A Tarantino fan I will not become all that easy. But, reviled as it may be by cinematographic experts and connoisseurs, his film Inglorious Bastards I consider a masterpiece.
These experts, the members of the cinema in-crowd with their super memories, they are constantly ticking off episodes in a film under inspection for references to other movies. You know, self-referentiality… And, Alas, if you have missed one: Penalty!
Watching movies in this manner is like the performance of an Olympic sport with mostly losers. For me this is aesthetic abomination. A bit like Breughel insiders, who are continually detecting rebuses in his paintings, on the look out for each iconographic reference which they love to explain to the dumbbells.
Symbolreiterei! Hobby horses all over the place.
Of course, for anybody it is nice to occasionally recognize such cinematic connotations, as if by chance. However, if this becomes the only and dominant ‘intention’ of watching movies or paintings, the experience of the images is ruined. It is a disastrous enterprise.
Good old Hegel keeps me on the ball: Content is always the content of the Form; Form is never anything else but the form shape of its Content. If not – aesthetic failure is guaranteed.
Inglorious Bastards provides the viewer with suspense squared. So, if you really want to dreg film history into it, Hitchcock is the cue. Not so much referencing one special movie scene of his, but the genre as such, which he more or less invented all on his own: That uncanny ability to elicit ambivalence in the spectator who is put on the edge of his chair.
This may be achieved with cinematic tricks. To cite the most famous Hitchcock example: The little light he inconspicuously hid in the glass of milk which makes it mysteriously glow in the hands of the ‘bad guy’ who is perhaps up to no good. A ominous sign: Is she, or is she not going to be poisoned?
Cinematic suspense can also be achieved via the story. The thrill of ambivalence in Inglorious Bastards lies in the game that Tarantino is playing with one’s historical consciousness. Because of your acquaintance with history you know it: An absurd film it is, including the scalping of Bad Germans. Yet, the filmmaker manages to suspension of your disbelief.
But not on this one point: How can Hitler survive an ingenious attack, staged by the protagonists? After all, Hitler survived all attempts to assassinate him, eventually he killed himself with burning gasoline…
The plot of the attempt is a masterpiece in itself. Two beloved living in ‘racial disgrace’ as the Germans had it – he black, she Jewish! – decide to set fire to the Parisian cinema in which he works and which she owns using old celluloid films that burn like a winch. As guest of honour Hitler will come to the premiere of a movie about a German war hero and, with him, the whole top echelon of Nazi scum.
Still, you keep wondering how the attempt on his life is going to fail. You know it must fail. And it does not fail! This time, Hitler does not survive! In an orgy of hellfire and machine gun violence the whole building burns down, with both arsonists and Nazis.
Death before the fact!
For someone of my generation, brought up by a father who was a resistance fighter, because of this decades after the war still alive in that war: Pure ecstasy!
In the solitude of my French hermitage I’m cheering and applauding in front of my new flat screen, while through my large speakers the cinema owner screams her pre-recorded tirade against the frightened Nazis: “Look this Jewess, who shouts this at you, right in her face! ”
Holocaust for the bastards! How well acted is each of those crazy creeps. For this I’ve been waiting sixty years. Finally my war is over.
Sierksma, La Roche 31.5 / 2016