Sunday, May 24, 2009
(Look at me all clean and spiffy at the screening yesterday in the Grand Lumière.)
When last you saw me, I was lamenting the fact that I was going to be unable to see "Inglorious Basterds," directed by Quentin Tarantino at the Cannes Film Festival this year. This made me sad, as it seemed like this movie was blatantly meant to be shown at Cannes (and for all intents and purposes was Tarantino's original objective.) So when I found out there was to be an early Sunday morning reprise of this film, I jumped at the chance to see it! But it was unlikely I'd get to go due to traveling across the hills and mountains of France to our next destination, Châteauneyf-du-Pape, for three days of shooting.
But sometimes, things change.
And sometimes, when things change, dreams come true.
That said, this morning, I became one of the lucky many to see "Inglorious Basterds" (actually spelled that way) at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. And believe me, it lives up to the hype, as many of Tarantino's films usually do.
Some of you may already know the story, or at least, think you know the story, but there is much more here than meets the eye. Granted, the film is still very Tarantinian, built around lingering scenes of tense dialogue, brutal violence, and the occasional laugh here and there, but there's more than just the Basterds the title refers to. Along with Brad Pitt commanding an elite squad of eight Jewish Americans into Nazi-occupied Europe to collect "scalps," you also have the story of Shosana, wonderfully portrayed by actress Mélanie Laurent, who owns a theatre in France and is put on the spot when forced to have a Nazi-night in which Goebbels himself wants to showcase his newest filmic masterpiece. Not quite what you were expecting, right?
Well, in this case, surprise is a good thing as this plot combined with that of the Basterds and how they fit together in the end is well done. For once, I actually found myself wanting to fast forward through the long conversations to find out how the story would resolve itself, and resolve itself it does. Again, I won't give anything away, but rest assured when I say that World War II will never be the same again.
So leave "Death Proof" behind. Forget the wishy washy conversation between the group of women in the bar at the beginning of that film. Just forget it exists and pretend that Tarantino came right to this film after "Kill Bill." The tension in the conversations is as tangible as a piece of apple tart, and just as tasty. Even the smallest things in a scene have the weight of an anvil, given that you know how Tarantino is prone to quick acts of relentless violence. I found myself smiling on more than one occasion even though I knew I should have been horrified by what I was watching.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Tarantino is breaking any truly new ground here. Hell, I'm more than happy to point out when a filmmaker falls flat (see "Death Proof" above), but in this case, Tarantino is back and does what he does best.
And as I mentioned above, the screening had a special significance being seen in France. Although I won't give anything away and am simply paraphrasing because I don't have the film in front of me, there is a moment in the film between Lt Aldo Raine (Pitt) and Bridget von Hammersmark (played by Diane Kruger.) She questions if he knows any German, and he replies in his southern accent, "No." Frustrated, she asks, "Do you know any other languages other than the god awful English you Americans speak?" And he again replies, "Nope." The audience at Cannes laughed heartily at this moment, which seemed almost perfectly placed for the audience at this film festival. There is sometimes a feeling in the air that Americans don't try to speak French at Cannes (or in general) because they know they don't have to. It's a quiet tension you sometimes pick up on, and this moment in the film sort of brings it to light.
But we all laughed over this, and continued the bonding process by hating Nazis together.
In conclusion, the film is well worth seeing. Tarantino isn't afraid to make you laugh at insane death and mayhem and then throw it back in your face again. It's shocking at times, vulgar at others, and a joy to watch, if only for the great acting by the ensemble cast, including Eli Roth, Mike Myers, Julia Dreyfus, and Christoph Waltz as SS Colonel Hans Landa, a bad guy you simply LOVE to hate. Seriously. Hate that guy. (Just found out that Waltz won Best Actor at Cannes for his performance with a possible Oscar nod down the line. Nice!)
And with that, I am finally off to wine making country. I'm leaving the city behind for a much simpler life, filled with incredible food, no traffic, and did I mention the wine?
Coming up soon, I'll be posting some more pics from Cannes in addition to giving my closing thoughts on the rest of the awards given out today. And then hopefully at some point, I'll see "Terminator: Salvation."