Well folks, here we are, on Day the Last of my ever-so-lengthy conversation with Dennis Cozzalio about Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece Inglourious Basterds. And I gotta tell you all, I'm fried. As you will all soon see, I am all talked out about this film. I love it so very much, but as of now I have nothing more to say on the subject. It's all been said, and done. Dennis offers us all one more lengthy and thoughtful piece, and then I swoop in at the end to tack on a kind of half-assed addendum, but try not to judge me for that. Let's remember the good times, such as they were.
Speaking of the good times, Dennis, this was a lot of fun, and don't think that I don't recognize that you had the bulk of the heavy lifting to do. You had to start us off, which is harder than bringing things to a close (and considering how much I'm struggling with that task, can you imagine how I would have botched the opening!?) and generally present new topics each day. So thanks for taking the job I so badly didn't want, and doing it with such grace and wit. For concrete evidence of that grace and wit, please see below.
BR: Yeah, yesterday took me pretty well by surprise, and highlights the great danger of this infernal piece of wizardry we call the "internet". Perhaps you remember the old days when a group of people could get together and talk about another person, one who was not presently with the group -- one who was, in fact, elsewhere -- and that group could say things like "Say, that thing that person said: what was the deal with that?" or "That thing the other person said sure was confusing. I wish he or she had been clearer!" Such things would be said specifically because that other person was nowhere around, and retribution would not be forthcoming. But sister, you try pulling that noise on the internet and see where it gets you. That other person will pop in out of the blue and attempt to explain what they meant, and we found that out the hard way.
The truth about Rosenbaum's entrance into the conversation is that I was so tired by that point, not to mention taken aback, that I was damn happy that you and Greg -- and later Kevin Olson, Ryan Kelly, and the bewitching Tom Carson -- were there to hold up what amounted to my end of the argument. And you did a great job, I must say. While I genuinely appreciate the fact that Rosenbaum dropped in to clarify his point, and to make himself available to further discussion, I truly don't believe any of his clarifications took hold. He continued to hammer on Inglourious Basterds as a disrespectful, to put it mildly, Holocaust film, but Kevin pointed out that the proper genre designation for Basterds is "War Film". As a matter of fact, it's closest to a World War II espionage film than it is to anything else, so how, exactly, did it get lumped into the same category as Schindler's List, The Pianist, Life is Beautiful, and other such films? I don't know, and my inclination is let that line of conversation just lie fallow. Still, as you say, it does underline the fact that the conversation that has been taking place in the comments section of our blogs, and Greg's blog, and Fox's blog, and Glenn Kenny's blog, and many others, has been at a very high level, because, at those sites, even the people who dislike Tarantino's film are unwilling to dismiss it outright. It's that reaction that really frustrates the hell out of me. I'm left speechless in the face of it. At his blog, Greg said: "I just wish, deep in my heart and sincerely, that they could have seen the movie I saw." That's more or less how I feel, because to me, anyone who disliked this film is really missing out on something extraordinary. At the very least, they're missing out at an incredibly good time at the movie theater, but I believe they're plain and simply missing out on a genuine work of cinematic art, a remarkable achievement. That probably sounds incredibly snobby: You don't get it, and I feel sad for you. :-( But I don't think that's what I'm saying. I respect the differences of opinion, and I've been on the other side of this phenomenon often enough. I hear what they're saying. I just don't understand a word of it.
And I never meant to suggest that you, or anyone (although some do, it would seem) would feel pity for Landa, and I love your description of his future. It's not as though I wouldn't have liked to see the Bear Jew (God, I love that name!) go uptop his skull with a nice piece of lumber, but the beauty of the ending we got, apart from the wonderful Ennio Morricone music cue, is that it put me in mind of the original J. Lee Thompson Cape Fear, when Gregory Peck tells Robert Mitchum he's not going to kill him, because Mitchum doesn't fear death. He fears prison, so that's going to be his punishment. Which is not to say that Landa doesn't fear death -- I got the impression that he sort of did -- but rather that he has no idea the hell that he's set himself up for by wrangling a free trip to America. I must say, I do like that. And another thing I loved about that scene was when Raine shoots Wilhelm, and Landa says, "You killed Wilhelm! I made a deal to save that man's life! They'll shoot you!" Raine replies, "Nah, I won't get shot. I'll get chewed out -- I been chewed out before." It's a strangely hilarious way of showing the difference between punishments faced by those who disobey the Reich, and those who disobey the American military. Tarantino is subtly pointing out that the Nazi mindset was so depraved that it couldn't even fathom the concept of reasonable response.
Regarding Jeffery Wells, let me make myself perfectly clear: I find his response to the bridge scene to be nothing less than morally reprehensible. Presumably, he's not actually so bone stupid as to not know the extent of the Nazis' demonic cruelty and barbarism. But how easy it seems to be for him to shrug that knowledge right off his shoulders, and imagine that this Nazi officer might harbor some genuine decency in his heart. Regular Joe decency, at that (the best kind)! I get genuinely angry when I think of Wells's post, but I really shouldn't use the last post of this wonderful discussion as an excuse to empty my spleen all over the guy. Let me just say two more things on this subject. One is that, charmingly, Wells titled the post in question "Jew Dogs". Second is that I must admit that I do harbor a fantasy that Wells will get wind of this conversation and find out what we've said here about him and his post. Then he'll get so angry that he'll write a whole post about us, in which he labels us go-alongers and leave-us-aloners, points out that our writing doesn't even reach the level of mezzo-mezzo, and assures his readers that we are most definitely not outlaw biker poets who favor wearing emotionally vivid cowboy hats. As of this writing, that hasn't happened yet, but my fingers remain ever crossed.
But back to the film. Reading your detailed analysis of the film's performances makes me regret my rather slapdash take on the subject, especially since I join you in your love of Michael Fassbender as Hicox. As I mentioned in the comments section of your blog, a post or two back, I recently learned that Simon Pegg was originally supposed to play the role, but had to bow out because of scheduling conflicts. I think Pegg would have been terrific, but Fassbender is outstanding, and one of the reasons I loved him so much is because he had the air of an actor in a 1940s war-time espionage film. And you're right, Dennis, he could have come right out of Powell/Pressburger. Maybe if Roger Livesey had gotten sick, Fassbender could have stepped in. Now, I don't want to go nuts, but I could honestly see it. "Well, if this is it, old boy, I hope you don't mind if I go out speaking the King's." I mean, come on! Explain to me what's not to love about that. I'm listening.
In the comment sections of various other blogs, I've also expressed my happiness that B. J. Novak was given something to do at the end of the film, and I agree, he was very good, in the same way that Eli Roth was good: he wasn't asked to do much, but he completely sold what he had to sell. And yeah, it's a shame that Samm Levine apparently got scissored out of the film, which I have to say reminds me of something about the film that I can't actually call a problem, but, well, I would have loved to have gotten to know the rest of the Basterds, maybe have Tarantino give them each a moment. One of the great pleasures of this kind of ensemble film is seeing the differect characters get paired off over the course of the film, and seeing how the two dynamics play off each other. We got a bit of this, with the most interesting, for me, coming from the duos of Eli Roth and Omar Doom(!), and Brad Pitt and B. J. Novak. I'm sure the absence of some of the others was a function of editing, but it still struck me as slightly curious -- and in some hard to define way, realistic -- that the Doom and Novak characters should suddenly, in the last half hour, have something to do, while three of the Basterds are pretty much out of it completely.Robert Fiore's point about Tarantino being interested in the artistic potential of "low cinema" is exactly right. I couldn't have said it better myself, and it sort of reminds me of something I read a Glenn Kenny's site. After his review, Glenn went back to see the film a second time, and later he broke the film down, scene by scene, and came to the alarming realization that Inglourious Basterds consists of a mere sixteen scenes. Is it just me, or that fairly amazing? A commenter -- maybe at Glenn's site, maybe elsewhere, I'm afraid I can't remember -- pointed out that Blow Up, at 110 minutes, has over twenty scenes, but Inglourious Basterds, an out-sized World War II revenge film has just sixteen. And, as you know, it still moves like a freight train. This is evidence of real formal and creative ambition on Tarantino's part.Lately, I've heard some people claim that his approach to genre material is arrogantly ironic, but that's not the case at all. That's not to say that he doesn't include irony in his films, but that he absolutely loves the genres he works in, and he knows how good they can be. For him, it's not a matter of any film "transcending its genre", a bit of critical snobbery that I'm sure he can't stand any more than I can. It's just about making the best goddamn World War II revenge film he knows how to make, and God bless him for it. He's given me the best time I expect to have all year at the movies, and the best week of blogging I've had in a very long time.
Let me double the thanks to all the people Dennis thanked, as well as all the people I've already thanked, which would appear to make things uneven, but you guys will work it out, and especially, Dennis, I want to thank you for honoring me by asking that I take part in this project with you. You set an incredibly high standard every day, not just in film writing, but in pure class. So thank you all again. And man, I can't wait for the DVD.
Say good night, Winston.