DVD of the Week – Review of Inglourious Basterds (2009)
by RISHI AGRAWAL
I remember hearing Roger Ebert once talking about the Coen Brothers’ amazing film Fargo. Specifically, Ebert was commenting on the scene between Marge Gunderson and a high school classmate Mike Yanagita, who hits on Marge despite the fact that she is married and pregnant. The scene is often criticized for having no connection to the main plot, but Ebert claimed that the scene was integral to the movie. The scene does a lot to play on the recurring theme of isolation in Fargo, but it also gives us a new perspective on Marge Gunderson. But, I think another thing that Ebert was getting at was that films don’t always have to have polished edges. I think this is what I like about Inglourious Basterds. The film isn’t perfect, but that’s part of its charm and makes it a better film overall.
The film is partially about the Inglourious Basterds, a special force of Jewish American soldiers who are sent behind enemy lines to hunt Nazis. But the film is also about Shoshanna Dreyfuss (Melanie Laurent), a young woman whose entire family was killed by Nazis. Shoshanna escapes to Paris and eventually opens her own movie theater. And the film is also about Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, brilliantly played by Christoph Waltz, who takes pride in his ability to out think the Jews that he is hunting.
The film is about all of these things and perhaps it’s easy to dismiss the film as unfocused. In fact, at times, it feels like Inglourious Basterds is giving us nothing more than a collection of scenes, fantastic scenes, but the film never comes together as a cohesive whole. But, the more films I see, the more I become wary of the strive for perfection. I don’t necessarily need disparate pieces to come together to form a sort of big picture. I like jigsaw puzzles, but I prefer Jackson Pollock.
In any case, despite what the trailers will have you believe, this is not a film about Brad Pitt, though I enjoyed his portrayal of Lt. Aldo Raine. And perhaps most shockingly, I am not sure that it’s really a film about World War II. Sure, the film uses the war as a backdrop, but the film is really about the characters.
Inglourious Basterds comes in three flavors: a single-disc edition and a 2-disc edition, which is also available in Blu-ray. All editions feature extended and alternate scenes as well as the film Nation’s Pride (film within the film) in its entirety. If you pick up the two-disc edition, you’ll also get a round table discussion with Tarantino, Brad Pitt and film critic Elvis Mitchell. There is also a salute to the 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards and an interview with Rod Taylor, who plays Winston Churchill in Inglourious Basterds.
New releases this week: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Final Destination, Lorna’s Silence