with the prospect of another tarantino film i began thinking about his legacy. after some thought it occurred to me that he’ll never ben in the pantheon of great directors because he hasn’t made enough films and of the films he has created he has one masterpiece and a few really good films. the simple truth is, that he’s just not prolific enough to be placed with the likes of hitchcock, chaplin, ford and even kubrick who also didn’t make a lot of films, but got the most out of each film he did make. when he comes out with a film it’s a must see event, but i really don’t think he’s as good as the great ones of our time – scorsese, spielberg, coens, or even fincher and p.t. anderson. he’s a step below those guys in terms of actual final product, but he has a unique style and is a cultural magnet so i think that helps his cause.
inglourious basterds (what’s with the spelling?) is definitely tarantino. it works in various elements that define his style and tastes – film references, lifted styles (ford, leone, aldrich), gratuitous violence,
conversation-heavy scenes, his foot fetish, use of both harvey keitel and samuel jackson, and more. what it’s lacking that kill bill and pulp fiction had is a tighter structure – this one meanders a bit and you’re aware of it. in pulp fiction the story digresses with conversation and frayed storylines, but it’s always interesting; here that doesn’t happen to the same degree. this one also lacks the sense of humor that kill bill and pulp fiction had. there were a few laughs throughout and only one or two real good laughs.
another area that is lacking here is the soundtrack. generally you can count on tarantino to introduce us to a few new songs per movie, but here there isn’t much to lean on. the early pieces lean on morricone, but don’t really deliver like miserlou or bang bang (nancy sinatra) or the 5,6,7,8s or chick habit or down in mexico – songs and artists which really stood out in his other films. there also isn’t a “stuck in the middle” scene like there was in reservoir dogs or a bring out the gimp scene like in pulp fiction. the bar scene was a more drawn out version of the mexican standoff in reservoir dogs.
this one does build tension very well and the tension is paid off well in the bar scene, the first scene, and the penultimate scene. still, i think a strong producer could have reined this one in a bit. a lot of times a successful director gets too much creative license and doesn’t know how to edit himself, i think that happened here.
another thing tarantino is known for is finding talent. he resurrects careers and gets new ones going seemingly every time he makes a new film. here he finds christoph waltz and waltz gives a great performance; likely the best of the year.
the whole anti-nazi element was cathartic, but easy. whereas his two best works (r. dogs and pulp fiction) were about people on the edge of society who it was a challenge to like, this one is about a group on the edge of the military structure, but it’s easy to like them because they’re fighting the nazis. it’s the equivalent of feeling sorry for a character because the director gives him cancer – it’s just too easy. pitt and his crew aren’t particularly dynamic or fleshed out. they’re good at what they do and we like them because they kill nazis, but they don’t have the depth of jackie brown or the interest level of keitel/roth in reservoir dogs or jackson/travolta in pulp fiction.
so, there’s good stuff here to latch onto for fans, but overall it doesn’t deliver in the same way that his better work does. it has isolated moments of success sandwiched by lulls and meandering stretches that don’t entertain the way tarantino has in the past. if this were a new film from a young upstart i would think he had talent that needed to be better focused, but coming from a director who has been called a visionary of our time, it just isn’t up to par.Watched in theater