Inglourious Basterds has its indulgences. But when Tarantino is described as masturbatory, I argue: this is a man who has loved movies all his life – a passionate authority on 20th century cinema. Countless homages across his entire filmography illustrate a love of film, and a love of sharing it. He’s not masturbating. If anything, he’s hosting an orgy, and we’re all invited.
Even the shallow viewer will find Inglourious enormously entertaining. Five chapters twist a much-exploited period of history into the backdrop for a violent revenge tale and ragtag adventure story. Throughout, some of Tarantino’s best dialogue stretches the tension until it snaps in an explosive and satisfying finale.
A few levels down, however, Inglourious does even more – demonstrating the importance of film by positioning itself as both an example and a critique of propaganda. Movies like Tarantino’s unite and divide audiences, educate and entertain, heal and harm – and we see each facet of this range in the climax of Operation Kino. They are one of the richest mediums of the last century, and it’s no wonder Tarantino loves them.
Lt. Aldo Raine, looking down at the viewer in a chapter titled Revenge of the Giant Face, says in closing: “I think this just might be my masterpiece.” The idea that Brad Pitt’s character is actually speaking for director Quentin Tarantino is not a unique one. But I must agree: Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s finest film. And Pitt’s smile channels his director: “If you don’t think so, fuck off.”