We film students are a pompous lot. We smoke clove cigarettes, we say film instead movie, and we write long critiques, no one will ever read, likening Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan to Ulysses. A lot of this pretense is in defense of personal insecurity. We don’t want our parents to stop sending money to us at watching-movies school. We don’t want the art cinema on the rotten side of town, where we always get a hook up after, going belly up or turning all Bollywood. We fear our film studies department is going to be cut when some committee of real academics figures out that whole thing is a fraud. We also haven’t ever actually read Ulysses. So we have had to construct and maintain an elite culture that sounds important to the Raisinete eaters. This is why we bestow cult éclat to immemorable names like Fassbinder and Parajonov. These are our Goethe and Tolstoy. We drop these names into our endless, espresso-driven diatribes, but occasionally it’s not enough to keep people believing that we’re talking about something real; something more than going to a movie. For that, we also allow some more mainstream heroes into our fellowship. We need some names the parents and the deans have heard of. That’s why we have Hitchcock, Scorsese and, of course, the Duke of Nerds Who Got Laid, videostore-clerk turned overnight-auteur, Quentin Tarantino.
For those of you who studied something real in college, like business or medicine, or for those of you that do something real like drive a fire engine or feed people, auteur is the French word for author. And this French theory goes that a movie director with film is the same thing as a writer with a pen or a painter with a paintbrush. The personal factor in artistic creation is the standard of reference. As one of the famous Frenchys who helped make this up said “There are no good and bad movies, only good and bad directors.” To quote my friend Steve Sawyer who saw Inglorious Basterds three times in two days, ” The movie was fantastic. Definitely not for everyone but if you’re a Tarantino fan it’s a great time.”
I am confessing several things here of personal factor. I was/am a film student. I still get wood every time the next worse Sidney Lumet picture comes around. And yes I am a Tarantino fan and I had a great time. Now that it’s off my chest, my review is that Inglorious Basterds , as were the Kill Bills , is like chocolate and french fries in a blender. Things that are great on their own are not always great together. In Inglorious Basterds the sum does not equal the parts. It is suppose to be the yarn of a special team of Jewish allied soldiers in World War II terrorizing the overrefined Nazi army with a taste of their own mechanical brutality. It is broken into five chapters, all of which have glorious merits in terms of storytelling, acting, suspense, dialog, and direction. But the fiber between them is thin. The same savvy Jewish soldiers in Chapter 2, by whom ruthless Nazis are subconsciously tortured, stupidly loose half their ranks in Chapter 4 and stumble comically over their ultimate mission in Chapter 5. If I experience this Tarantino film, using he and his body of work, as the standard of reference I conclude that it suffers from something about his unfocused vision, his overreach, his attention deficit disorder, or his perhaps being surrounded with fellow film-schooly sycophants who find it blasphemy to tell Tanantino when he’s drank enough Quentin brand liquor. With apologies to one of our most esteemed frauds, François Truffaut, Inglorious Basterds is a good movie by a bad director.