This is a spoiler-free review. Tune in soon for a review so full of spoilers, you’ll cry.
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A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Los Angeles to see The Whole Bloody Affair in all its glory. There is a special place in my geek heart for Kill Bill. The cruel tutelage of Pai Mei. Kiddo’s slaughter of Yakuza minions. The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. The films offer a cinematic feast of fun. I’ve watched each film more times than I can count, I can recite passages of dialogue before characters say them, and I own a replica of Kiddo’s yellow jumpsuit. So, I’m pretty serious about my devotion to this fun film.
Walking into the New Beverly Cinema was like rewinding the clock 50 years. The cinema had a brightly-lit vintage marquee out front, which on the night I went exclaimed happy birthday to our dear Quentin Tarantino. Walking inside, the foyer was tiny, the snack counter was barely existent (but had refreshingly reasonable prices), and the two restrooms combined would have fit into a small broom closet. The one theater housed about 200 seats and the screen was much smaller than most we see nowadays. In short, it was charming. I snagged a front-row seat, which was perfect for the screen distance and size.
Before the feature presentation, in typical Tarantino flair, several previews of coming attractions for ‘70s and ‘80s grindhouse genre films were shown, including Coffy, The Million Eyes of Sumuru, and Shogun Assasin (the film that BeBe watches with Beatrix at the end of Kill Bill volume 2). The pre-show reel also included an animated sing-along of dancing concessions urging us to get snacks and Dr. Pepper in retro style and a panther warning us that the film was Restricted. Then the glowing seal of the Cannes Film Festival appeared, affirming that this was the original, personal print from Tarantino’s first screening of this version of the film.
With the volume turned way up, the action sequences of Beatrix Kiddo’s roaring rampage of revenge physically reverberated in the audience. You could literally feel the tension. The cinematography looked beautifully visceral on a “big” screen.
Now, to answer the question everyone keeps asking me about the film: “So, what’s different?” Actually, several things, some small and others not-so-small. All the action sequences were a little longer and a little more satisfying (if that’s even possible). For example, in the famous scene where Beatrix harpoons the Crazy 88’s, the carnage radiates in technicolor instead of shifting to muted censor-friendly black-and-white. This may not seem like a huge change until you see the difference in stunning color and detail, red blood splattering every frame. There were other differences in the Crazy 88 sequence. My favorite difference occurs after Beatrix plucks an unsuspecting warrior’s eye out; in this version, she promptly shoves the veiny eyeball into another guy’s mouth and he gulps it down in surprise. It can only be described as awesome.
For Christmas I received a fresh special edition, 2-disc copy of Inglourious Basterds, and I have renewed my vows of love for this film. Few films can deliver like this WWII revenge story served Tarantino style. The plot, dialogue, acting, cinematography, and set design all bear the watermark of this master storyteller’s original and refreshing writing and directing. As always, Tarantino’s story wastes no time sinking its teeth deep into the audience. Mr. Tarantino knows how to build tension within scenes and from scene to scene, culminating in one of the most satisfying finales ever put to celluloid.
The audience cannot help but invest in the film’s developed and dimensional characters. I especially love how everyone speaks their own language (the Germans speak German, the French speak French, etc.) and when someone tries to speak another language it isn’t a cakewalk—there are accent anomalies and cultural differences that make it difficult. This fact alone makes the film feel more natural than a lot of WWII films. However, Tarantino’s brilliance in character development goes far beyond linguistic variation. A full chapter of the film is afforded to introduce each of the three principal characters. Each generous introduction offers a glimpse into a fully-realized world in itself, complete with the intricacies and complexities of real people—with a little Tarantino attitude and sharp wit thrown in. Tarantino’s flavorful character development results in villains that the audience hopes to see brutally punished, to the point that when certain baddies are beaten with baseball bats, having swastikas carved into their foreheads, shot until their flesh peels off, and yes, even burned alive while shot with machine guns, asphyxiated, and blown up at the same time, the violence is necessary for the film—even gratifying—instead of vulgar.
Blood and gore aside, this is a gorgeous film. The risks Tarantino takes with 30-minute long scenes, bird’s eye views through cutaway set pieces, and unconventional music choices all succeed in making the film something more meaningful to contemplate as a work of art, separate from the story and characters. You could mute the dialogue, and the images with the accompanying score would remain as something inherently beautiful and daring.
In all honesty, there is one scene I would change in the film: the one with Mike Myers playing Winston Churchill’s right hand man. It feels a little out-of-place and out of pace with the rest of the story, moving slowly and with some redundant plot explanation. I think this scene could have been edited or eliminated, but that is my one small complaint for what is otherwise a perfect film.
Hands down, I rate this film the best of the year. Nothing else comes close to touching it. Since Tarantino’s reputation precedes him, he had a lot of pressure while making this film, and he surpassed all expectations. He created the capstone WWII movie, and I think it will be quite a while before someone returns to the genre. No one can rewrite history more satisfyingly and meaningfully than Quentin Tarantino.