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‘Basterds’ defies aud expectations

Tarantino builds suspense in opening scene

When SS Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) visits the farm of the LaPadite family in search of Jews whom the farmer may be hiding, we expect things to get very bloody, very quickly. For nearly two decades, writer-director Quentin Tarantino has bred this expectation into his audiences, from gangsters who cut off ears to yakuza who slice off heads. But this opening scene is different. For nearly 15 minutes, Tarantino holds his audience in a high state of anticipation, as Landa amiably chats with Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) in French and then English. Milk is drunk. Tobacco is smoked. And the Jews Landa is searching for, much like the audience, watch on breathlessly and helplessly from beneath the floorboards. The violence comes, of course, but by this point it’s almost a relief on the nerves, proving that the quiet moments leading up to violence are often scarier than the violence itself.

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