Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Diabolical Small Talk"

Saw Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" last weekend. The promo budget for this film must have been tremendous, there was a ton of hype and Tarantino seemed to be everywhere doing interviews. Either he felt he needed a big hit, or he knew it was going to be a hit and wanted to make sure it was seen.

I heard him explain how he came up with the idea - simple and interesting. He was thinking that it's been awhile since they did a "group of guys" war movie ala "Kelly's Heroes" and the "Dirty Dozen." The next step, was how to put a twist on it. He thought about what if they were all Jewish? But instead of being POWs or in a concentration camp, they were on the offensive? and violently killing Nazis? and so on, in his signature style.
Indeed, "Inglorious Basterds" has all the Tarantino trademarks. There are titled chapters. Separate stories slowly merging together. Pop culture references. A unique soundtrack. Some recurring actors. Oh, and violence - very graphic violence. I don't know how much of that is because he watched so many horror/gore films from the 70s, or if he's saying, "Oh you like action flicks? You like violence? Well, THIS is what violence really looks like - do you still dig it? Is it still fun?!?"

Either you like Tarantino or you don't. I have yet to hear many people be lukewarm about his work. But one thing cannot be denied - he is quite the wordsmith. And he uses dialogue, and the pacing of that dialogue masterfully in this film, particularly through the character of Col. Hans Landa played by Christopher Waltz. There is surely a Best Supporting Actor nomination in store for Mr. Waltz. His cat and mouse verbal slow torture is gut-wrenching, you can feel the tension building inside you as he toys with his "victims." In thinking about this post, I came up with what I (not too humbly) think is the perfect description of this aspect of Quentin Tarantino's writing:
So many of his films' characters have done this seemingly innocuous chit-chat, and yet there is the underlying tension, building like an old Edgar Kennedy slow burn, wondering at what point things are going to combust. Like when Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are in the room with those college kids and Jackson is rambling on about burgers and the metric system.
I recommend you see this film. The violent parts are pretty nasty, but it's obvious when they're about to happen so you can always close your eyes for a sec or look away, and then get on with the good parts of this movie - like the Diabolical Small Talk!

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