And what of other war films? Like Three Kings, which I loved. Or more recently with The Hurt Locker, which I think is one of the standout films of the year. At no point did I feel dirty for enjoying those films, even though they were about war. And what about Platoon? Apocalypse Now? The Deer Hunter? Full Metal Jacket? I have enjoyed all of these and could revisit them again and again without a second thought. But I would describe each one of these as a great war film, which is almost like saying someone is a great black man. Or a great Asian man. Why do I have to label it? Can't I just let it be a great film? Must I categorize it? It's almost like I'm apologizing for it already. Or drumming up pre-conceived notions that may or may not have existed before. And of course, I'm not even including the other countless war films from the past.
This war within me came to a head recently with my viewing of Paul Verhoeven's Black Book. It played out as a very entertaining film but it dealt with heavy subject matter - that being World War II and the flight of Jews during that time. In commenting about it on Ed Howard's blog Only The Cinema for TOERIFC, I found it hard to outright say that I enjoyed the film. I felt guilty about doing so. Or at least describing it as an entertaining film. As a matter of fact, I felt it wrong for Verhoeven to take the approach he did with World War II as the background.
As far as I can tell, I seem to mostly have a problem with World War II, due to its subject matter. There have been many enemies in many wars, but I think the Nazi's are about as close to the devil incarnate as I have seen.
So of course, it makes no sense that I completely loved Inglourious Basterds. Or maybe it does. Honestly, I don't know anymore. Maybe I love it because it puts the Jews on the offensive. (the same reason why I can revisit Munich) Maybe I love it because it knowingly tips its hat to movie after movie. Maybe I love it because I'm in love with Melanie Laurent. Maybe I love it because it might just be Tarantino's most sophisticated writing to date. The opening scene between Colonel Hans and the French Farmer is filled with dialogue. But where in the past Tarantino's dialogue solely existed to prove how cool the character was, or Tarantino was, this dialogue defines motives. Creates tension. Dare I say, advances the story.
Maybe I love it because it's lovable. Because Tarantino made it that way. The moment that the opening credits began and type font after type font appeared on the screen, I was smiling. Not unlike when a great comedian takes the stage. Before that comedian has opened his mouth, I'm enjoying myself because I know I will enjoy myself. I think for all of Tarantino's trailblazing in the film industry, the truth is he wants you to enjoy his films. He needs you to enjoy his films. He is not a Steven Soderbergh who will go off and make a film that only a handful of people will like. Or see. No, Tarantino is a pleaser and you can tell that through every aspect of this movie and every movie he's made. The music, the freeze frames, the characters, the dialogue. He makes his movies like you're in on the joke.
Inglourious Basterds is not without its faults. I could have done without the chapters. To me, they were unneeded and frankly felt as if Tarantino had lost a little trust in his audience's ability to keep up. I hated the scene where Colonel Landa was being introduced to Aldo Raine, Donowitz and Ulmer as Italian filmmakers. It was too slapstick for me and felt out of place in the story. And while Tarantino has made strides in the dialogue department, there were still some places that felt a little too chatty. Specifically, the scene between Colonel Landa, Raine and Utivich. The scene should have been there to advance the story, and it felt like Tarantino was showing off a bit. But probably my biggest complaint, and it's not necessarily a complaint as a wish, I wished that we could have seen more of the Basterds. An entire movie could have played out introducing each one of these characters to us and showing us why this brotherhood was so important. I'm not usually one for insisting on a backstory, but this would have been good to speak to the motivations.
What I guess I like about Inglouious Basterds, and what I like about every single Tarantino movie for that matter, is that I left entertained. The fact that he can make an entertaining film against the backdrop of one of the worst wars in history is a testament to his talent. Either that or I'm finally ending my war against war movies. We will have to see.