Saturday, December 18, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: Inglourious Basterds

The story of Love &Squalor begins many years before the fateful meeting of Wilde.Dash and M, long before the almost nightly movie marathons on uncomfortable and rank smelling dorm furniture and Sound of Music sing-a-longs. From the mid 80’s on, unaware of each others’ presence, M and Wilde.Dash were bonding with family, not over board games or a large family meal (ok, there was a lot of that too), but over the likes of Woody Allen and Walter Pidgeon. The holidays in said families were filled with the usual Christmas fair, but also with strange family film favorites and traditions. So hang your stockings with care and when your sister starts complaining about your billionth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and how boooooring it is, spend your 12 Days of Christmas with the movies that have followed Love & Squalor from infancy to bloggerhood.

I saw Inglourius Basterds at least seven times in the theater (there were probably a few more but I lost count). If it makes you feel better, I didn’t pay each of those times, but had some good connections who would let me in with a knowing shake of their heads at my insanity. It’s not that I’m particularly enamored with violence or Nazis or Brad Pitt or even Tarantino himself. It’s true that the film is plain hilarious and moving on its own, but when that cigarette drops on that poetic pile of nitrate film, I lose it. I have never felt that in film before, never had such a raw, emotional, and visceral experience. In that moment Tarantino (who usually dances the line between the deeply serious and the ridiculous without letting himself go dark entirely) drops any fa├žade, any humor, and lets the innermost parts of the human psyche out, the final release of a tense crescendo that’s been building for hours. As that theater burns and Shosanna’s face slowly melts on the screen (“This is the face, this is the Jew”), as the light of gunshots is reflected in Eli Roth’s eyes as he guns Hitler down, it’s just indescribable, one of the best expressions of sincere and horrific release ever. I have choice words for the New Yorker critic that described the film (I paraphrase) as a bloodbath directed at teenage boys. It’s not about the violence. It’s not some cheap “what if” reimagining of Hitler and the Holocaust. It’s not about the humor, or about Brad Pitt’s goofiness. Tarantino does what few are able to do, and like Mark Twain invites you in with the safety that’s implicit in humor before secretly and expertly pulling the rug out from under you to expose the darkness that’s underneath.

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