Funny thing about the Tarantino movie. It takes some time to grow on you, or it did on me. I wanted to hate it. I even came home from it thinking, MEH. It was nothing about nothing, yet again. A meaningless story, a haphazard, albeit entertaining spin on cinema violence — a childish revenge fantasy – a big zero. But, strangely enough, as the evening wore on and the film sunk in I began to think about it differently. Part of it was my discussions, admittedly, with Ryan, with some of you commenters and a few Facebook peeps. But a different part of it was the film itself. There is a kind of passion there that doesn’t exist in any other film this year by any other director. Do I dare sit through it again and actually enjoy it this time? I kind of want to. I horrify myself with this declaration, yet there it is. Anyway, for those wanting to read something intelligent about the film, check out Jim Emerson’s wonderful piece over at the Sun Times. With great screen caps and thoughtful observations Emerson, I think, kind of nails it in a way I’ve not yet read, or certainly not related to in any real way. Does it make it Best Picture material?
Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” is about World War II in roughly the same way that, I suppose, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is about a haunted hotel. The war is indeed the setting, but that’s not so much what the movie is about. I also don’t see it as an act of Holocaust denial or an anti-vengeance fable in which we are supposed to first applaud the Face of Jewish Revenge, and then feel uncomfortable sympathy for the Nazis. The movie comes down firmly on the side of the Jews, and of revenge, of an early end to the war and the saving of thousands of lives, with barely a quibble.
But while “Inglourious Basterds” is indisputably a WW II revenge fantasy (and, of course, a typically Tarantinian “love letter to cinema”), a theme that is central to nearly every moment, every image, every line of dialog, is that of performance — of existence as a form of acting, and human identity as both projection and perception. As you would expect from a film that is also an espionage picture and a detective movie, it’s shot through with identity games, interrogations, role-playing and people or situations that are not what they appear to be…
If you haven’t seen the movie and you want to be surprised, don’t read Emerson’s piece – it’s full of plot details and spoilers.¬† I still disagree with the notion that the audience is not meant to feel pity for the Nazis; I think, if you are human at all you can’t help but feel something. It’s automatic. But that is likely the point. When you don’t see people are humans they are easier to kill (the rat analogy).