Flicked Off: Two Things Not To Get Wrong About "Inglourious Basterds"

ART FILMChoire Sicha: I have a question. At where did you see the new film by Quentin Tarantino?

Seth Colter Walls: Battery Park City, which was very clean. And very weird.

Choire Sicha: Oh yes! Oddest theater ever. I saw “Soul Plane” there. Crowded?

Seth Colter Walls: Yeah, it appeared to be sold-out or nearly so. The theater may have been unprepared. At one point after the previous crowd finished exiting, the people waiting for our showtime just sort of made a mad dash for the theater!

Choire Sicha: This is where I would insert an offensive joke about Europe and World War II.

Seth Colter Walls: There was popcorn and soda in the arm-thingies everywhere. And when a duly-deputized member of the Regal Cinemas staff came in to ask us to leave for a few minutes while they cleaned everything up, he was treated badly.

Choire Sicha: Holy mackerel.

Seth Colter Walls: Verbally, I mean. In the manner of people who are ready to see a motherfucking Quentin Tarantino movie.

Choire Sicha: Right. Give me my motherfucking stab-‘em-up which, in fact, turns out not to be a stab-‘em-up at all!

Seth Colter Walls: Yes, exactly! Which is why all the reviews dissing this movie as “for fanboys only” are so puzzling to me.

Choire Sicha: I have read exactly one review. PLEASE TO EXPLAIN.

Seth Colter Walls: Hello my name is Rick Groen, and I write for the Globe and Mail: “Let’s start with this certainty: No one but Quentin Tarantino could possibly have made Inglourious Basterds. Now add another: No one but his most ardent fans will be entirely glad that Quentin Tarantino did make Inglourious Basterds.”

Choire Sicha: Good gravy. A CERTAINTY even.

Seth Colter Walls: Even some of the lukewarm reviewers take this tack, like in what’s probably the closest thing I have to a hometown paper, Portland’s Oregonian: “… to get so caught up, in fact, that you’re converted to Tarantino’s point of view and find pleasure in the preposterous turn of the finale. But to do so is, I fear, to approach the film in the throes of a fanboy crush and not with the sort of rigor that an artist of Tarantino’s stripe deserves.”

Choire Sicha: I find this sort of thing puzzling. So, if you like someone’s work a lot… then you’re influenced because you like their work a lot?

Seth Colter Walls: Right, this isn’t a particularly “rigorous” line of thought. But also … I think I heard a lot of bitching from Tarantino fanboys after this one was over.

Choire Sicha: So the case that this was a movie for fanboys… is not the case?

Seth Colter Walls: As in: “There were too many bullshit talking scenes! I could go to a restaurant to listen to people talk!” Stuff like that.

Choire Sicha: Oooh, the bitter Battery Park crowd! (I heard much the same in Murray Hill, by the way!)

Seth Colter Walls: NY Tarantino fanboys do not approve! (Two makes a trend.)

Choire Sicha: Fanboys Offended!

Seth Colter Walls: But more substantively: there’s very little “pop” referentiality in this one. No Burger King, no Eddie Floyd songs on the sountrack, etc. Instead, Tarantino’s allusive kick is all high-cinematic, with Leone and Lang gestures. And references to Pabst, Riefenstahl, et al.

Choire Sicha: Et al indeed.

Seth Colter Walls: It’s the kind of haute cinema feast that would be heralded if it came from Godard. But when Tarantino does it, it’s somehow offensive, or not what movies are supposed to do? And this is where Time’s Richard Corliss gets it right, I think: “It’s just possible that Tarantino, having played a trick on history, is also fooling his fans. They think they’re in for a Hollywood-style war movie starring Brad Pitt. What they’re really getting is the cagiest, craziest, grandest European film of the year.”

Choire Sicha: I truly hate to be in agreement with Corliss. Are you SURE he’s right elsewhere, as he’s right in that instance?

Seth Colter Walls: Hey, I call ‘em like I see ‘em. Past performance being no predictor of future earnings, and all that.

Choire Sicha: Well he’s right in that respect! I had been talking about “Jaws” all weekend. And how everyone forgets that about half of “Jaws” is guys sitting in a boat, jawin’. Which, you know, was great prep for “Basterds.”