Content warning: as we discuss a movie expressly about the nazi occupation, this piece (and the embedded podcast) carry a content warning for violence, anti-semitism, racism, and really, everything related to nazi Germany and the holocaust.
We’re going strong through Spring Fling Month here on You Love To See It (our movie podcast/neighborhood video store, naturally), where we are watching films with one or more crush-worthy characters. After Bound and Only Lovers Left Alive, we had a heavier entry this week, with a considered viewing of Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 war epic/revenge fantasy set in nazi-occupied France. We brought on special guest Rodrigo Del Campo (my co-host Fernanda’s husband and longtime friend of the show!) to discuss the film, how it hits in 2022, and just how wonderful the character of Shosanna (played expertly by Melanie Laurent) is, a woman who fights the occupation in the most explosive (and ultimately, effective) fashion.
The show is embedded below, and you can find it here on your podcast service of choice!
As per usual, I’m including our short synopsis and (spoiler-filled) show notes here, which show each co-hosts biggest discussion points going into the show. I’ve lightly edited them here for clarity, but they are pretty stylized (we make heavy use of capital letters when emphasizing a point), and hopefully give readers and listeners a nice view of our thoughts on paper as we prepare to record our show!
Starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a nazi-hunting squad, Melanie Laureant as a Jewish survivor out for revenge, and Christoph Waltz as a revolting sack of steaming shit, Inglourious Basterds is a Tarantino movie that looks and feels exactly like a Tarantino movie, like pretty much every Tarantino movie that exists. There’s blood, there’s violence, there are beautiful women engaging in graphic badassery. But, most importantly, there are nazis being fucked up.
And now, our notes:
Fernanda’s must-discuss items:
- I literally cannot remember seeing Christoph Waltz playing anything but a villain and honestly… Why should he? I feel like it’s generally seen as a bad thing to be typecast as an actor because it’s limiting, and yada yada… but holy shit can this man project the most terrifying mix of calmness and just pure evil. Landa truly is the pure essence of shittiness — there’s something, I would argue, more chilling about an opportunistic villain than a villain that operates according to a specific code of villainous beliefs. Imagine the amount of detachment in the mind of someone who’s able to conduct the most blood-curling acts of evil and extricate themselves from the guilt because they’re not moved by ideological reasons, but practical ones? Truly, the essence of sociopathy. This really is a magnificent horrible villain, and Christoph Waltz does it so much justice.
- Remember when as a society we collectively agreed nazis were unequivocally disgusting assholes? Good times!
- OK, I’m gonna have to agree with Rodrigo: How can you NOT fall in love with Shosanna? She’s literally the goddamn coolest. Just this beautiful smart woman who overcame a lot and risked it all to not only get her personal revenge but objectively spare the world from the further spread of sheer evil. Also can rock an all-red ensemble. 10/10.
- I had honestly forgotten how fun this movie is. I remember when I watched it for the first time, I took some issue with the long sequences. I had just grown out of my “OMG, I *worship* Tarantino and all this blood and violence thing” pick me girl phase and had just entered my “Tarantino does jerk-off movies for boys who wanna pretend like they’re smarter than they are” phase, so I thought they felt very “look at me, I’m Tarantino, I can get away with anything, including these three-hour conversations where nothing happens in the middle of otherwise fast-paced movies!” But I can now see there might have been *some* projection going on in my part. Both longer conversational sequences — the opening scene and the strudel scene — are actually so beautifully conducted and so perfectly tense. The acting by everyone is just superb, and the way they incorporate all the tiny little details, the close-ups of objects and faces, the sounds… *chef’s kiss* Is it pretentious? A little, I think, in the sense that it really is about Tarantino flexing his directing muscles and winking at his own wittiness, as usual, but that doesn’t make it any less juicy or effective. I was SHUDDERING at the thought of a 2:33 movie, as I usually am, but this actually went by pretty fast. I had really forgotten how entertaining it really is, beyond the one-liners and easy-to-laugh-at scenes like most of the ones involving Aldo.
- I, too, have some difficulties articulating my feelings on the violence aspect. I am not the least bit Jewish, so obviously there are several limits to my emotional response (and in the ways my personal opinion here is actually valid, I must clarify), but in a way I think it’s actually a refreshing take in 2022 to be like “Hey, these people did truly atrocious shit and it’s totally fine to enjoy seeing their bodily fluids get creatively splattered all over the screen.” The key thing for me is exactly the fantasy aspect — I believe it’s OK to believe as a human person in real life that even the most abject of evil-doers should be judged and punished according to the laws of civilized society, but to enjoy some good ole’ fashioned barbaric revenge in a work of stylized fiction. I’m very much with you in that yes, there is obviously weight to the fact that these are real things that happened to real people and that is all treated with an almost off-putting levity, but I also agree that it feels emotionally honest! And I also agree that it’s hard to explain all of this (or, at least in my case, even to make sense of it internally) but I think we’re on the same page?!
- I actually love Shosanna’s laughing face over the fire, but I am known to be a little extra.
Danielle’s must-discuss items:
- I had somehow never seen the movie before, but despite being two and a half hours long (I shall forgive) it’s endlessly engaging and honestly, a really wild ride — I haven’t been able to stop thinking about certain scenes, sequences, and images since watching the other night.
- There is such an intense energy to this movie. There are the scenes with Landa — where every single moment is a heartbeat away from horrific violence — but the scenes go on and on and are even funny or wacky, until the other shoe drops. Horrifying stuff, and very effective filmmaking
- I actually wasn’t sure if the crush was Shosanna or Bridget, the voluptuous spy! I honestly really liked her too, even though I really wish she knew jiu jitsu at the end, to fend off that choke.
- Overall, the cinematography, style, and energy are all unique and fun-bordering-on-manic-bordering-on-panic, but I have to admit, the ending in the theater felt — tbh, I’m not sure what I felt. I read that some Jewish critics took issue with the ending (at least, the theater ending) and I’m not sure where I stand on it, personally? This is a heightened revenge fantasy, and watching hitler’s body get pummeled with hails of bullets is *perfect* but there is something about Shosanna’s image over the fire that’s… a lot? I’m also curious how you felt about her final moments with the horrible brat/movie star nazi — that she went to him when she saw he wasn’t dead. Just a human reaction? I wanted her to ride off into the sunset with her boyfriend, tbh.
- Violence! This movie has a complex relationship with it! It’s both a heightened, pulpy revenge fantasy and also a war movie about real things that happened to real people, and it sure has its fun at the expense of that. The basterds themselves are ridiculously fun, and also acting out of severe trauma, and also the heroes of the story, but Aldo does torture Bridget to test her alliegance. It’s… all pretty fucked up, but fucked up in a way that actually reads as emotionally honest, if that makes sense? I’m working my own way through how the movie doles out violence as justice!
- As with any fiction about WW2, it’s scary and chilling how… well, this was real. People had to hide under floorboards. Everyone lived in fear. Jews were rounded up and slaughtered. It’s something we all know, but looking at it scares me (and should!) every time.
Rodrigo’s must-discuss items:
- Start of the history remix revenge Tarantino tales after his insane revenge thing with Kill Bill. I get the whole history remix thing, understand the problems some people have with it and thinking that it could take from the horrors of what actually happened, BUT…and nothing against current Spain but if I could do a film where the Aztec Empire fucks up Hernán Cortés I would start shooting tomorrow.
- Did not know of Melanie Laurent before the film but I was immediately struck with her and her character. She’s just magnificent in the movie, the character is never allowed to lash out, raise her voice, has to face the death of her family, the horrors of war and STILL has the guts to hide in plain sight in Paris and play a part to keep her cover and THEN sees the chance and decides to end the war herself with assist from boyfriend.
- Acting wise Laurent is just incredible, except for her first scene running away from the cabin and the ending both with the death scene in the booth and then the message in the film she has to be muted to keep her cover, but her face just tells every single thing going through her mind. The strudel scene is just a master class in acting, she’s over the kid, over Goebbels, but the moment she hears “Landa!” her face gives us everything she’s feeling. The final two seconds when she checks he’s actually gone and can finally break and show her emotions after sharing the table with the monster that took your family away are just incredible work
- Badass beautiful woman in a gorgeous dress, about to kill Nazis and end the war with David Bowie playing in the background, who wouldn’t fall in love?
- Waltz as Landa has aged like fine wine. Really went in wondering how Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine would’ve aged but honestly it still cracks me up every single time.
- Maybe the movie where Tarantino tries to control himself from doing sequences because he thinks they look cool and where he does them to serve the film, a lot of them end up being “cool”, like the Hugo Stiglitz interstitial, and Shosanna’s death, but they feel more to the story and less “I NEED A COOL MOMENT HERE CAUSE I HAVEN’T HAD A COOL MOMENT IN 5 SECONDS AND I WILL DIE IF THERE’S NOT A VERY COOL SHOT NOW” which even though I liked them at the time it obviously went completely overboard in Kill Bill, Vol. 1.
- The 20 minute opening sequence has obviously been discussed and analyzed for over 10 years, but I do still believe this is Tarantino’s best work. The movie of course works for some people and a turn off for others, but without the heaviness and the gravitas of the scene, even with it being such a “Tarantino” scene, the movie would just not work.
- I’ve worked in production for almost 20 years, started as an editor and even though film is the only thing I’ve never worked on as one, I appreciate the immense task this is and the artistry needed. This is the last Tarantino movie edited by Sally Menke before her untimely passing, she edited every single one from Reservoir Dogs on. Tarantino considered her an equal partner in the filmmaking process and would often ask actors to say hello to her on film before or after takes so she could see them during the editing process; those can be found on easter eggs on home releases and YouTube.