And loved it.
Let me remind everyone that I’m not a cinephile. I’ve watched a fair amount of esoteric films simply because my laziness got the better of me when choosing courses and I figured that struggling through two-and-a-half hours of a boring arty film is easier than struggling through, let’s say, James Joyce (strike that, I would’ve queued up for Joyce if anyone had offered it as a course).
That said, while I do thrive on romantic comedies and pretty people in cinema, I also enjoy the more offbeat and less commercial films because while the literary and then painting are my art-fixes of choice, film as a visual art calls to me too. It’s just that I do like a narrative. And pretty people, please. And definately colour. (With novels and poetry, one can add as much colour as one wants, except with people like Hardy who make it impossible which is why I abhor him) I really dislike black and white films, a preference that immediately precludes me from being a true cinephile.
I suppose it’s clear from the above that my ideal film would be both clever and pretty. So if something’s just clever, but lacks in good looks, then I kind of have to nudged along into it.
Anyway the point of all this was to say that I officially love Quentin Tarantino. When I finally got around to watching Pulp Fiction, I loved it. I loved the Kill Bill series (though I haven’t watched one part in it yet, I think. Problem is I’m reluctant to watch it on small screen and I missed it when it was on big screen) even more, because there was more colour, see? Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who finds Uma Thurman beautiful. I find her quirky and awkward and interesting. Of course, she’s great for the role and I can’t imagine anyone else in it.
But you can see why I love Inglourious Basterds so much more. It has two stunning women in it. I’ve finally decided that I’m more attracted to the girl who played Shoshana; V says he prefers Diange Kruger. It was also amusing to watch Brad Pitt, once again trying to camouflage his beauty so people could look beyond it to his acting.
Ok but the film is not just a lech-fest – though I did mention that first. I realised that what I love about Tarantino as a director is that he just does exactly what he pleases. He is making a film completely for himself. He’s decided he wants the film to be slightly stagey, so stagey it is. He wants to have his inside jokes, so he does. He wants his characters to be weird and quirky, bordering on caricatures/superheroes, so he does. He wants to rewrite history, so he does. He’s not meant to be mainstream so he can linger over a plate of strudel or a French farmer washing his face. He can pick weird music – from some guitar-enriched version of Fur Elise (Fur Elise in this context sounded so haunting, and my immediate word association was Fuhrer, which I’m quite sure wasn’t intended) to some 80s jang jang.
And then there’s the colour. My reaction to the colours in the film was visceral, similar to what I felt when I watched Cries and Whispers, the only film Ingmar Bergman made in colour. The plot of the Bergman film was essentially as boring as it could get – two sisters watching over another sister as she is dying through a night – but because of the shock of colour, I was spellbound for about half the film. The sheer beauty of the visuals in this film do the same, but luckily the film has more to hold one than colour alone.
I just read this review (don’t know why I would be reading a review at MTV.com at all but it’s the first one that came up):
I have many issues with the review, mainly because I disagree with its verdict. It seems that there are many references to films from times past and insider jokes that only someone well versed in film history would get. I certainly didn’t get them. This, the reviewer concludes, bogs the film because, according to him, the only thing that Tarantino is interested in is movies. It is true that the cinema house does play a central role in the film and there is a curious bit where one an actor is recruited as a liaison in France and gives a small speech on German propoganda film. However, this little sideshow is as important or not as Tarantino deciding to spend a moment on Shoshana adjusting the veil on her hat. It certainly doesn’t constitute a major drag.
The great thing about the film is that even if you’re clueless about film history, it still entertains. If you get the insider jokes, you enjoy it (hopefully – the MTV critic seemed annoyed by them) at a different level. If not, there’s still plenty of stuff to go around. For me, that’s the hallmark of a great film – that it can appeal to different audiences at different levels.
The funny part is that those who have a problem with the film are film critics who can’t seem to look beyond the references to film. What they don’t realise is the average Joe won’t even see these and so it definately won’t detract from the average moviegoer’s response to the film. Could also be Tarantino’s cheeky way of saying “so you think you’re clever? take that! and that!” (ok, I admit that’s pushing it.) The Washington Post says that you’ll only enjoy the film if you’re a cinephile and get the references; but seeing as most of the cinephile critics who got the references didn’t like the film, it seems like you’re better off if you don’t.
The review says that the film doesn’t give insights into anything larger than Tarantino’s love of the movies. I disagree. There are shades in the characters and hints of stories beyond – whether it’s the decision of Landa to let Shoshana escape or the hint of chemistry between Shoshana and the German soldier (which reminded me of one of the threads in Irene Nimerovsky’s book about the emotional conflicts involved in falling in love with the enemy).
Another criticism is that it’s long (not a problem if you’re used to Bollywood and not a problem anyway, because I was sleepy till the film started) and that there are too many languages. I watched the film among a Chinese audience and both us and them didn’t seem to like the film any less for the subtitles.
There are some who feel that the film trivialises the horrors of war but I think the inevitable humour in Tarantino’s approach only underscores how war is a playground for psychopaths. For me, Apache and his men are only marginally less evil than the Nazis they seek to obliterate.
Ultimately, though, what I loved about the film is the obvious fun that Tarantino had with it. I get the same sense when reading Virginia Woolf, that what she wrote came from within her and that the process of writing was, if not a joy, then a release. In the opening sequence of Mrs Dalloway, as Clarissa steps out to buy flowers, she exclaims “what a morning… what a lark! what a plunge!” Clarissa’s exhileration echoes something instrinsic in the writing itself, reading that novel is like taking a plunge into the author’s own joy in creation. On that first page at least, one is infused in Woolf’s own delight at what would become one of the most perfect opening pages in all of literature, and doing it exactly her way, singing in her voice.
There is a similar “what a morning” in Tarantino’s voice in this film. And it’s a pleasure to watch the lark he was having with it. It’s just him doing his thing and that’s exactly how it should be. Somehow critics don’t go around telling painters that they should have kept thier audience in mind when painting. So why are filmmakers expected to? Obviously they have to if someone has a shitload of money hinging on the film succeeding which is why so many formulaic films get made. But Tarantino’s in the enviable position of not having to give a shit. So what’s wrong with him just doing what he wants?
Fortunately, what he wants happens to be, according to me, highly entertaining.
That’s not to say I loved everything about the film. I didn’t like the rewrite of history. I felt that he could have more twists and a tighter plot at the end. I’m also curious about why he chose this subject and why now.
But at the end of the day, it’s his film and his fun. Looks like he had it.