Friday, February 19, 2010

Inglorious... Yeah, That One

There seems to be an unwritten rule in film criticism that requires one to mention Quentin Tarantino’s genius when reviewing his films. The problem is at least two of his seven films thus far are less than the products of genius. In fact, they are not particularly good. Is this film his masterpiece, as he declares at the end of his screenplay? That is open to debate, but it is certainly a great film.

Tarantino has a reputation for extreme violence, great dialogue and lots of cinematic references. Perhaps less recognized is his propensity to make the viewer think. Here we have extreme violence, but if you blink (in all the right places) you can miss the worst of it. The surprising thing is that there is so little blood onscreen. The blood that is there, however, is hard to watch. (So blink!)

The dialogue is indeed incredible. Considering that the whole two and a half hour film is basically just five scenes—all of which are dialogue heavy—and that the movie is tense and suspenseful just the same, we are witnessing a very skilled scribe. Add to that the fact that this dialogue is presented in English, French, German and a touch of Italian, so most audiences are seeing this film in subtitles, and you have a rare success of a film.

So what is there to think about in this ultimately simple revenge story? That is where things get more problematic. Just what are we supposed to make of a story that vicariously allows us to change history? What does it say about our humanity that audiences take pleasure in seeing Jews behave inhumanely toward Nazis? Sure, they were evil but was the only way to overcome them to become monsters? What is the distinction between fighting evil and being evil?

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