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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Inglourious Basterds," an El Fili Rip-off?

(Yes, I still have Rizal hangover.)

I chanced upon Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film "Inglourious Basterds" midday of Sunday. I realized then it really pays to surf channels on a lazy day.

This is a war film about Hitler and Germany and the Jews. I'd like to ask myself if no one would, why would you watch a film like that on a Sunday that is supposed to be a chick flic day for working slaves --> redundant! -- like you? Christoph Waltz, with his acting in the opening scene, forced me to sit down, pay attention and watch. The guy had such fierce, bloodcurdling abilities, the likes that save The Oscars some face. The Academy awarded him Best Supporting Actor for it. He reminds me of John Malcovich whom I've just discovered has yet to win an Academy. What?? In Inglourious, Waltz showed "suave brutality" (to borrow a quote from Gone With The Wind, describing Rhett Butler) in most of his scenes. One is torn between loving and hating him; and pitying the protagonist and cheering the antagonist on. Which reminds me too that Brad Pitt in the film looked like a trying hard Clark Gable. Can't stop myself; I have to say that.

The film has the indelible stamp of Tarantino on it. Like listening to a song unmistakably Jackson's, this film shouts Quentin. Titled chapters, tags, snapshots and "freeze" moments.

Wikipedia says Tarantino considers this his best written film to date and spent about a decade developing/writing it. But he lost to a Filipino film maker Brilliante Mendoza for Best Director in Cannes. After watching the film, I discovered why he lost. And this without me seeing Mendoza's "Kinatay" yet. But make no mistake about it, I enjoyed it despite the length. Overall it's grade "A." Still, I have to make a "better than thou" critique of it with your indulgence, of course.

There were cliche moments. Two scenes stood out quite stupid I couldn't believe Tarantino did it. I'm not sure if it were a device that the director used to "make the audience laugh at things that aren't supposed to be funny," which Tarantino describes most of his films to be.

One. The cinema owner after shooting the German soldier whom she despised for being German and for pestering her (He was in love with her. How nice.), approached the fallen soldier who made some coughing noise. She touched him tentatively. In turn, the bloodied Nazi produced a gun from somewhere his person and shot her repeatedly till Kingdom Come. And die they both did. Perhaps in that critical moment of confusion and pity, the cinema owner lost some common sense. Let's blame it on love again.

Two. The German actress who was also a spy working with the Inglourious Basterds left a shoe in a bar after an encounter with the German soldiers. She absorbed a gun shot on her right leg. But the shoe that was left behind was that of the right foot. Col Landa (Waltz), who came to investigate the scene of the encounter found the shoe and an autographed napkin with her name on it. Those two items pointed at her as traitor and spy. It was deus ex machina in favor of the villain. And I'm never a fan of this device. Anyway, the actress-spy was trapped and caught and killed by Landa when she attended the movie premier that was part of the Nazi leadership assassination plot. But hey, I love that gothic Cinderella moment when Landa fit the shoe on the spy's uninjured, cast-free foot.

And this storyline is not quite original. Gather all the high ranking officials and all the Who's Who in an oppressive regime in one place and set it on fire while everyone enjoys art and hypocrisy. Rizal has already written about that in El Filibusterismo in 1891. The only difference is that Rizal changed his mind and sent a young lovesick man running into the house to throw the lamp with the bomb into the river. Tarantino preferred the macabre and burned the house down.

But who am I to judge? I've never directed a film, either for Mother Lily or Hollywood. I'm a nobody in this industry. I'm just a simple movie patron with an opinion.

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