The Geek Husband What Rules and I watched this last night, and were both just left cold. We agree it sucked, but he has separate reasons. Here are my reasons why this movie kind of sucked.
1. It was really two movies squished poorly together. The first movie is Shoshanna’s story, which could have been absolutely brilliant. The gritty story of the survivor of the massacre of a Jewish family, goes to Paris, “inherits” a theater and manages to blow up the Nazi High Command, or barring that for a more realistic storyline, a shit-ton of Gestapo. There could have been more about her relationship with Marcel, how she finagled the theater, and a brilliant tension could have been built up surrounding her nights with Marcel versus the daylight courtship Frederick Zoller forces upon her. And the ending with her and Marcel dying together, but apart, totally would have still worked. Also, they didn’t need to turn Zoller into a violent prick with her, to make it ok to kill him. Sometimes wars and governments force otherwise decent people into shit circumstances. Also, what was up with the scene with her getting ready that looks like it came straight out of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover? And while I enjoy every single rendition of David Bowie’s “Cat People,” anachronisms in an otherwise “historical” film annoy me. That segment looked like it came straight out of an 80s music video.
The second movie was the Basterds. Now on its own, this movie could have been a spectacularly violent and bloody, yet “lighthearted” romp of destruction through occupied France. Instead, it just got in the way, as did its plot. Granted, Brad Pitt with that accent was indeed one of the funniest damn things I’ve seen in ages. Not that he was bad at it, just… Yeah. And I love Brad Pitt, and I get that he loved playing that character, which is fucking awesome. But, like I said, had it been a separate movie about the Basterds slaughtering Nazis across France, I would totally have gone to see that. And, sadly, the existing movie in it’s entirety was marketed that way. Much the way The Ninth Gate, a movie I love, was marketed as an action flick, instead of the cerebral thriller it actually was.
2. The pacing was awful and slow. This, I think, is a symptom of the fact that Tarantino was really trying to direct two movies at the same time.
3. It was self-indulgent as all fuck. No, really. The inclusion of the aforementioned scene with Cat People playing, the very John Wu-esque death of Shoshanna at Zoller’s hands after she’s killed him. The loving close up on carving the swastika in Landa’s forehead. All the gratuitous slow motion violence. Just, no. Quentin, take a step back from everything everyone’s ever said about you, and go back to making films like you did in the beginning.
4. The villains are the NAZIS, you don’t need to make them free-base kittens* to get your points across. Really, the fact that they were complicit in the slaughter of millions of people makes them bad enough guys. You don’t need Landa strangling Bridget, or Zoller hurting Shoshanna, or the entire theater laughing as enemy soldiers died in the film, Hitler and Goebbels giggling like deranged teenagers. Seriously, who they were is MORE THAN ENOUGH reason for them to be killed, you don’t need to embellish that.
I think that was my major reasons for not liking the film. Like I’ve told people, I would totally watch both Shoshanna’s story, and the Basterds story, but not at the same time. They are two separate films in different genres and should have remained that way.
Now on to the nitpicky stuff. Bridget von Hammersmark. The fact that she obviously knows Landa, she knows he’ll be there, and it has completely slipped her mind that he speaks Italian fluently? The hell? Also, that she couldn’t come up with a decent cover story like, “Well, I was meeting my lover at this little tavern, and the Basterds came in and shot the place up, but I slipped away.” No, the best she can do is “mountain climbing?” Grrrr. Also, leaving her shoe and the napkin? These guys have been ghosts up until now, but they don’t think to police up the scene for her shoe, even if she didn’t think to tell them about the napkin?
That said, I did enjoy the acting of the man who played Landa, even if it was a touch scenery-chewy at times. And the woman who played Shoshanna, I thought she was brilliant.
I do not, however, think it deserved the Academy Award nominations it got. Too messy, too poorly paced, too mashed up together, for no reason. The plots stayed pretty much completely separate. There wasn’t even enough “Woo, that was close” to make it suspenseful. I mean, unless this movie was an allegory for “America stay the hell out of Israel’s business,” which I could see, it makes no sense to mash them together. I mean, it’s like:
“No, really I’ve got this.”
“Yeah, but you let this one guy, the one you were really gunning for escape. But it’s ok, we got him for you.”
“He only escaped because of your dumb redneck ass.”
But other than that, I see absolutely no reason to have mashed these two films together.
And also, as I’ve said before, when you’re doing the homage, the goal is to make people think fondly of the thing you are paying homage to, while enjoying your creation, not to make them think, “Damn, I wish I’d just watched the original thing instead of this piece of crap.” Also, the fact that Tarantino can never just homage one thing at a time.
*Free-basing kittens is my code name for making your villains so over the top violent and sick for no reason whatsoever, like Tim Roth in the Musketeer, or Tim Roth in Rob Roy, or… You get the picture. (And I do love Tim Roth, but some of his characters are way over the top.)