Essay: French New Wave/Auteur Theory

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[. . .] Inglourious Basterds is subdivided into five distinct chapters: "Chapter One: Once Upon a Time…in Nazi Occupied France," introduces the film and helps to establish that the film will similar to a Western, as well as be set during World War II. This chapter introduces the audience to Shosanna and SS Col. Hans Landa; "Chapter Two: The Inglourious Basterds" introduces the covert military unit and explains their mission and the impact they have had on Nazi morale; "Chapter Three: German Night in Paris" once again focuses on Shosanna, however, this chapter is set three years after her first encounter with SS Col. Landa. It is during this chapter that an opportunity to seek revenge presents itself and Shosanna begins to formulate a plan to exact vengeance; "Chapter Four: Operation Kino," shifts focus back to the Basterds and allows the audience to realize that they and Shosanna share a similar vision for attacking the Nazis during a screening of Nation's Pride,[footnoteRef:17] a film that will premiere at Shosanna's theatre in Paris; and finally, "Chapter Five: Revenge of the Giant Face" brings together the Basterds and Shosanna's plan and follows the aftermath of the success of their plans.[footnoteRef:18] [17: Nation's Pride is a Nazi propaganda film within Inglourious Basterds akin to the 1941 U.S. film Sgt. York. Nation's Pride focuses on the military exploits and triumphs of Private Frederick Zoller.] [18: Inglourious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino.]

Throughout his writing and directorial career, Tarantino's films have also featured a strong female lead. In Inglourious Basterds, Shosanna can be considered to be the film's strong female lead. She not only survived being killed by SS Col. Landa at the beginning of the film, but through her success as a film theatre owner demonstrates she has the ability to adapt to her changing environment for continued survival.[footnoteRef:19] Throughout the film, Shosanna does not let herself become a victim, but rather seeks out to exact revenge on the man that hunted down her family, SS Col. Landa, and Nazis in general. While Shosanna is able to carry out her plan to a degree -- and artistically tell the Nazis in attendance at the Nation's Pride film premiere the exact reason why she is intent on killing them -- she is tragically killed in the execution of her revenge and her main target, SS Hans Landa, manages to escape by sheer coincidence; he was in the processes of apprehending the Basterds' leader, Lt. Aldo Raine, who along with two other Basterds -- who did not survive the assault on the theatre, were plotting to blow up the theatre.[footnoteRef:20] To a degree, a it can be argued that Bridget von Hammersmark, a double agent who arranges the details of "Operation Kino," as the Basterds' assault on the theatre was dubbed, is also a strong female lead. She not only risks her life by betraying Germany, but is also caught in the line of fire and is injured in the line of duty. Like Shosanna who is killed before she can personally exact revenge, Bridget is killed after SS Col. Landa discovers she is a double agent, prior to the premiere of Nation's Pride. [19: Ibid.] [20: Ibid.]

In the creation and development of characters, Tarantino frequently assigns his major characters with codenames or aliases. The assignment of codenames and aliases includes, but is not limited to, Shosanna Dreyfus, the Basterds, and SS Col. Landa. In the film, Shosanna assumes the alias Emmanuelle Mimieux after escaping SS Col. Landa at the beginning of the film. In this case, the assumption of an alias is meant to allow Shosanna to conceal her true identity and safely become part of Parisian society. The use of aliases and codenames is also seen among the Basterds; in fact, the term "Basterds" has been assigned to identify the clandestine group of mercenaries. For instance, Lt. Raine is not only known as Aldo the Apache, his Basterd codename, but he also assumes the alias Enzo Gorlomi during Operation Kino; Staff Sgt. Donnie Donowitz is also known as the Bear Jew and assumes the alias of Antonio Margheriti during Operation Kino; Pfc. Omar Ulmer assumes the alias of Dominick Decocco during Operation Kino; and Pfc. Smithson Utivich is also referred to as The Little Man. A codename of The Jew Hunter is also bestowed upon SS Col. Landa; his nickname refers to his ability to track down Jews and identify places where they may be hiding.[footnoteRef:21] The nicknames Tarantino bestows upon the Basterds are not without meaning and are intended to pay homage to directors and actors whom Tarantino admires. Lt. Raine is named after film actor Aldo Rae and Hugo Stiglitz is named after the B-movie actor of the same name. Tarantino pays tribute to directors Enzo G. Castellari, Antonio Margheriti, and Edgar G. Ulmer through the Basterds' aliases. Moreover, Enzo Gorlomi is named after Enzo G. Castellari who directed the 1978 film Inglorious Basterds; Margheriti is one of Tarantino and Eli Roth's -- who plays Donny Donowitz -- favorite directors; and Omar Ulmer is named to pay homage to German Expressionist filmmaker Edgar G. Ulmer.[footnoteRef:22] [21: Ibid.] [22: "Inglourious Basterds Trivia," Internet Movie Database, accessed 29 November 2012, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0361748/trivia]

Additionally, the narrative device of a Mexican standoff has been used in many of Tarantino's films and has become one of his signature trademarks. A Mexican standoff can be defined as a situation in which all characters have a weapon pointed on someone else and on themselves so that if anyone shoots or detonates their weapon it is unlikely anyone will survive.[footnoteRef:23] The Mexican standoff trope can be seen during in the aftermath of the massacre at La Louisianne during which Lt. Raine is forced to rescue Bridget von Hammersmark. The Mexican standoff in this sequence is not as obvious as in other films, but rather is implied during the confrontation between Lt. Raine and Master Sgt. Wilhelm, the sole Nazi survivor of the massacre. While Master Sgt. Wilhelm does not believe Lt. Raine's claims of a Mexican standoff, Lt. Raine clarifies the situation: "You got guns on us. You decide to shoot, we're dead. Up top, they got grenades. They drop them down here, you're dead. That's a Mexican Standoff, and that was not the deal. No trust, no deal."[footnoteRef:24] [23: "Mexican Standoff," TV Tropes, accessed 29 November 2012, http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MexicanStandoff] [24: Inglourious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino.]

Throughout his career, Tarantino has also developed and integrated three distinct shots: a close-up shot of feet or a foot, a low-angled shot that gives the illusion that someone is looking up from the trunk of a car, and a long shot used to connect two narratives into a singular one. Tarantino has repeatedly demonstrated a fascination with feet in his films and Inglourious Basterds is not different. In the film, Tarantino exploits the "Cinderella" fairy tale so that he can incorporate this trademark in the film. This trademark can be seen in "Chapter Five: Revenge of the Giant Face" as SS Col. Landa realizes Bridget von Hammersmark was not only present at the massacre at La Louisianne, where she was supposed to rendezvous with members of the Basterds to help put together Operation Kino, but was also responsible for it. In this sequence, Tarantino uses close-up shots as SS Col. Landa informs Bridget von Hammersmark he knows she is a traitor and puts the shoe she left at La Louisianne on her foot. A second close-up shot of her feet is used as SS Col. Landa strangles Bridget von Hammersmark for her treason.[footnoteRef:25] A second signature shot is a low angle shot that gives the illusion of someone looking up from the trunk of a car, or rather, someone who has been taken captive. In Inglourious Basterds this trademark shot can be seen on two separate, but almost identical occasions: during the Basterds' interrogation of Pvt. Butz, a Nazi soldier, while trying to assess the Nazi's position in "Chapter Two: Inglourious Basterds," at the very end of the film, in "Chapter Five: Revenge of the Giant Face," as Lt. Raine and Pfc. Smithson Utivich, two Basterds who were in SS Col. Landa's custody, are released as part of an agreement made between SS Col. Landa and Lt. Raine's commanding officer as a term of SS Col. Landa's "conditional" surrender to the Allies.[footnoteRef:26] One of the trademarks of the Basterds in the film is to carve a swastika into the foreheads of those Nazi soldiers they encounter, but allow to live. These two shots are almost identical. In the first shot, Lt. Raine and Staff Sargent Donnie Donowitz stand over Pvt. Butz as they carve a crude swastika into his forehead. Tarantino uses an extremely high angle and medium close up to allow the audience to see how Lt. Raine and Staff Sargent Donnie Donowitz look like from Pvt. Butz's perspective. The framing of this shot creates an atmosphere of fear and dominance mixed with a touch of sadism. In the second shot, Lt.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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French New Wave/Auteur Theory.  (2012, November 30).  Retrieved April 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/french-new-wave-auteur-theory/3884992

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"French New Wave/Auteur Theory."  Essaytown.com.  November 30, 2012.  Accessed April 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/french-new-wave-auteur-theory/3884992.