swear they saw things in his films that are not on screen), we see the violence in this movie, up close and gory. This is not an accident. It is a requirement of a revenge fantasy. How can we quench our thirst for Nazi blood without the blood? We can't. Tarantino knows this.
Like all Tarantino films the soundtrack is great. The mix of Marconi score and modern music helps us place the film in it historical context and emphasize that we are watching a Tarantino film. Some have complained about a few of the musical cues but I loved them all.
This is the most "Tarantino" of all his films. It is a true pastiche or collage being heavily influenced by Spaghetti westerns and WW II films. Some have argued that these types of references are just Tarantino showing off his film knowledge and have little more meaning. While this may be true for some of his earlier films, the many references in this film have a deeper subtext. They are meant to provide us, the audience, additional information about the movie or its characters. When he copies the massacre scene from Once Upon a Time in the West, he is telling the audience that this is not the standard WWII film where the action is driven by bullets. This is a spaghetti western were the action will be driven by dialogue. When the cinema marquis is advertising Le Corbeau, we are being told an entire back story about Nazi censorship. More than any recent film the subtext here is as important as the text.
While the movie can be enjoyed without understanding these references, an entire subtextual layer is revealed when we make the effort. It's the cinematic equivalent of adding butter to your dish. Butter helps everything. References to Leone films can only enhance your movie.
I think the film is nearly perfect, however there are a couple minor problems. The most glaring is the Mike Meyers cameo. This whole scene does not work. Meyers is too much of a caricature, bringing his Austin Powers baggage to his role. He really took me out of the movie. Really this is the only scene in the film that does not seem to have a purpose. Everything we learn about Operation Kino, we later hear about in the bar scene and veterinarian scene. Hopefully a future cut will remove this whole scene. Roth spoke of cut scene of his character back in the US having his bat signed by elder jews who had escaped the Holocaust. I think this sounds amazing and certainly would add more than the Meyers scene.
Tarantino is a true auteur in the strictest Truffaut sense. While his films are a collage of other masters work, he is able to take the parts and create an equally brilliant whole. I think this film will make future lists of the greatest films ever made. It is the rare Hollywood movie that is both fun and brilliant cinema. In some ways, it is Tarantino's doctoral thesis on film history masquerading as a WWII jewish revenge fantasy.