Short Fuse: Tarantino’s Nazi-killing Cotton Candy
By Harvey Blume
Let me tell you why I heartily dislike and contemn Quentin Tarantino’s “The Inglorious Basterds.”
It’s not because I reject QT in toto. On the contrary, I think every film he makes is an original and derivative, awful and inspired, ultimately entertaining must-see. Remixes of film history that they are, his movies exert a unique allure, and nothing stops you from closing your eyes during unbearable bits (for me, for example, the scene of torture and ear slicing in “Reservoir Dogs”).
QT is a virtuoso fetishist. Fortunately or unfortunately for cinema as we know it, his main fetish, big squeeze, is film itself, though God knows what lesser strokes and subsidiary squeezes squirm around just beneath the cover of that one. That QT fetishizes at will is no reason to reject him. Fetishes comprise one hot and heavily trafficked road to art. Consider the art and prose of Bruno Schulz for example, not that I mean to equate the two or summon up the sickening prospect of one making a fetish-filled film about the other.
And I do not reject “The Inglorious Basterds”, as other reviewers have, because it shows Jews acting like Nazis toward the Nazis. I quite enjoyed seeing Jews burn, bomb, and machine gun a trapped crowd of Nazi higher ups. I whooped and clapped at the spectacle. I approve of giving the SS and the German high command a whiff of the gas chamber and a taste of the crematorium. Nice going, QT.
Why then do I so completely reject IG? Why do I deem it the worst of QT’s films? It comes to this: IB is a film portraying Jewish vengeance in which Jews barely get a word in edgewise. It’s Brad Pitt, playing a Smokey Mountain boy, with a bit of “Injun” in his blood, who orates in his country twang about the need to butcher, bash and scalp — that’s the “Injun” in him — all available Nazis, carving indelible swastikas on the foreheads of those he releases to tell a tale that terrifies the Fuhrer himself.
But Jews mute about the need to hunt down Nazis, tongue-tied about the urge for vengeance? That’s absurd or insulting. Or both.
Let others pick IB to pieces for other reasons. It’s got less fiber than QT’s other films; it’s Nazi-killing cotton candy and disintegrates at a touch. But for me, it’s enough that this is a movie QT made in part, he has said, as a gift to his Jewish friends who have seen their kind massacred in too many Holocaust movies. IG was intended to be a liberating role reversal.
Some role reversal.
QT has a whole new movie Reich to fetishize– Riefenstahl, Pabst, the collected works of aspiring German auteur Joseph Goebbels. Brad Pitt gets to be Jim Bowie unbound. Nazis get to make the usual interminable Nazi speeches. But the Jews, the Jewish soldiers of the implacable band of basterds — they have in effect had their tongues cut out; they have no gift of gab; they are speechless puppets.
Such a gift from QT.
Some role reversal.
Perhaps, in fact, Inglorious Bastards was never really intended as a gift to Jews.
Perhaps QT just used the Nazi/Jew card as an excuse to give us more of his brand of gratuitous violence. After all who is going to call torturing Nazis gratuitous. Next time perhaps he can get away with torturing maoists or Moslems too, without being accused of pandering.
but part of the rub for me is that qt says he was inspired by “the avengers” — a nonfiction chronicle about jewish survivors of the camps & ghettoes who bound together & did indeed enact vengeance on nazis. among the leaders of this group — “jewish blood will be avenged” — was abba kovner, who went on to be a renowned poet. to rob the likes of him of a voice is qt’s own peculiar brand of violence.