A day that has been in the minds of plenty of folks around the world of entertainment journalism has finally come and gone — Quentin Tarantino‘s long gestating World War II project Inglourious Basterds has finally made its Cannes Film Festival debut, on time, as promised by the every chatty director more than a year ago. And with said premiere come the first round of reviews. The verdict: here’s the line in the sand on the beaches of the French Riviera, and you’re either on one side of it or the other.
Between critics, it appears as if battle lines have certainly been drawn. On one side — a side comprised mostly with the buzzed minds of the internet’s Tarantino-craving culture — are the ones who loved it. They are applauding the “badass” and “way fucking cool” moments that Tarantino has splattered on celluloid. On the other side sit some familiar faces, some reputable names and decidedly cooler heads — saying that the film talks it way into a coma. So who’s to say who’s right? Certainly not me, and certainly not yet. Lets allow the quotes to do some of the walking.
On the side of good…
The ever-excitable Alex Billington of First Showing loves it, but even he remains a bit timid, especially when comparing it to other Tarantino films:
“Basterds is a bit light on the action, heavy on the talking, and full of great performances. It’s as awesome as Tarantino’s first two films and as entertaining as his most recent few. It’s the WWII movie we’ve been waiting to see…Tarantino has done it again!” (I’m not exactly sure what that last part means.)
Chris Hewitt at Empire goes all out:
“Rather brilliant. Every bit as idiosyncratic as the spelling of its title, it’s a wonderfully-acted movie that subverts expectation at every turn. And it may represent the most confident, audacious writing and directing of QT’s career.”…“[Christoph Waltz] may be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Oscar nom.”
Sam Ashurst of Total Film wants to get Inglourious again and again:
“Not only did I love every minute, if the French projectionist wanted to cue it up and roll it again from the start, I would have sat through the whole film again, with the biggest grin on my face. This is Quentin’s best film since Jackie Brown. It might even be his best film since Pulp Fiction.”
Former SXSW Chief Matt Dentler, writing into AICN:
“…the film as a whole is a great ride. Early reports indicate it may not be the final theatrical version, and while I could see 10 minutes trimmed here and there, I feel it still delivers as is.”
On the other side…
Eric Kohn at IndieWire reminds us that we need more Super Bubble for the office:
“No matter how much extreme contextualization and heavily stylized techniques Quentin Tarantino [uses] in Inglorious Basterds, it feels like a bubblegum sidedish to the heavy dinner plate of his career.”
Kirk Honeycutt at The Hollywood Reporter says that it is lacking all of the things Tarantino usually delivers:
“The film is by no means terrible … but those things we think of as being Tarantino-esque, the long stretches of wickedly funny dialogue, the humor in the violence and outsized characters strutting across the screen, are largely missing.”
Movieline‘s David Bourgeois fails to connect with the plight of the Basterds:
“…despite all of Tarantino’s typically intricate plot weavings, character development is nowhere to be found. We never know the Basterds, Dreyfus remains a mysterious figure, and Col. Landa, the real main character of the film, is only minimally developed. By the end of the film — almost two-and-a-half hours later — its hard to care much about what happens to anybody on screen.”
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw goes for broke, calling it an “armor-plated turkey”:
“There are some nice-ish performances, particularly from Fassbender and Waltz, but everything is just so boring. I was hoping for Shosanna at least to get a satisfying revenge on the unspeakable Col Landa. But no. The two Hitler-assassination plots cancel each other out dramatically and the director’s moderate reserves of narrative interest are exhausted way before the end. He should perhaps go back to making cheerfully inventive outrageous films like Kill Bill. Because Kill Adolf hasn’t worked out.”
Of course, we leave it to one of our favorite Hollywood-types, Anne Thompson, to keep things in perspective for us. In her filed report, she described the reaction of critics as being very tepid. “The press did not boo Inglourious Basterds. Nor, judging from my sampling of critics afterwards, are they anointing it his best. Several wanted to think about it, to figure out what if anything, is missing.”
But what does it all mean? That is the ultimate question. From what I have gleaned off of the dozen or so reviews that I’ve read while putting this little update together, it appears as if Inglourious Basterds can best be described as an overly-talky, but potentially fun ride that fits somewhere in the middle of Tarantino’s body of work. If this reminds me of any one Tarantino work, it could very well be his other most recent film Death Proof, a film that talked itself out of having momentum. As well, from what I’m seeing, this film is decidedly not the Nazi hunting spree that the first trailer might have suggested.
At this point we are all left to draw conclusions based on the trust-levels we have with the writers quoted above. My conclusion: sounds like there might be a lot of disappointed fankids come August, as well as some militant defenders of yet another soft piece of work from Tarantino. The loyalty to the house of Quentin runs deep for some, which could continue to escalate this film’s buzz, despite the extremely cool overall reaction from Cannes.
But that all remains to be seen…
What do you make of the early Basterds buzz from Cannes?