With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino turns his subversive lens on World War II movies, says Mini Anthikad-Chhibber
When the posters of the quirkily-named Inglourious Basterds came out, it was difficult to suppress the delicious frisson of excitement as it was Quentin Tarantino’s first theatrical release after 2004’s Kill Bill Vol II. A Tarantino release is an eagerly-awaited treat for cineastes and fans alike. A filmmaker’s filmmaker, Tarantino trips lightly across genres to present a wholly unique worldview through his vivacious lens.
The video store-clerk-turned auteur has converted his hours of obsessively watching movies into a fine craft giving hope to every movie-mad person, that there is a genre-bending genius just waiting to break out.
Tarantino’s template of collapsing time frames, sudden, shocking violence, rambling conversations which further the character rather than the plot and a rocking soundtrack have been adopted by a host of Indian directors with varying degrees of success.
From his first film, Reservoir Dogs (1992), Tarantino has been pushing the envelope. Dogs, a caper film, starts from the end, where the crooks meet after a hold-up goes terribly wrong.
The crooks, who are known by their aliases based on colour, try to find the traitor in their midst by a process of painful and bloody elimination. Sanjay Gupta, who seems to be inspired in equal parts by Feroz Jaanbaaz Khan and Tarantino, remade the film as Kaante which was all raging testosterone, leather and slo-mo shots.
Reservoir Dogs was followed by the jewel in the Tarantino crown, Pulp Fiction. This star-studded 1994 film was yet another take on the noir and a 24-carat gem in terms of cinema. The cast was explosive. John Travolta as the uber-cool hitman, Samuel L. Jackson as his Bible-spouting colleague, Uma Thurman as the trippy boss’s wife and Bruce Willis as the prize fighter were incredible.
The dialogues were inventive and wickedly funny — who can forget the dissertation on Royale with cheese and, of course, the passage from Ezekiel 25:17.
Incredibly plotted, the beginning, the middle and the end of the film has been the basis of a gazillion learned theses and even more drunken dinner table conversations. Tarantino totally earned the Oscar for best original screenplay.
In 1995, Tarantino directed a section of the quirky Four Rooms. Jackie Brown is a quiet little oasis in the raging sea of frantic action, hectic music and snappy dialogue.
The 1997 film based on an Elmore Leonard novel starred Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro. The movie followed a worldly-wise flight attendant, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), operating in the twilight zone between the law and crime.
After a gap of six years, in 2003 came Kill Bill Vol I. The “roaring rampage of revenge” told of a pregnant bride, Uma Thurman, left for dead on her wedding day, who makes a “to kill” list of all who tried to do her in.
While the earlier movies were a re-imaging of the gangster movie, for Kill Bill, Tarantino turned his eye on the Kung Fu movie and the spaghetti Western. Busy with chapters and weird subtitling, the film mixed cartoon-style violence and anime with intervals of dreamy poetry.
Violent, yet poetic
So, in the climactic The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves, while the Bride decimating the crazy 88 was a splatter fest, when she takes on O-Ren Ishii in the snowy garden, it was languid and mesmerising.
With Kill Bill, Tarantino seemed to walk the thin red line of what can be considered good taste as there were cringe-inducing scenes such as hiring out the Bride’s comatose body for sex and the Bride biting one of her assaulters to death.
With 2007’s Death Proof, Tarantino seemed to have crossed the line. The film, a tribute to the B movies, was beyond violent and tells the story of voluptuous women being stalked by a scarred stuntman.
Tarantino also guest directed a section of Sin City (2005) for his long-time friend and collaborator Robert Rodriguez. Neither movie made it to the Indian screens, thanks to the excessive violence.
A companion piece to Death Proof, Planet Terror directed by Rodriguez has made it on telly in a terribly-bowdlerised version though. And now, comes the news of Inglourious Basterds, where Tarantino has turned his eye on World War II.
Starring Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine, who leads a group of Jewish-American soldiers to make the Germans’ life hell, Basterds tells the story of Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) whose family is killed by the Nazis. Shosanna escapes to Paris and assumes a new identity as a theatre owner.
There is Diane Kruger as a German actor and undercover agent who, with Raine, is planning to take down the leaders of the Third Reich.
Guaranteed to be a skewed look at the movies and war movies, in particular, Inglourious Basterds will be just cause for cinema buffs to heave a collective sigh of relief and welcome Mr. Tarantino back into the slightly left of mainstream.