WAR IS HECK: Reviews of Flame and Citron and Inglourious Basterds

Though it sounds like a drink created by Absolut, Flame and Citron is really one of those new fangled movies in which the writers (Lars “Adam’s Apples” Andersen and Ole “Prague” Christian Madsen) and director (Madsen redux) want to complicate the myth that World War II was the good war and that all the Germans were bad and all the non-Germans (or at least those who worked with the resistance) were good. The U.S. did this sort of thing in the 1960’s and 70s with Westerns like Little Big Man. The problem is that often all that movies like this do is just reverse who the good guys and bad guys are without bringing any new insight into the situation. And to be honest, it’s a little unclear that movies like this one, as well as Blackbook and A Woman in Berlin, are any more successful at the remything thing than the U.S. was. But it was bound to happen sooner or later, so one might as well just bend over and take it like a man. Flame and Citron, though, is perhaps the best of the bunch. The characters are the most interesting so far, especially Mads Mikkelsen of Casino Royale, Prague and After the Wedding fame, as a sweaty resistance fighter (spritz girl, spritz girl, we need the spritz girl) who’s equally resistant to being a good father and husband—he’s one of those guys whose marriage is falling apart and he’s the only one in the world who doesn’t understand why. Also on hand is Christian Berkel, reprising his nasty bald headed German role (I can say that because I’m also follicley challenged) from Blackbook—he’s quickly becoming the new Otto Preminger, the German we all love to hate. As exciting and interesting as Flame and Citron is, it does suffer a bit in the storytelling department. It’s a little unclear whether these two assassins were always being manipulated into killing the wrong people, or were only tricked into it once their leader realized that the Germans were going to lose the war and he needed to cover his business dealings with the enemy. It also seems a little odd that the Germans can’t find any members of this underground group since they did little to hide it and even had a daily meeting of drinks and gossip at a local restaurant. But the film is lovely to look at and the period detail is strong and fortunately it lacks the over the top, often camp, melodrama of Blackbook.

Inglourious Basterds (written and directed by some guy called Quentin Tarantino) also has one of those Germans we all love to hate, this time played by Christoph Waltz (he’s one of those actors no one in the U.S. had ever heard of before now, but has made such a mark for himself, he’s now signed up to be in movies like The Green Hornet—lucky him). Waltz plays Col. Hans Landa. One might say he’s sort of a Karl Rove/Dick Cheney type character, someone who runs everything behind the scenes; from the way the script is written, one might even believe it was Landa who came up with the final solution, not Eichmann or any of those ilk. Landa plays a type of person who has become very popular in movies lately—the mid-level bureaucrat who actually is the real mover and shaker of world events (like Rove and Cheney). One can also find this character played by Sharlto Copley in District 9 (this actor is being rewarded for his success by being cast in The A-Team—I tell you, like no good deed, no good performance goes unpunished) and Peter Capaldi in Torchwood: Children of Earth. Such people are given the responsibility to take care of a situation, yet are often chosen so that if things go wrong, they can be the perfect fall guy. Waltz’s character is the cleverest and most powerful of them all: so powerful he can rewrite history. He’s the mid-level bureaucrat’s mid-level bureaucrat, the one that everyone hopes to be, but only a few can achieve. All that aside, there is little I can add to what everyone else has already said. From what I can tell, how much one likes this film depends on how well one likes Melanie Laurent as the Jewish movie theater owner: since I found her bland and unexciting, I found too many of her scenes the same. But the film is audacious and in your face and I loved the homages to Ernst Lubitsch’s film To Be or Not To Be (also a controversial film about World War II, though made during World War II) in which Hitler attends a theatrical performance. To be petty, I also found a couple of the scenes to go on too long and the final bloodbath at the theater to be too short. But no matter what one thinks of it, it’s hard not to come away in admiration of Tarantino for his insistence on doing what he wants (while also having something to do—not everyone who does what they want does).

So tell me what you think.

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