Ever since I saw Quentin Tarantino on TV about the time Pulp Fiction was released, I have been reluctant to watch his films. He struck me as arrogant, juvenile and just plain rude. Not a guy I’d like to meet or with whom I’d like to spend time. A few years later, I read a review of his performance in Wait Until Dark on Broadway and thought he had taken the role just to grandstand in his new found fame.
Reviewer Ben Brantley said he had basically just phoned in his part:
Playing a sadistic, murderous thug to Ms. Tomei’s beleaguered young blind woman, Mr. Tarantino seems menacing to nothing except possibly Mr. Knott’s script. Whether raising his voice in deranged fury or softly promising to commit unspeakable tortures, he registers at best as merely petulant, like a suburban teen-ager who has been denied the use of his father’s Lexus for the night.
He seemed the worst type of person, rude and arrogant, convinced he was the greatest there was in any endeavor he attempted. When I moved to LA and started watching and discussing movies with a circle of Hollywood wannabes, one of my closest friends insisted I watch Pulp Fiction, certain that I would enjoy it. He even offered to pay for the video rental if I didn’t like the flick. So, I relented. And had to agree it was a darn good movie. Tarantino made brilliant use of his, shall we say, skewed chronology, chopping sequences up and moving them around to keep us engaged.
Now, I certainly wouldn’t call it one of my favorite films. I don’t think I’ll watch it again. I do acknowledge that it keep me entertained and was brilliantly made.
I should have remembered that inexperience when Inglourious Basterds was still in theaters. I didn’t go to see it, not because I had heard it was bad, but because Tarantino kept behaving badly. Well, a friend loaned me her DVD; I finally got around to watching it Saturday night. I reluctantly popped it in, feeling I “needed” to see it so I could talk about it. I was just going to watch a few minutes while I ate my late-night snack. I wanted to hate it because it didn’t seemed right that someone so rude could make a movie so good.
Well, I didn’t get my wish. I watched it until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
And there were some masterful performances. Brad Pitt was entertaining with near perfect comic timing. It took me a while to realize how good Christoph Waltz was because I hated his character so much, then I realized that the reason I hated him because he was doing his job. It did not surprise me when I read that he received an Oscar nomination for this performance. I do think that two of the women in the movie were shortchanged. Mélanie Laurent was good as Shosanna and I particularly liked Diane Kruger‘s interpretation of a 1940s German film star.
Entertaining as I found this flick, it was, like Pulp Fiction quite disjointed. Story-teller Tarantino ain’t. It seemed more like a series of vignettes around a common theme than a story with any kind of narrative structure. I mean, the story didn’t emerge until well over half-way through the movie; the movie was more set-up than story. All that said, it engaged me. I didn’t have the urge to pick up my laptop and surf the web as I do when watching a dull DVD.
And a lot of it seemed like insider’s baseball, with frequent references to actors and directors of the period and on filmmaking. And many scenes seemed familiar — as if I’d seen them before. A friend once compared Tarantino’s films to a mix tape, scenes from other movies strung together in a manner the compiler, er, director finds works to fit his mood.
All the said, I realize I haven’t even touched upon the film’s theme — it’s about a group of Jews led by a Southern redneck (Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine) parachuted behind enemy lines to kill Nazis during World War II. It’s a little bit too bloody for my taste, but, well, I gotta be honest here, itt held my interest. (And don’t we all want to see dead Nazis being scalped? Admit it, we do.) It may not have been a story in the traditional sense, but it was entertaining. And I guess maybe that was it’s purpose.