Basterds Generates Controversy
Two sides of the Inglourious Basterds debate on the web, both well worth the read. Funny, I can kind of see both sides of this thing, without having yet seen the film (will see it today). But as a half-Jew with a big chunk of my heart eternally devoted to the pain of those who suffered in the Holocaust – and as a child who had Hitler fantasies (I imagined over and over how I would have killed him) I’m excited to see the way this urge is to be satisfied. Kim Morgan, never one to mince words, and one with a true love of cinema, writes her defense of the film, and mentions in the article this piece by Jonathan Rosenbaum. It seems to me that Kim is reacting to the film critics — the fans (and fanboys) are on her side; they all love the movie. But the Kenneth Turans, the Manohla Dargis’, the David Denbys and the Jonathan Rosenbaums? Not so much.
Of course, there‚Äôs a difference between Alex‚Äôs ultraviolence and the Basterds‚Äô Nazi-hunting, Apache-style scalping. I know that the anger lies in Tarantino making a movie in which Jews viciously retaliate against Nazis, which, to some critics, makes the Basterds just as hideous as their goose-stepping enemy. I know that certain critics believe that QT‚Äôs spectacular alternate universe of fantastical revisionism, one in which Hitler meets his maker all bloody and burned in (of course) a movie theater, is a form of Holocaust denial (Jonathan Rosenbaum, specifically). But‚Ä¶really? I‚Äôve not read a critic (and perhaps I‚Äôve missed one) who actually believes a person will walk out of the theater thinking that‚Äôs how it all went down. That Adolf didn‚Äôt off himself in a bunker and, instead, was burned alive after the director of ‚ÄúHostel‚Äù and ‚ÄúHostel II‚Äù pumped his face full of lead. (And for anyone who‚Äôs stood up for Eli Roth‚Äôs movies ‚Äî god, wouldn‚Äôt that be awesome?). But the idea that Tarantino is going to eradicate memories of the Holocaust is almost as ludicrous as believing Col. Hogan really did convince Col. Klink he was psychic, and that the episode ‚ÄúPsychic Kommandant‚Äù really did happen. I realize there‚Äôs a lot of dummies in this country, but‚Ä¶do I say it? Please.
‚ÄúWhen Jews Attack‚Äù by Daniel Mendelsohn, a two-page spread in the August 24 & 31 issue of Newsweek, begins to help me account for what I find so deeply offensive as well as profoundly stupid about Inglourious Basterds [sic sic ‚Äî or maybe I should say, sic, sic, sic]. A film that didn‚Äôt even entertain me past its opening sequence, and that profoundly bored me during the endlessly protracted build-up to a cellar shoot-out, it also gave me the sort of malaise that made me wonder periodically what it was (and is) about the film that seems morally akin to Holocaust denial, even though it proudly claims to be the opposite of that. It‚Äôs more than just the blindness to history that leaks out of every pore in this production (even when it‚Äôs being most attentive to period details) or the infantile lust for revenge that‚Äôs so obnoxious. When Mendelsohn asks, ‚ÄúDo you really want audiences cheering for a revenge that turns Jews into Nazis, that makes Jews into `sickening‚Äô perpetrators?‚Äù, he zeroes in on what‚Äôs so vile about this gleeful celebration of savagery. He also clarifies the ugly meaning of Tarantino‚Äôs final scene when he points out that Nazis carved Stars of David into the chests of rabbis before killing them ‚Äî a fact I either hadn‚Äôt known before or had somehow managed to suppress.
Love it or hate it, it’s becoming the second most talked about movie of the year, right behind Antichrist.