The Movie Club

Inglourious Basterds Is the Best Tarantino Movie
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 7 2010 5:38 PM

The Movie Club

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Still from Inglourious Basterds. Click image to expand.
Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds

Hi everyone, I must interrupt our regular order to ask: Wesley, why did the final sequence of Inglourious Basterds depress you so? It sure didn't depress me. What you typed with what I can only imagine was a weary sigh, I'll RT with a delighted cackle: "Tarantino goes medieval on the Third Reich!"(Spoilers ahead, for those who don't know how Basterds ends.) Your review from Cannes suggests you found it invigorating and great at times but left disappointed—noting that you felt the movie lacked "Tarantino's usual joyful transcendence." But I really thought that Basterds surpassed Tarantino's usual joyful transcendence into something bigger, weirder, and more artful. That shot of Shosanna's laughing, projected face illuminating the smoke of the movie theater—a specter of revenge, the ghost of a woman freshly dead taking swift and terrible action—seemed to me to represent an important advance in his filmmaking. It's never been a secret that Quentin Tarantino loves movies, that he derives great energy from them, that they inspire in him that giggling QT-ian mania that can be so invigorating (or annoying) in his films. But that wondrous moment made clear the awe in which he holds moviegoing. Shosanna's the face of a vengeful God up there, not just light and smoke but terror and anger, too, and at that second, it makes perfect sense that in Tarantino-world a movie can kill Hitler and change the course of history. The movies, in Tarantino-world, are omnipotent. It ain't that way in the real world, but I certainly felt the passion and intensity of that moment, and it colored the entire fifth chapter of Basterds for me, making it more than what I'd expected it to be (even when I was getting all revved up about the screenplay). It gave the complete movie a scale and an ambition it had previously lacked and made me forgive all its faults. It might be the most personal image we'll ever get from Tarantino—more personal even than all those shots of Uma's feet!—and I really feel Basterds is the best movie he's made. Dan

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

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