Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tarantino's masterpiece?

No, not quite.

But, nevertheless, this is violence I can get behind!

Inglourious Basterds is certainly the best movie Quentin Tarantino has directed since Pulp Fiction. (I admired his slasher-pic Death Proof -- but it ain't got nothing on Basterds.)

Inglourious Basterds is Jewish revenge porn; a fantasy of what a troupe of crazy Jews would do if they were dropped into Nazi-occupied Europe and told to run amok. (I.e., they'd kill as many Germans as they could get their hands on.) It's unrealistic as hell; it's completely ahistorical; it is overly long and really needed some editing; I wish the sequence about the Jewish cinematheque owner was cut down (and, I hate to say it, the scene with Mike Myers cut out all together). Moreover, I can think of about three, or four significant flaws in continuity just off the top of my head.

But, nevertheless, this clunky, out of control pastiche made me want to stand up and cheer. (After one climactic scene I leaned over to my viewing companion and whispered, "That was so awesome!" Indeed, it was.)

And I think most of my fellow schlubs will feel similarly; IG is our dream of what we would do to all those handsome, Aryan types who so despise the traits of the schlub (our less than beautiful appearance; our lack of efficiency; our all-around Jewyness) if given half a chance.

But more than just a revenge fantasy, Inglourious Basterds was also, I think, a critique of World War II/Holocaust pictures, in general.

So many Holocaust movies are drenched in sentimentality -- and Inglourious Basterds was not having any of it. Nazis exist to be destroyed -- and preferably in as painful and sadistic a way as possible. (The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has a great interview with Tarantino saying how sick he is of Jewish victimhood. "I hate that hand-wringing shit," Tarantino said. Well said, Quint, Well said.)

Is IG as great a movie as, say, Schindler's List? Well, there were individual scenes in Schindler's List which were some of the very best sequences ever put on film. However, there was also unbearable mawkishness to Schindler's List that I always felt should be more loudly rejected. When you get right down to it, Schindler's List's bigger philosophy was that of the redeemed Nazi (Liam Neesson) -- not the evils of the Holocaust. As crazy as this might sound, I think I felt more comfortable with the morals of Basterds than I was with that of Schindler.

(My favorite comment about Schindler's List came from Stanley Kubrick. Shortly before he died he had been lamenting the fact that there had never been a great Holocaust movie. "What about Schindler's List?" someone asked him. "You think that was about the Holocaust?" Kubrick said. Of course it wasn't about the Holocaust -- because in Schindler the Jews lived!)

But I won't say anything more -- judge for yourselves.

The only thing I'll add is this: I think this might very well be the performance of Brad Pitt's career. Not even in Fight Club was he this funny and winning.