6 Sep 2009

Eight Awesome Things About "Inglourious Basterds"

for further reading : my two blogs - here and here - about the uniforms and medals in IB

1- SS-Standartenführer Hans Landa


The Nazi Sherlock Holmes; the “Jew-Hunter” - and one of QT's best characters ever. A suave, languorous polyglot who butchers with a professional efficiency. SS officers were noted for how they always walked a line between civility and brutality. In his bravura performance as Landa, Christoph Waltz brings the perfect image of these immaculate monsters to the screen. He's a complete bastard, but conducts his bastardry in the most affable manner possible. That is, when he's not throttling traitors to death (even if he's know them for years) or arranging mass-murder. The agents of the Holocaust were like this. Enjoying Waltz's amazing performance shows just how seductive their evil was.

2- Attention To Detail

Well, QT loves his trivia, doesn't he? His films are encyclopedic in detail; there is always a ton of minutiae there if you look for it. In IB, QT goes to town on the WW2 details. Uniforms, medals and insignia are not just pretty decorations; they tell a story. A knowledgeable eye can determine the outlines of a soldier's career from a look at their outfit. Usually, war movies just 'handwave' these details away and use whatever they can find in the costume department. But not in a QT war film!

I revelled in what you could call the “uniform porn”, cause boy he laid it on. Things like Aldo Raine wearing a Devil's Brigade patch, or Landa's little collection of medals revealing a lot of policing but no combat. These little touches are appreciated – by freaks like me, at least.

3- Nazi Soldiers Have Feelings Too

That brief snippet doesn't really do justice to Feldwebel Rachtman's little moment in the film, but it will do. In the face of a bunch of completely sadistic psychopaths, he remains true and dies a warrior. At the very least, Hollywood never bothers to humanize the enemy in such a way. Referring back to the medals-telling-a-story thing above, we can see that Rachtman had seen serious action – no doubt refusing a commission, in order to remain with his platoon. He's a genuine war hero, regardless of his uniform, and he goes out like one.

There's also Wilhelm and his party in the basement, which shows that, yes, even Nazi redshirts (greyshirts?) got drunk, chillaxed, and played stupid games. This is far away from the faceless grey hordes who are typically gunned down in your average WW2 flick.

4- Lieutenant Archie Hicox


That whole awesome moment of Britishness in IB is classic in itself. Seriously – that's the first time I've laughed WITH Mike Myers in ages (as opposed to at him). But Hicox (played, ironically, by the half-Irish / half-German Michael Fassbender) does credit to the whole archetype of the Gallant British Officer. Firstly (again with the awesome uniform details) we see he's a Royal Marine – the 'ardest bunch about. But how many commandos have also written a book about Pabst? Only Hicox. (In a movie about how awesome movies are, even the killers are film critics). Secondly, he gets the one-liners from hell, just like a true gentleman-warrior should :

Well, if this is it, old boy, I hope you don't mind I go out speaking the King's? and There's a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch. And seeing as I might be rapping on the door momentarily...

...both going down as two of QT's best zingers ever.

5- The Screen Goddesses

Three stunners illuminate the screen in IB; and, of course, at least two of them had to get their feet fondled by QT. (Yes, he 's kinda big on that). I was already familiar with Ms Kruger's work, thanks to her fantastic turn in a certain movie whose plot bore a vague resemblance to the story of the Trojan War. With von Hammersmark, she projects all the power and charm that the classic German queens of film were famous for – and their ruthlessness, too. I liked her a lot...


...but still, she came in second to the film's real revelation – Mlle. Mélanie Laurent, hitherto unknown to English-speaking filmgoers. As the revenge-seeking female of this particular QT film, she delivers the cold-hard fury with serious Parisian style. She still has that vulnerability – it is her pity which does her in, after all – which makes a tragic heroine. Her final apotheosis – with her face projected onto the smoke, her mocking laughter drowned out by the screams of dying Nazis – is one of the most stunning moments in the film.

Lastly, Sofie Fatale, Nazi Style! (The role was specifically written for her). By Apollo, but I love Julie Dreyfus...


6- Raine's Scar


Scars, like uniforms and medals, tell a person's history also. One of the things I noticed when I first saw the trailer for IB was the vicious scar on the neck of Tyler Durden's Brad Pitt's character, Lieutenant Aldo Raine. I initially thought it was the legacy of a slashed throat, when I was then reliably informed it was actually a lynching scar. Of course, no exact details are given, but we can paint a picture based on these clues QT gives us. Most likely scenario, I figure, is that Raine got involved in horse-rustlin', or the like, somewhere on the dying Frontier – the last of the American West as it faded out in the 1920's and 30's. (That would also explain how he ended up in the Devil's Brigade) And he was bought to task for it in the old-fashioned manner – a good lynchin'. But somehow he managed to survive – probably the old shoot-the-rope trick, perhaps. At any rate, it's amazing how a simple piece of makeup can influence a whole character's persona.

7- Psycho Sniper Boy Is Psycho


It isn't so much what Gefreiter Fredrick Zoller does in IG that's so awesome (although Daniel Brühl does a great job) as what he represents. I'd like to think QT was riffing on Audie Murphy here – the reluctant hero, a dogged nice guy amongst the carnage. I suppose I also have some sympathy for guys chasing after lost causes. It's interesting to note (uniform porn again) that he's a member of the Großdeutschland Division, considered (by Wehrmacht apologists, I should add) the last vestige of Prussian nobility in the face of Nazi obscenity. He makes quite the contrast to Landa, Goebbels, and the others. It kinda sours at the end there, but that just proves how doomed he really was.

8- Crowning Music Of Awesome

Is there such a thing as a bad soundtrack to a QT movie? I certainly can't think of one. The OST to IB is no exception. Morricone and his mournful melodies dominate again; conjuring up flavours of the Old West, sacrifice, blood and redemption – his stock-in-trade. There's also that strong taste of the 70's there, with that whiff of wistful cheesiness that you got in all those classic exploitation flicks.

(My all-time favourite of his, in this movie – the haunting “Verdict (dopo la Condanna)”:

Other awesomeness includes Billy Preston's kickarse blaxpolitation tune “Slaughter” (used as the signature tune for Stiglitz), and Zarah Leander's song "Davon Geht Die Welt Nicht Unter”, which was the most popular song in Nazi Germany. But the real Crowning Moment comes courtesy of the Thin White Duke Himself.

When first word got out that “Cat People” was going to be on the soundtrack, nerds like me had only one reaction : they better bloody use the epic 12” version Moroder mixed, and not the godawful album version. Ah, so foolish was I to doubt QT! Of course he was going to use the awesome version. The anachronism works so well in the movie too – overall, this is my favourite moment.

(Postscript : Where the hell is Himmler? Why is he not among the senior Nazis wiped out in the cinema? This is a weird omission, and the only fault I can find with IB).


Anonymous said...

where is himmler? probably arranged the whole landa/assassination attempt...if one could give the chicken farmer that much credit but then he did want to end the war..ish

Andre said...

LULZ! Good point Anonymous.