Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Basterds Will Be There Waiting for You: Dennis, Bill, and Inglourious Basterds - Part Two

[Too little too late, possibly, but spoilers follow]

Welcome to Part Two of my technologically-enhanced discussion with nationally renowned blogger (I actually think that's basically true) and good friend to yours truly, Dennis Cozzalio, about Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece Inglourious Basterds, which we dissect and ramble on about like a group of drunken Nazis. I forgot to mention yesterday that these posts will be appearing on both of our sites (redundancy!), so if you you'd like to discuss what's been said, but don't happen to feel like talking to me at the moment, pop on over to Dennis's and lay your comment down there. But now, onward...

DC: One of the earmarks, at least for me, in recognizing a great film is the insistent buzz that I leave the theater with, the giddy, head-spinning mugging of all my preconceptions, none of which dissipates but only gets stronger the more I think about the film, the more I talk about it, with those who dislike it as well as folks like you, and Don, and many others who happen to agree that Inglourious Basterds is probably the movie of the year. (Of course, this kind of buzz on a movie right out of the box is quite rare. It's more often that a movie's true dimensions are revealed over time, apart from all the hype and received wisdom about it.) I made a point of seeing it on a Saturday morning, as early as possible, so as to minimize the possibility of being influenced by a theater full of ticket buyers whose response might indicate that they’d already made up their mind about loving it. My rationale was, everybody who just had to see it on the first night stayed up late last night doing so, and therefore most likeminded viewers would still be in bed at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning when I went to see it. And as far as I can determine, that strategy worked. The theater where I saw Inglourious Basterds was a big multiplex auditorium, only about 1/3 full, so not only was the audience fairly calm throughout, but I also didn’t have much sense of what kind of box office draw it was exerting nationwide either. I guess I was audibly amused by the movie (not obnoxiously so, I hope), and after I’d burst into applause upon the title card “Directed by Quentin Tarantino,” some older gentlemen who had also stayed through the end credits came up to me and said, with some amusement, “So I guess you liked that, huh?” Yeah, I guess I liked it.

And I guess my enthusiasm piqued my wife’s interest too. I suspected that, were she able to endure it she would like the movie, but I didn’t think she would never allow herself to be exposed to it, so averse is she to extreme violence. (No Country for Old Men reduced her to tears.) But as I gushed on over the course of Saturday afternoon, she decided to check it out, and I eagerly volunteered to accompany her the next day. This time we saw it with a packed house at a major Hollywood venue, and the audience was clearly with the movie—being with this crowd gave me a new kind of giddy to add to the buzz that was still resonating with me from the previous day. I also had a job to do— my wife agreed to go on the condition that we work out some sort of silent signal that would warn her to shut her eyes before any shocking violence or gore. With the exception of one smash cut to a scalp being peeled away, my commission was successfully executed and she survived the screening. (I told her afterwards that I likened my duty to that of a human “Fear Flasher” or “Horror Horn,” an audio-visual warning system employed by a 1966 sub-William Castle shocker called Chamber of Horrors, in which a loud klaxon would start blaring and the screen would start flashing bright red tinting before each scary scene. She shook her head and looked at me as if to say I’d spent too much goddamn time at the movies.) Again, much at the end of screening number two and apparent confirmation of the assertion made by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), and by extension our None-Too-Humble Auteur, that this one may just be his masterpiece.

So it’s worth considering again the statement you made: “Any conversation about the film, and what it is, and what it does, has to acknowledge that Inglourious Basterds is, at its core, a genuine crowd-pleaser.” Of all the things we could have been talking about in the wake of this movie’s release, its status as a genuine hit was not one that I really thought would be of much interest. I figured that all the press and interviews and well-orchestrated outside interest was as likely to translate to box-office gold in about the same way that the fevered anticipation for Grindhouse did-- that is, everyone who really wanted to see it would pack houses on Friday night, and the rest of the weekend would be a wet fuse leading to much post-opening hand-wringing by Harvey Weinstein and an ignominious journey straight to DVD and Blu-ray. But here’s the reality, and it’s kind of a stunner: as my friend and fellow critic Kim Morgan observed, in this summer when you couldn’t convince audiences to take a chance on a well-reviewed corker like Drag Me To Hell, but when two soulless contraptions like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ransack the wallets of just about every July and August moviegoer, here’s Quentin Tarantino making an honest-to-God hit out of a two-and-a-half hour war movie with no battle scenes, in which the only major recognizable star is cast in essentially a supporting character part, and a good two-thirds of the picture, in which most of what everyone does is talk, talk, talk, is in subtitled English! Now, if that’s not an achievement worth celebrating just in and of itself, especially in this day and age of risk-averse Hollywood blockbusters, then I don’t know what would ever be.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is the way audiences have been trained to expect exposition, character development, action, narrative itself in short, clipped bursts, and how Tarantino seems to fly in the face of all that. To go back to Stephanie Zacharek’s review, she expressed a real excitement (and relief, I think) that Tarantino chose to shoot the film, as is his custom, in more classically oriented long takes—no shaky-cam for QT. And she also hinted at how Tarantino has really developed as a visual stylist—if you look at Reservoir Dogs and even sections of Pulp Fiction, you get a sense of a filmmaker much more at ease with his abilities as a writer than as a filmmaker, and being that these were his first two movies that shouldn’t be too surprising. The camera was, to a great extent, a static observer in those two films, more so in Reservoir Dogs than Pulp Fiction, and which each subsequent film, as Tarantino digs around in the nooks and crannies of the vital pockets of the genres he’s examining and subverting, he’s getting more familiar with how to use the camera as part of that storytelling, how to choreograph placement of characters and changes in perspective to accentuate suspense or illuminate elements of the conversation that may be more important than we once suspected—for example, the suspicion that Lt. Archie Hicox may be on thin ice with his SS counterpart in the bar scene is telegraphed almost subliminally through judiciously edited glances and sharply shifted rack focuses away from Greta Von Hammersmark, who may be trying to signal him, and onto a trio of shot glasses being poured in the foreground. This is nimble filmmaking that really vitalizes that fairly complex bar scene—the camera is all over the place in it, but not in a look-at-me fashion. Tarantino is constantly finding ways to emphasize the inherent drama with the camera without taking the viewer out of the movie. (And when he chooses to take you out of it—HUGO STIGLITZ!—the very incongruity of it is funny as hell, an indicator of the filmmaker’s playfulness and confidence that he’s got you where he wants you and he ain’t likely to lose you by dispensing the goose in such a fashion.)

Yet it is this scene that is most often cited by the film’s detractors (and even some who liked it) as being a slog—too long, pointless, bereft of the writer-director’s customary pizzazz, somehow not tight in the way we expect a suspense set piece to be, presumably in comparison to the interrogation of Mssr. LaPadite by the ingratiatingly sinister Col. Landa. I think Tarantino is in the business of redefining “tight” throughout this movie, and maybe you can talk a little more about how he seems to do it in this scene. The complaints usually sound something like, “The scene needed to be tighter, shorter.” But as usual no one seems to have an idea of how this might be accomplished, what could be sacrificed that wouldn’t also lessen our identification with almost everyone in the room, from the soldiers celebrating the Nazi sergeant’s child being born, to the participation in the celebration of the German actress (and double agent), to the Basterds and the SS officer who become part of the interaction, right down to the imposing barkeep and his lovely employee. Once one element drops out or is lessened, the resulting momentum, inexorable as it is deliberate, is lessened and the movie’s overall strategy of patience and observation would be, I think, lessened as well. And everyone in the scene is important to its conclusion.

Okay, Bill, so much left to talk about that I wanted to hit on in this post that will just have to wait until next time, but that’s why we’re doing this all week, right? I have to take off to go see Steely Dan—it’s Internet Request Night here in Los Angeles, and my dear wife bought me a ticket for Father’s Day that is, this very evening, coming home to roost. But I look forward to your end of this one, and next time I’ll elaborate on some of the thoughts that ran through my head last night, the first part of our conversation already on the books, when I took my daughters to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. As you might well imagine, much of that movie resonated with our discussion and the larger one going on right now about the appropriateness of Tarantino’s WWII fantasies about Jewish revenge and how this new movie differs, if it does, from the way Hitler and Nazism have been approached throughout the history of Hollywood. And I’ll tell you right now, I’m having more fun talking about this movie in this way than I ever thought possible. This is what great movies are all about! Thanks for partnering with me on this ride!

BR: My theater was reasonably full, too. The only reaction to the film I was able to witness that might be considered either negative or ambivelant was a guy sitting in front of us who, after the end credits were over (he did stay that long, which must mean something) looked at my wife and me and said, "Well, then." Which really isn't an unreasonable thing to say after seeing Inglourious Basterds, whatever you ultimately thought of it.

But it's true that the audience's enthusiasm enhanced my enjoyment, at least a little bit. Ordinarily, I despise talking during movies (of course I do, everybody does, in theory), and I even hate hearing people crunching on popcorn, but the large number of people sitting near us who regularly uttered things like "Oh shit!" seemed to me to merely be getting into the spirit of Tarantino's film. If ever there was an "Oh shit!" movie, this is it. And while I didn't have to warn my wife about upcoming violence (I couldn't have even if I'd been asked to), seeing as she likes to see Nazis get bashed all to shit almost as much as I do, she did recoil from the bullet-wound interrogation, as well as something else, I think...can't remember what.

My point about Inglourious Basterds being a crowd-pleaser was badly stated, but I think you got my point anyway, which is that this film, proclaimed so boring but certain film critics, is nailing casual filmgoers to their seats, even though it's mostly in languages other than English, and even though a lot of people talk, and stuff. Although I don't know why its apparent success should surprise us: this is Tarantino, and at his best his dialogue is a wonderful mix of pure character and sheer entertainment, and I don't think he's ever pulled off that mix as well as he does here. Nobody seems like a stand-in for Tarantino himself, and everyone, however broadly they may be painted, is a full human being. This is great movie dialogue, classic, in its way. It hearkens back to the 40s in its exaggerated take on human speech, used as a means of making every second of the film feel alive and moving. Audiences have always come to Tarantino for that, and after what I consider a serious backslide with Death Proof, I think a lot of people are relieved to see him return to full strength. Full strength, and then some.


As for the tavern scene...I'm almost at a loss. What can you say about it? One thing that occurred to me that may seem obvious is that it functions, or could function, almost as a stand-alone short film. You might need to add a little bit of a set-up (but maybe not), but the scene is an absolutely complete story. Which is how I originally thought of it, as a short story. There are no extras in the scene, as you pointed out, everybody has a function, but you never get the sense that they exist to serve that function, and the scene (I almost said "film") builds as so many stories do, from apparent insignificance to outright terror, and then to splattering blood, but it takes its own sweet time getting there. It unfolds. Tarantino has said in the past that the art of letting stories unfold is something that has been lost in American film, and he's right. He's also the current master of that art. So that's my answer to your question about why the scene works: in middle of the film -- not disconnected from the film, but still its own, separate thing -- Tarantino tells us a different, self-contained story of comedy, suspense and violence. You don't have to shift gears to immerse yourself into it, but you can almost feel yourself, in your story-following frame of mind, reset to the beginning. It's like putting down a novel you're enjoying tremendously to read a similarly themed short story you've heard was also very good. And you heard right.

But let's talk about what so many people seem to want to deny, or cut with subtext (which I won't argue isn't there), or flat out condemn the film for containing, what it is about Inglourious Basterds that so many of us find so incredibly thrilling, and that is the primal cinematic joy of watching Nazis get the living shit beat and blown out of them. At its core, this is a purely cathartic movie. It's hard to not get pretty deep into spoilers here, but Tarantino shows us things in this film that never happened, that are refuted by history, but which it is a blood-thirsty, heart-leaping joy to behold. And yet, there's a quote floating around the internet, regarding the film's astonishing climax. Somewhere, Tarantino apparently said that he deliberately "fucked with the climax", and that at some point the Nazi uniforms disappear, and you're just seeing human beings suffering horribly. Again, I don't deny that's part of it, and I even asked my wife, after reading that quote, if she had that reaction, and she said she did. But, in a fascinating piece on Tarantino and Inglourious Basterds in The Atlantic, Tarantino says, when asked if maybe he didn't go too far on occasion, and that maybe some people would be upset, he said: “Why would they condemn me? I was too brutal to the Nazis?” Given that this film is a wish-fulfillment fantasy, I have a really hard time finding it within myself to let my heart bleed out for the Nazis we see dying on screen. Any halfway intelligent filmgoer is going to bring into the theater with them a knowledge of the nightmarish, organized serial murder that the Nazis carried out against the Jews, and goddamnit, I'm not going to feel even a little bit bad that I felt a genuine, thrilling bloodlust while I watched the ending. I mean, isn't seeing the bad guys get theirs one of the basic joys of films, and of all storytelling? You can complicate and subvert that all day long if you want to, and if you do it well I'll gladly pay my money and think deep thoughts right along with you, but let's not pretend that we don't like seeing this stuff play out on a basic level, or that that's not one of the primary, ingrained reasons we all have for going to the movies. And when the bad guys are Nazis, you can take your ambivelance elsewhere, Buster Brown.

And I'm out of time. So talk to me, Dennis, about how you reacted to the violence, because this is a big topic, and there are a few more critical reactions to that aspect of the film I want to get into later.

21 comments:

Tony Dayoub said...

I think anyone that denies the crowd-pleasing aspect of the climax is kidding themselves, just as anyone who denies the moral complications that arise when one reexamines their own reaction to that scene is kidding themselves.

Someone who shall remain nameless told me he thought that I read into the subtext of the film too much being that Basterds was made by a former video clerk with a love for grindhouse exploitation flicks. While on one level it is true that this film is inspired by such movies, I think it is ignorant to dismiss Tarantino's subtextual inferences out of hand.

PS: BTW, I'm not accusing you of that. I feel like you have simply chosen to examine the cathartic aspects of the film rather than getting mired any deeper than that... which is refreshing, since so many of us are already picking nits about the subtext while the domain you've chosen to focus on has gone largely ignored.

Don Mancini said...

Bill: Since it's pertinent to one of the things you're discussing specifically here -- the pub scene -- may I re-post my comment from Dennis's blog? Sorry for the redundancy...

One of the things I love about the film, and about Tarantino's work in general, is how insanely ENTERTAINING it is. Remember what Pauline Kael, in her review of CE3K, said about Spielberg: "He puts on a great show." Same goes for Tarantino. And I don't mean that in a stuff-blows-up-every minute-look-at-that-CGI kind of way, but in a way that's really kind of old-fashioned, classical, theatrical. QT so clearly loves his eccentric, idiosyncratic characters, and the actors who play them; in every scene, he is always sure to give EVERYONE something to PLAY. That's why, for example, the 30-minute pub scene is so consistently gripping. We're constantly attuned to what's going on beneath the surface of all the forced bonhomie, and to what's going on in the mind of each character: the Gestapo's suspiciousness; Hicox's fear that he's about to be sniffed out; Stiglitz's about-to-boil-over rage; the drunk German soldier's oblivious, star-struck meddling; Von Hammersmark's desperation to steer the situation through increasingly choppy waters; the barkeep's silent awareness of what's about to happen; even the waitress's nervous "I just work here" fear of getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The scene would work gangbusters on the stage, and I can think of no higher praise.

bill r. said...

Well, Tony, I imagine the subtext will be discussed in the next installment. And like I say, I don't deny it's there, but it doesn't move me. The text moves me. And for what it's worth, if the Atlantic piece is anything to go by, the text moves Tarantino more, as well (which I only bring up because, elsewhere, Tarantino's words have been offered to me as a defense against my own reaction to the film).

bill r. said...

Don - Obviously, Dennis and I are all about redundancy in these posts, so I'm simply glad to have you stop by.

And yes, the tavern scene would work great on stage. That seems a more apt comparison than my short story one, but my brain goes to books before theater, just because I don't know enough about the latter.

You're right about everything else, too. Tarantino wants to grab his audience and pin them to their seats and make them laugh and cringe and curl up in a ball and lean forward with their eyes wide open. He wants us to have a great time. I agree, his films are very classical (even old-fashioned?) in that sense. And I'll be damned if he doesn't know how to do it. This supposedly boring, half-hour long dialogue scene is so meticulous, so precise in the way the suspense builds, and the way the audience is clued in to not just what's going on, but what the characters are thinking, and why they're thinking it. As a filmmaker, Tarantino gives and incredible performance.

Krauthammer said...

isn't seeing the bad guys get theirs one of the basic joys of films, and of all storytelling

I have a feeling I'm more of a bleeding heart than you Bill, but having just reread The Odyssey I can tell you that you're absolutely right.

bill r. said...

I have no doubt that you're more of a bleeding heart than I am, Krauthammer, but I didn't think that seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance in books and films didn't used to be a matter of political division. Inglourious Basterds, of all films, seems to have proven me wrong.

The Caustic Ignostic said...

bill:

For me, the film's proximate, bloodthirsty thrills and deeper, at times disquieting thematic questions are inextricably linked. I can't imagine being satisfied with IB in the same way if it was *just* a cathartic revenge fantasy or *just* a uncomfortable meditation on depravity or *just* a gleefully meta celebration of cinema. The primary appeal of Tarantino's recent arc of films is his success at juggling the visceral and the cerebral, and in a way that never seems artificial or compartmentalized. There's no "This over here for the meatheads, that over there for the sophisticates." QT's post-Fiction style seems to be one big denial of that false dichotomy. He sees no reason he can't simultaneously make our neurons tingle with pure cinematic excitement and also prod at profoundly tricky aspects of culture and the self. For all that Dogs and Fiction are unabashedly Cool Stories, and for all their impression they left on a younger version of me, they don't seem to be "about" much of anything other than their own excellence. What QT started to do a bit in Jackie Brown, and succeeded in doing in Kill Bill, Death Proof, and IB was to give us something both exquisitely simple and startlingly thoughtful. (Yes, I'm a Death Proof defender...) Off the top of my head, I'm hard pressed to think of a director of any generation or nationality who pulls off this trick so well, at least without an attendant miserable sensibility. (QT is anything but miserable.)

In other words, it's not that IB is a cerebral film masquerading as a visceral film, or a visceral film that critics are inappropriately reading as a cerebral film. It's a cerebral *and* visceral film. I suspect QT would scoff at the notion that he had to choose, or that the audience wants to choose.

bill r. said...

Caustic, I'm not saying the film isn't cerebral. When I say the text moves me and the subtext doesn't, I'm referring specifically to the violence-against-Nazis portion of the film, and I'm also acknowledging that the subtext is there. But I think it's very sub, and it frankly doesn't interest me, in any case. I can't pretend my gut reaction to those scenes is something that it isn't.

The Caustic Ignostic said...

bill:

Oh, I'm absolutely not denying that your reaction is a valid one. Just offering another perspective to the pile of opinions that seem to be rapidly accumulating in the film blogosphere. Your views were very well articulated. For me, the film's subtext floated just under the surface. For you, it seems that it was deeply submerged, if that's a fair characterization. I certainly don't conclude that one of us "got it" and the other didn't, or that one of us is more perceptive than the other.

bill r. said...

Caustic, I know you're not suggesting I'm wrong, or didn't get it. But there seems to be a tendency among some people (not you, which sounds like ass-covering on my part, but I mean it) when talking about this film to demand that everyone explore the subtext of the ending as though it were the not just the most interesting point (and I don't even think it's that), but the ONLY point, and it absolutely isn't that. Have your read the Atlantic piece I linked to? It's very revealing about what Tarantino had in mind, and seems to indicate that the uncomfortable subtext, which he has admitted elsewhere was intentional, was something that he maybe just threw in there to see how it would play. "Very well", would seem to be the answer, and that's great, but the focus on it feels like missing the forest for the trees.

bill r. said...

Ugh...I just noticed a VERY unfortunate typo in this post. When I first mention the subtext of the violence, I originally said "which I won't argue IS there", and I meant to say "ISN'T there." Yikes. That effs things up pretty good. Anyway, fixed now, and I'm sorry for the confusion.

The Caustic Ignostic said...

bill:

Yeah, I think there's definitely a "postest too much" element in some critics' tendency to minimize the film's front-and-center enthusiastic bloodlust in favor of its tricksier (and, apparently, somewhat indifferently added) subtextual elements. It's apparent, to me at least, that some folks don't want to own their sadistic glee at watching Nazis beaten into bloody hamburger, which is a little ridiculous given how obvious it is that Tarantino owns his (both in IB and in his previous films.) As if somehow cheering the imaginary slaying of the 20th century's personification of evil was beyond the pale. (How many viewers that quake privately at their own bloodthirstiness and then try to deny even commented on the extremely disturbing and graphic strangling of Bridget von Hammersmark?)

Now, painfully outdated jive-talking racist stereotype robots? That's beyond the pale.

bill r. said...

How many viewers that quake privately at their own bloodthirstiness and then try to deny even commented on the extremely disturbing and graphic strangling of Bridget von Hammersmark?..

Exactly! Or the opening scene, and the fate of the Dreyfus family? All the hand-wringing and oh-my-goodness!-ing is being saved for the fucking Nazis! The argument would be, I imagine, that the violence inflicted BY the Nazis is obviously horrible and hardly needs to be labeled as such. My answer to the argument that I just made up would be that that's the entire point of the violence against the Nazis, and my reaction to it.

The Caustic Ignostic said...

bill:

I think it's apparent we share some sentiments here, even if the subtext made a firmer impression on me, and even if I am more on the fence than you about the film's morality.

Now that I think about it, one could argue that the most significant villain in the film, Landa, actually got off easy. As viewers, we might have knowledge of the crimes perpetrated by Hitler and the rest of the inner circle, but within the confines of the frame, Landa is the most repugnant villain and the one we get to know most intimately. And he escapes justice with "just" a cosmetic mutilation! That plus a Medal of Honor, pension, and bungalow in Nantucket. And Raines can't do much about it, other than leave his mark. QT seems to be saying something here about the imperfection of justice, even in fantasy, given that forces more powerful than Raines and his Basterds have overruled their gut preference, which would be to execute Landa right then and there. Tellingly, however, they're not really angry about it (being good soldiers at bottom), and Raines even admits that he'd probably "make that deal" to end the war, if it was his decision.

bill r. said...

As viewers, we might have knowledge of the crimes perpetrated by Hitler and the rest of the inner circle, but within the confines of the frame, Landa is the most repugnant villain and the one we get to know most intimately. And he escapes justice with "just" a cosmetic mutilation! That plus a Medal of Honor, pension, and bungalow in Nantucket...

That's very true, although that ending, into which I'm including the final Ennio Morricone music cue, is exquisite as it stands. Plus, as a punishment, you have to sort of use your imagination to see what Landa is truly facing in the future. And what he's facing ain't good. It's sort of like the ending of the original Cape Fear, when Gregory Peck tells Robert Mitchum that he won't kill him, because death isn't what Mitchum fears -- what he truly fears is prison, and so that's where he's going.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bill, everyone: This is a really good conversation going on here, and I hope to dig into more about my own feelings about and that subtext of ambivalence, or however we want to term it, in my next post. (Have to run and retrieve children now.) But I don't want to forget The Caustic Ignostic's point:

"it's not that IB is a cerebral film masquerading as a visceral film, or a visceral film that critics are inappropriately reading as a cerebral film. It's a cerebral *and* visceral film. I suspect QT would scoff at the notion that he had to choose, or that the audience wants to choose."

I think this is crucial, certainly to the way QT lays the groundwork for what he's up to in Death Proof, as it applies to IB. The first group of girls die in that spectacular sequence, which gives us the visceral thrills of suspense and kinetyic car action-- the basis of QT's genre exploration-- but goes further by emphasizing, in a honorable way, the true price being paid by these girls with whom we've spent the last half hour (however fascinating or pointless you may have felt that visit was). We see the gruesome reality of the crash for each victim, which leads to some uncomfortable contemplation to go along with the excitement we've felt, but QT does it not to pooh-pooh us for getting off on the action, but instead to suggest the real humanity lost here.

Good stuff, Bill, all!

bill r. said...

Dennis, those are excellent points (and despite my reservations about the film as a whole, I completely agree with you about the crash in Death Proof), but I don't want to respond yet, for fear of stepping too heavily on our next round.

Pat said...

Bill and Dennis -

I'm lovin' the conversation here today, and I'm sorry I'm late to join (the damn JOB took up all my time!) As I've mentioned before, the audience reaction greatly enhanced my enjoyment of IB, so I'm glad to see you both talk about it. I honestly can't remember when I've been part of audience that was so engaged, enthralled and downright jazzed about what they were witnessing. And as Dennis points out, it's a 2.5 hour, heavenly subtitled war movie without a big battle scene, so that kind of enthusiasm is all the more remarkable.

I find that, as a result of all the discussion here and at other sites, I'm really anxious to see it again.

Michael said...

Nicely done, Bill. As I told you privately, I think the tavern scene is brilliant, though the film as a whole is flawed. The biggest critique I hear from others is that there was too much talking, and I can hardly stand it. Too much talking? The dialogue here has such a rhythm, the actors portray such talent (shields are up in every facial expression, yet their voices are so calm), it is a joy to watch. Too much talking. Meh.
Something interesting in Rick Atkinson's "An Army At Dawn", about the North African campaign, was that the American's didn't really start to gel as fighting unit until they began to viscerally hate the Germans, that they had seen so many of their friends killed, they ceased to see things as a world conflict and solely as vengance. I'll bet you the portrayal of the Basterds might not be too far off from many of the everyday soldiers by that point in the war.

bill r. said...

Pat - Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to let your opinion of the film be known (I know you weren't crazy about it), because I don't want to come off like I won't brook any dissent. It's just that, as Greg said elsewhere, I'm damn tired of being called a fanboy. This not something you have ever done, I know, but that's where my frustration with some of the negative reviews is coming from.

Mike - As I think I told you when we talked before, I get why you had certain problems with the film. They didn't happen to bother me too much, but I do get it. It's the criticism that it's boring or, as you say, talky, that drives me up the wall. If you can't get happily lost in the dialogue in this film, then I don't know what to say.

And that's a fascinating point you make about the Americans only coming together as a successful military after they'd learned to hate the Germans. Not a hard thing to learn, I would sort of think, but what do I know about it? Still, it's a fact that applies beautifully to this story.

Incidentally, I've heard great things about Atkinson's book, but haven't picked it up yet. I'll have to do that.

Michael said...

It's a fascinating read, the second of his trilogy "Day of Battle" about the Italy campaign is just as good, and I'm really looking forward to the last in the Liberation Trilogy.

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