Quentin Tarantino has turned the Festival Palais in Cannes into his very own Cinema Paradiso, daringly celebrating cinema's ability to rewrite one of the most painful chapters in history. The title of his Second World War fantasy is inspired by Enzo Castellari's little-watched 1978 film, Inglorious Bastards. The deliberate misspelling of Tarantino's title is a mystery, but perhaps a tortured reference to the glorious clash of real and fictitious characters in the movie. Tarantino's film, which jumps like a needle on a scratchy vinyl record between three languages, bears scant resemblance to Castellari's Italian original. Here, a small group of blood-thirsty Jewish mercenaries from America, led by Brad Pitt's red-neck, half-Apache Indian leader, land in France with the mission to put the fear of God into the Nazis. The director deploys his unrivalled army of B-movie tricks to light the way.
The film starts like a spaghetti western and then accelerates into an old-fashioned war-time thriller, complete with a sumptuous plot to blow a local cinema in Paris to smithereens — and with it most of Germany's top military brass. Bullets and blood are never far from the screen.
The Basterds, as Pitt's gang refer to themselves, are introduced like vintage bad-ass cowboys despite the alarmingly incongruous Jewish looks. They ambush German patrols in forests, and proceed to scalp them in lurid closeup. Pitt's leader revels in this comic and macabre campaign, toying with captives before carving swastikas into their foreheads. While German captives gabble for their lives, Pitt's calm, southern drawl is almost comically ruthless.
The fairytale tone of Tarantino's picture is strikingly obvious from the opening line: "Once upon a time... in Nazi-occupied France". The chief villain, a Gestapo officer charged with hunting down Jews, is as familiar and frightening as the Rat Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Chistoph Waltz plays him with a fabulously silky menace, as he sniffs around the Paris cinema in which Joseph Goebbels is about to unveil his new propaganda masterpiece.
On one thrilling level Tarantino paints a surreal revenge fantasy where some of the most toxic villains in history get their grisly dues. The brief glimpse of Hitler with his bullet-ridden face almost perforated beyond recognition made the Cannes audience gasp.
SR: Looks Good ! Sorta Like The Dirty Dozen done by Sam Peckinpah