Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 13:23 UK

Film review: Inglourious Basterds


Tarantino and Pitt sign autographs for fans in Cannes

By Emma Jones
BBC News reporter in Cannes

Quentin Tarantino has made an eye-catching return to the Cannes Film Festival with Inglourious Basterds, an epic World War II movie set in Nazi-occupied France.

Tarantino swaps fact for pulp fiction in Inglourious Basterds, a comic revenge fantasy about Jewish freedom fighters bringing down the Nazis in 1944.

Brad Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo Raine, the leader of a gang of Jewish-American soldiers operating in occupied France whose self-proclaimed mission is "to kill as many Nazis as possible".

They succeed in Tarantino's usual grisly-comic fashion, carving swastikas into the foreheads of any German soldier they do not scalp.

The plot culminates with an attempt to incinerate the Nazi high command - including Hitler, Goebbels and Goering - at a film premiere in Paris.

It's western meets war movie, with David Bowie on the soundtrack

In the words of Tarantino, it's "the power of cinema bringing down the Third Reich".

Once again, the US director has blurred film genres. Essentially it's western meets war movie, with David Bowie on the soundtrack.

And it becomes positively camp-operatic in parts - particularly in its portrayal of a shrill, semi-hysterical Adolf Hitler and British generals who could have been lifted from 'Allo, 'Allo.

Pitt may get top billing, but he's not the star of the show.

That honour goes to Christoph Waltz, an Austrian TV star who plays SS officer Colonel Hans Landa.

Comedic menace

So important was this character to the film, says Tarantino, that he considered scrapping the movie if he couldn't find the perfect actor to play him.

Waltz carries off comedic menace with aplomb in a performance that makes him a strong contender for this year's best actor prize

A scene from Inglourious Basterds
The film runs almost three hours and has a large international cast

This is not an American movie. Rather, it's Tarantino's homage to the European cinema he adores.

Indeed, there are so many scenes shot in French and German that an English-speaking audience will spend a lot of the film reading subtitles.

Some will wish there were a few more, just so they can understand Pitt's Tennessee-born, almost incomprehensible character.

Inglourious Basterds clocks in at nearly three hours, and its director could certainly have trimmed more of its flab.

This, and Pitt's character not getting the screen time he deserves, are the main disappointments.

It still can't touch Pulp Fiction, which won the Palme D'Or in 1994, but the reaction here at Cannes is that Quentin Tarantino has made a glorious, silly, blood-spattered return.

He is royalty at this festival - and as long as you can suspend disbelief and offence, he remains the king of trashy cinema.

Inglourious Basterds is out in the UK on 21 August.

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