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Review: Inglourious Basterds

india Updated: Oct 03, 2009 11:22 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
Quentin Tarantino

Inglourious Basterds
Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz
Direction: Quentin Tarantino
Rating: ****

He kills with skill. The pasha of pulp fiction is back with a vengeance after a hiatus of two years. Transporting the viewer to Nazi-occupied France, Quentin Tarantino’s subversive opus rewrites history, even ending the war a year earlier in 1944.

Now after the sexily zany Death Proof (2007), the auteur slams out Inglourious Basterds (the title is willfully misspelt). And the outcome is an audacious battle flick which is as inventive as it is engrossing. Granted, there’s not much by way of a story or character development here.

It’s the intense dialogue and the scene design of the five chapters of the film that are likely to take the breath away of every cineaste seeking entertainment as well as, let’s say, a snack for thought.

The opening segment is a bravura example of how to build up and sustain dramatic tension. A sinister S.S. colonel nicknamed ‘The Jew Hunter’ (Waltz) interrogates a French peasant suspected of hiding Jewish fugitives. Their terse conversation, conducted first in French before switching to English, culminates in a massacre.

There’s an equally tense face-off between a German actress-turned-Allied-spy (Diane Kruger) and a group of Nazis she encounters in a basement bar. Surprisingly, for a war movie, there’s very little combat footage. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe, a squad of Jewish-American soldiers called ‘The Basterds’ are ordered by their commander (Pitt, far too hammy) to collect a 100 Nazi scalps each.

Cut, then, to a young Parisian cinema owner (Melanie Laurent, wonderfully expressive) who’s planning to eliminate the leaders of the Third Reich. Throughout, Tarantino seems to be articulating his wish-agenda. This is how it could have been! Tarantino makes several filmic references ranging from directors G.W.Pabst and H.G.Clouzot to movie moghuls David Selznick and Louis Mayer. And the music scores of The Alamo (‘The Green Leaves of Summer’) and the 1982 version of Cat People (David

Bowie’s ‘Putting out the Fire’) can be heard in snatches. The camerawork by Robert Richardson is eye-dazzling. Since the characters speak more in French and German than in English, this may be a deterrent for the subtitles-wary spectators. Austrian actor Christoph Waltz as the sadistic Nazi officer steals the acting honours. He is more than likely to get an Oscar nomination nod next year. Recommended whole-heartedly for those seeking visceral, pulp-‘n’-gulp entertainment.