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Inglourious Basterds & Cold Souls

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

*****
Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures
Lagoon
Drama/War/Dark Comedy/Adventure
Running Time: 152 minutes
Director: Quentin Tarantino

It’s Vichy 1941 and Hitler is occupying much of France. The unoccupied France (Vichy), is nervous, cautious and yet determined with the other Allies (U.S. hasn’t entered quite yet, not until after Pearl Harbor), to overthrow the Nazi regime. Quentin Tarantino’s Brad Pitt, playing an American Jewish avenger, Lt. Aldo Raine from the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, is a nod to Aldo Ray in Anthony Mann’s 1957 war movie, “Men in War”.

If one has seen a Tarantino film, “Inglourious Basterds” isTarantino all the way with periodic moments of humor interwoven with the grisly scenes. Deliberately spelled wrong from an Italian action pac (1978) by the same title, Tarantino’s version is only a quasi-remake. He divides “Inglourious Basterds” into five chapters starting with a teenage girl Shosanna Dreyfus (Melaine Laurent) escaping from Nazi Jew hunter Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and his Nazi band. Double spy Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), Shonsanna, Raine, Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), General Ed. French (Mike Myers) have a clandestine operation to appear at the premier of the German propaganda film, “Nation’s Pride” where the Nazi brass, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and Hitler, will be present.

Raine, Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth who was also in Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” and “Death Proof” as “Dov)” and other American Jewish soldiers reverse what’s happening in Germany. These men hunt and kill Nazis. Their claim to fame is scalping Nazis, living or dead.
Tarantino sets a strong tone starting from the opening scene. A dairy farmer, Perrier La Paditel (Denis Menochet), with his three daughters, receives an unwelcome visit from German Col. Hans Landa. Landa has come to investigate rumors about some unaccounted Jews, and with the agenda that La Paditel is hiding Jews. Landa comes across as a man with a sense of humor, in spite of his purpose to kill the Jews he finds. The scenes here are very tense and nail biting, building gradually every step of the way.

Christoph Waltz’s performance is terrific throughout “Inglourious Basterds”. His character is clever, cruel, manipulating, intuitive, and sometimes downright silly.

Cold Souls
***1/2
Journeyman Pictures
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Sophie Barthes

Mr. Giamatti plays himself rehearsing for Chekov’s play, Vanya, and finds he is unduly frustrated with the play. At home, Paul fares no better, losing sleep, appetite disrupted, his wife Claire (Emily Watson) at a loss about her husband’s behavior. Paul sees an ad where a person can have his or her soul removed temporarily and repossessed. He meets Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn) to have his soul removed through a machine much like the MRI machine.

Paul’s journey now moves into more murky territory after he befriends Russians trading souls on the black market in an underground line to and from the U.S. Moreover Paul’s ability to perform the Russian play Vanya, after his soul is lifted from his body, is worse than before his soul was removed. One of the Russian smugglers, Sveta (Katheryn Winnick), is connected to the Russian mob.

Existentialism is at the artery of the film as Paul begins to realize he wants his soul back. The undercurrent of Barthes’ characters – although God isn’t mentioned – is that God gave people (and perhaps animals) souls to be cherished, not to be defiled or sold.
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