My wife and I agree on most things. But not movies. She leans toward chick flicks and sensitive dramas. (Her all-time favorites are “Ghost” and “Officer and a Gentleman.”) I’m drawn to mindless entertainment. We’ve even been known to go to the same multiplex to watch different films. Years ago, she checked out some love story while I enjoyed “Pulp Fiction.” One problem: Her movie ended an hour before mine. That’s when she snuck into my theater and settled in next to me just as the notorious “bring in the gimp” scene went into full swing (so to speak). As I fidgeted uncomfortably in my seat, she leaned in and whispered, “What the hell are you watching?”
So you can imagine my surprise when she suggested we attend the opening weekend of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” Surprise, that is, until I realized the movie stars Brad Pitt. Pitt is on the short list of men she’d leave me for (along with Johnny Depp and Steven Tyler.) I made a half-hearted attempt to warn her about excessive bloodshed but it didn’t seem to phase her. “I’ll just shut my eyes,” she said.
I’m pleased to say a great time was had by all, albeit for different reasons. I always approach Tarantino with caution because he’s capable of tremendous artistry or absolute crap. He pisses me off more than any other writer/director. “From Dusk till Dawn” and “Kill Bill, Volume I” sucked me in and held me spellbound until they degenerated into cartoon bloodfests. (Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against bloodfests. But I have everything against ridiculous mood swings halfway through what started out as good movies.) For me, in books, films and other forms of story-telling, uneven tone and unrealized potential are the biggest sins of all.
The best Tarantino films, like “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill, Volume 2,” show a measure of restraint. “Inglourious Basterds” is like that. Once you buy into the premise of an alternative World War II universe, the story is compelling from start to finish. Nobody creates tension and subtext like our boy Quentin. The opening scene where two characters spend a good ten minutes talking across a simple kitchen table is agonizingly suspenseful. Two additional scenes later in the film are virtually unwatchable (in a good way) for the same reason. And his dialogue is always spot on. When he wants to be, there’s nobody better.
So my wife and I shared a date night we could both enjoy. I have no doubt she fell asleep thinking of Brad Pitt. (By the way, it’s obvious he had a grand time making this movie. He’s hilarious).
As for me, I envisioned Nazi heads used for batting practice. I think we both got a pretty good deal.