Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Before its release, the PR campaign about Quentin Tarantino's latest opus was all about misdirection: the news that he was remaking 1978 WWII genre film Inglorious Bastards (with the unusual new misspelling), the early trailers highlighting Brad Pitt's "Nahzee" scalping and the early word of a Dirty Dozen-style heist movie. Inglourious Basterds turned out to be a thoughtful Jewish wish-fulfilment fantasy obsessed with filmmaking, language and turning points in history (including a significant turn away from fact near the end). That makes it both a more unusual and ― on second viewing ― a more fascinating film than advertised. Structurally, its first three acts introduce three primary players: Jew hunter Col. Hans Landa (German actor Christoph Waltz, who's brilliant in four languages), Pitt's Southern army lieutenant Aldo Raine, who's building a team of Jewish head-hunters, and cinema owner Melanie Laurent, whose Shoshanna Dreyfus plays a key role in the film's more action-oriented final third. It's not the structural bait-and-switch of some of Tarantino's more famous narratives (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs), and the pace can seem a bit laborious, especially during a talkative 30-minute scene in a tavern, which is the closest this film comes to Tarantino's famously fast-talking, pop-culture riddled dialogue. On this two-disc DVD set, Tarantino and Pitt sit down with critic Elvis Mitchell for a revealing half-hour chat, but other extras are relegated to comedy (an unfunny "making of" bit about an in-film Nazi propaganda movie called Nation's Pride, also included), or throwaway compilations like the funny camera-slate operator and actors flubbing lines by saying "Hi, Sally" to Tarantino's long-time editor, Sally Menke. Tarantino will spew for hours about nearly anyone else's movie but remains reluctant to provide the same unvarnished commentary on his work, so there's none here. Elvis Mitchell takes up some of that heavy lifting with a featurette on Tarantino's meticulous film history referenced throughout Basterds. Tarantino has made a great film that's packed with rich details that deserve to be pored over and analyzed. He's just not going to help much. Plus: extended scenes, more.
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