It's an epic. An apocalyptic masterpiece... a vision of what Tarantino calls the 'sociological battlefield' of the war in Europe, in both myth and fact. It's the darkest black comedy since Dr Strangelove, and the most timely piece on the meaning (and re-interpretation) of the war since Gravity's Rainbow.
We see troubling hints that the central American myth of the 'colonisation' of the wild west can be paralleled with the European genocide (thus undermining the central pillar of US cinema, and fusing the cowboy with the nazi). A similarly disturbing parallel is drawn using King Kong... Scenes like this perhaps begin to explain the discomfort it has given to mainstream audiences.
We even see cinema used as a mental AND a physical weapon, exactly like the closing images of Pynchon's novel (p. 760): "The screen is a dim page spread before us, white and silent. The film has broken, or a projector bulb has burned out... And in the darkening and awful expanse of screen something has kept on, a film we have not learned to see: it is now a closeup of the face, a face we all know – "
With that we see Tarantino emerging, after an experimental hiatus of 12 years, with his Late Style. As formidable as late Malick or Kubrick... Whilst he could, after Pulp Fiction, have gone on to become (at worst) Guy Ritchie, or (at best) Scorsese, he has used Kill Bill and Death Proof to reinvent himself, developing a completely different and original voice. A voice ringing with all of cinematic history, excessive and contradictory, almost like Whitman's, but moving far beyond pastiche...
I think that the film proves that, with Pynchon's recent and abrupt creative demise, Tarantino is one of our most intellectually daring writers. Scenes that unroll with page after page of memorable, plausible, disturbing, and occasionally hilarious lines. A new Pynchon? Fuck yeah. And a new Kubrick, perhaps.
Only an artist at the height of his powers could begin a WW2 film with an Ennio Morricone arrangement of a Beethoven bagatelle, and end with a chapter entitled 'The Revenge of the Giant Face'...
So, cue the critics shuffling away from him, and on to blander pastures. (As they did with Malick: in 30 years' time, people will go "Oh yeah... Tarantino... I quite like Pulp Fiction...?" in the same tone as people now do with Badlands.)
However, 3 critics do seem keen. And, thankfully, they are all American, and so very influential.
Once you've seen the film (not before), check out the following:
Roger Ebert - http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090819/REVIEWS/908199995
Richard Corliss (Time Magazine) - http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1917595,00.html
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) - http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/20/DDQU19AT6G.DTL&type=movies
A last thought. In reflecting (with the third of these reviewers) on our 'collective celluloid dream' of the war in Europe, note that September 1st 2009 – as well as celebrating this maiden voyage of The Whale-ship Globe – marks the exact 70th anniversary of the invasion of Poland, and thus the grim birthday of WW2 itself.