Inglourious Basterds

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Postby Damien » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:17 am

I did my little write-up before reading the other posts in this thread. Fascinating points raised on both sides, but to me the movie is so cartoonish, serious thoughts about its sub-text and deeper meanings never entered my mind. But I generally agree with Sonic -- the film's real antecedents are The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare (which is a hoot).
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Postby Damien » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:37 am

With the film getting Oscar attention, and being nominated for other awards, I figured I had to watch it finally. It's a mess, but a mostly entertaining and amusing mess. Tarantino is completely undisciplined and the tone varies wildly even within individual sequences. The attempts at humor mostly fall flat and, in typical Tarantino fashion, too many scenes go on way after they've worn out their welcome. The music choices soundtrack are generally all wrong, the nadir being “Theme From Cat People.” And while Pitt looks great and Gable-esque, his George Bush imitation quickly grows wearisome and overall the characterizations are quite simplistic. Some action sequences are very well-done and extremely tense, others perfunctory. But it must be said that the scenes at the movie theatre constitute constitute a classic set-piece. I am befuddled by all these awards for Christoph Walz – he’s okay, although, like the movie itself, his characterization is all over the place. He goes from Martin Kosleck to Sig Ruman.

5/10




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Postby Sabin » Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:42 pm

The problem with Inglourious Basterds is that one defends what Tarantino is doing while the other hates how Tarantino is doing it.

Sonic touches on something I find interesting. This is the idea of there being one set of Jews, and whether or not it is disrespectful to "The Jews" to present a vengeance fantasy of such proportions. This is something The Pianist gets very right, the notion of Jews across the world before Israel being very set apart and uncertain if help is even coming, whether or not American Jews were doing enough. How many Hitler assassination stories were penned by Jewish writers in the thirties and forties? Inglourious Basterds may very well have been a work of 1930's or 1940's American-Jewish fiction. I don't have a problem with that. The assassination of Hitler is not Tarantino's invention. What he decides to do with it is, and I think that a lot of the argument comes down to What vs. How. I need to see Inglourious Basterds a second time. I haven't seen it in half a year now. I found certain devices used by Tarantino to be a little naive, but no more so than The Great Escape or Stalag 17.

Basterds isn't really a Holocaust film, but it's worth noting that the Holocaust has been fetishized out of proportion. I met a girl in a writing class who was developing a story about Jewish would-be lovers separated during the course of the Holocaust. I met a few other young female would-be authors with roughly the same idea. The Holocaust has been fetishized from every conceivable angle. Empty-headed The Reader became an Academy fave by presenting audiences with a rite of passage involving losing your virginity to a gorgeous Nazi before she becomes essentially an agent of evil. Schindler's List presents the notion of redemption through saving faceless Jews and eventually going bankrupt. Roberto Benigni saves the life of his child and his sanity by turning the Holocaust into a game -- even though it bears no Earthy resemblance to the Holocaust.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Dec 18, 2009 4:16 pm

dws1982 wrote:
OscarGuy wrote:I would like to know where the wholesale slaughter of Nazi's, turning the tables on their vile and evil ways in any way is degrading to Jews or history?

Simply depicting the slaughter of Nazis does not excuse Tarantino. It's specifically his depiction of this slaughter that makes the film so disgusting to me. In the film we see Jews make sport of tortorous execution methods on Nazis, we see Jews carve swastikas into the flesh of Nazis, and we see Jews bolt the doors to a building full of Nazis and raze it. In reality, Nazis made sport of tortorous execution methods on Jews, Nazis carved Stars of David into the flesh of Jews, and Nazis bolted the doors of buildings full of Jews and razed them. Tarantino, if he has any historical awareness at all, knows this. Essentially, as Daniel Mendelsohn points out (link below), Tarantino turns the Jews into Nazis.

This isn't exactly a revelation. It's already been alluded to on this thread by others who've liked the movie. And you're also doing some conflation of your own. The ones who are engaging in the tortuous methods are not merely Jews. They're American Jews from overseas, and thus they can not claim victimhood as European Jews can. So, it's not making an equation between the Nazis and the Holocaust victims. Plus, the Bastards really only take up a smaller part of the film. There's also the parallel story of Shoshanna who plans to blow up the movie theater with Hitler and the leaders of the Third Reich inside. She can fairly be classified as a victim since her family was murdered. She isn't torturing anyone. Rather, she's fighting the Nazi's on morally acceptable terms, by doing away with them in one explosion in such a way where she doesn't have to face them. It's as moral and virtuous as the firebombing of Dresden, as moral and virtuous as the allied soldiers in the "good" films about the "good" war. It's a counterpart to the Bastards' story. Isn't there anything to say about this? This is the "good" storyline.

I mean, have we forgotten what happens in war? Have we forgotten what we did to the prisoners in Abu Ghraib? Although there may be just wars and good and evil causes, there is no neatly delineated existential goodness or evil-ness when it comes to our actions in war. In every war, people are brutally tortured. It's the conventional war movies that like to pretend it doesn't happen, at least on the moral, virtuous guys side. I don't see Tarantino making any sort of positive statement with the brutality, other than war is an absurdity. And the final shot of the film was the perfect condemnation of anyone who revelled in the violence depicted onscreen.




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Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:43 pm

Daniel Mendelssohn is full of shit if he doesn't think that the "real", "historically accurate" WWII films don't engage in their own fantasies, a/k/a propaganda. We'd be living in the delusion that anti-semitism began and ended with the Third Reich were we to accept intellegentsia-sanctioned films as truth.

And yes, I called IB a WWII film, because a WWII film is what it is, not a Holocaust film. Mendelssohn conflates the two, and as a result he confuses the issue. Comparions to "Schindler's List", "Sophie's Choice" and the like don't work. "The Dirty Dozen", "Where Eagles Dare", and "The Great Escape" belong to the genre that Tarantino subverts. I suppose that by not explicitly dealing with the Holocaust, you could say Tarantino has flinched by default. In which case, the movie is automatically doomed.

I wonder what Mendelssohn's remedy would be? To make some movies about heroic Jews and other movies about victimized Jews only in proportion to actual number and percentage that existed in real life? And what's his opinion on satires? There's a grand tradition of undercutting Hitler by making him ridiculous (Mel Brooks' "Springtime for Hitler", Spike Jones' orchestra's "In the Fuhrer's Face, numerous editorial cartoons, etc.) These are grotesque depictions of what was the reality, and it would appear to fall outside of Mendelssohn's standards. But satirizing Hitler is generally as acceptable as sober-faced, historically "accurate" depictions are. These genres are two poles apart, and it's very interesting that nothing that falls in between those categories are permitted to be made without facing scorn and derision... unless "Slaughterhouse Five" counts. And how does Mendelssohn feel about that one?
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Postby dws1982 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:12 pm

OscarGuy wrote:I would like to know where the wholesale slaughter of Nazi's, turning the tables on their vile and evil ways in any way is degrading to Jews or history?

Simply depicting the slaughter of Nazis does not excuse Tarantino. It's specifically his depiction of this slaughter that makes the film so disgusting to me. In the film we see Jews make sport of tortorous execution methods on Nazis, we see Jews carve swastikas into the flesh of Nazis, and we see Jews bolt the doors to a building full of Nazis and raze it. In reality, Nazis made sport of tortorous execution methods on Jews, Nazis carved Stars of David into the flesh of Jews, and Nazis bolted the doors of buildings full of Jews and razed them. Tarantino, if he has any historical awareness at all, knows this. Essentially, as Daniel Mendelsohn points out (link below), Tarantino turns the Jews into Nazis.

And even if it had been set in some truly alternate reality (Middle Earth, for example or Mars), I still would've hated the way it fetishizes burtality, its sadistic bloodlust, and its self-satisfied heartlessness. There's no soul here. At best, I think it's just a pastiche of whatever films Tarantino had on his mind when he was working on this one, a pointless exercise like many of his other films are. At worst, I think it's one of the most morally bankrupt films I've seen in a long time.

Uri: Here's a link to the first page of Mendelsohn's piece. Here's a link to the second page. I would highly recommend his book The Lost: A Search For Six of Six Million to anyone who hasn't read it. His collection of reviews from the New York Review of Books, How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken also has some excellent pieces.




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Postby Zahveed » Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:08 pm

Uri wrote:
Zahveed wrote:The vibe I got from her throughout the majority of her encounters with the Germans was her hatred for the Nazis, which resulted in her being rather bitchy and snobbish toward them.

Back in 1978, when I watched Grease, I knew it reminded of something, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Now, thank to you, I got what it was – the Holocaust! I guess that for those who like the world to be a big, vivacious schoolyard, the fact that this film is "a joy to watch from start to finish", filled with "tension, dark humor, film references and moments of shocking violence" makes it the ultimate holocaust flick. The new Steindler's List for the High School Musical generation.

I was commenting on this:

She is supposed to be an undercover Jew, living in fear of being discovered. Yet her attitude, and Laurent's performance, looks more like that of a film noir femme fatale, like a third class Marlene Dietrich.


I was defending Laurent's performance and acknowledged her character truely was scared for her life and was trying to hide her true feelings by just coming off as annoyed, as to not be found out by the Nazis in some way. Please don't take my comment out of context.
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Postby Uri » Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:04 pm

dws1982 wrote:I'll say more later but Uri touches on something that I think Daniel Mendelsohn (a Jewish critic/classicist) spoke about in his piece on the film:

It may be that our present-day taste for "empowerment," our anxious horror of being represented as "victims"—nowadays there are no victims, only "survivors"—has begun to distort the representation of the past, one in which passive victims, alas, vastly outnumbered those who were able to fight back. "Facts can be so misleading," Hans Landa, the evil SS man, murmurs at one point in Inglourious Basterds. Perhaps, but fantasies are even more misleading. To indulge them at the expense of the truth of history would be the most inglorious bastardization of all.

True.

Is Mendelssohn's comentary online?

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Postby OscarGuy » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:13 pm

I would like to know where the wholesale slaughter of Nazi's, turning the tables on their vile and evil ways in any way is degrading to Jews or history?
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Postby dws1982 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:13 pm

I'll say more later but Uri touches on something that I think Daniel Mendelsohn (a Jewish critic/classicist) spoke about in his piece on the film:

It may be that our present-day taste for "empowerment," our anxious horror of being represented as "victims"—nowadays there are no victims, only "survivors"—has begun to distort the representation of the past, one in which passive victims, alas, vastly outnumbered those who were able to fight back. "Facts can be so misleading," Hans Landa, the evil SS man, murmurs at one point in Inglourious Basterds. Perhaps, but fantasies are even more misleading. To indulge them at the expense of the truth of history would be the most inglorious bastardization of all.

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Postby Uri » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:00 pm

anonymous wrote:
Uri wrote:
Zahveed wrote:The vibe I got from her throughout the majority of her encounters with the Germans was her hatred for the Nazis, which resulted in her being rather bitchy and snobbish toward them.

Back in 1978, when I watched Grease, I knew it reminded of something, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Now, thank to you, I got what it was – the Holocaust! I guess that for those who like the world to be a big, vivacious schoolyard, the fact that this film is "a joy to watch from start to finish", filled with "tension, dark humor, film references and moments of shocking violence" makes it the ultimate holocaust flick. The new Steindler's List for the High School Musical generation.

Did you miss the part where I said that I know this as a COMPLETELY fictitious film? I did not see it as a World War II docudrama but a Quentin Tarantino flick which just happens to be set on an alternate-reality universe circa World War II.

Shoah wasn't fictitious, but The Pawnbroker was, Sophie's Choice was, and Schneider's List and Life is Beautiful. And each one of them had its own set of problems, and some, like Claude Lanzmann, might say it had a lot to do with the fact that they was fictitious, but not me. On the other hand the fact that they were fictitious didn't give them a carte blanche to promote any agenda regardless of the real historic context. At least not on my book.

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Postby Big Magilla » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:45 pm

"Joy to watch" may be an ill-chosen phrase for a film with so much violence but the film is so over-the-top it's difficult to understand why anyone would be offended by it.

Tarantino's work has always been heavily influenced by the Hong Kong martial arts films he cut his teeth on. It's a "what if" film, not a recreation of history.

Aside from the cutesy-poo misspelled title and Brad Pitt's annoying fake Southern accent and even more annoying fake Southern accent-tinged Italian, there was nothing about the film I didn't like.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:41 pm

dws1982 wrote:
anonymous wrote:I thought it was a joy to watch from start to finish. One of the best of the year.

That statement is part of what I find so disturbing about this film. I can accept that statement about something like Slumdog Millionaire or even something I don't care for like Little Miss Sunshine. But I don't see how anyone, even a fan of this film, could find it "a joy to watch from start to finish".

Not that I literally enjoyed it from start to finish, but maybe it's easier to understand if you're Jewish, because it fulfills the visceral revenge fantasy that Jews harbor but were denied: murdering the figure from which the most virulent anti-semitism exuded from. "Joy" isn't the best word, but how about "catharsis"? But I did enjoy how the movie throws idealistic sanctimony out the window and thumbs its nose at the cobwebby Cold War-era WWII film conventions, which I suspect is the main reason this film has made some people uneasy.
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Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:32 pm

Uri wrote:
Zahveed wrote:The vibe I got from her throughout the majority of her encounters with the Germans was her hatred for the Nazis, which resulted in her being rather bitchy and snobbish toward them.

Back in 1978, when I watched Grease, I knew it reminded of something, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Now, thank to you, I got what it was – the Holocaust! I guess that for those who like the world to be a big, vivacious schoolyard, the fact that this film is "a joy to watch from start to finish", filled with "tension, dark humor, film references and moments of shocking violence" makes it the ultimate holocaust flick. The new Steindler's List for the High School Musical generation.

Did you miss the part where I said that I know this as a COMPLETELY fictitious film? I did not see it as a World War II docudrama but a Quentin Tarantino flick which just happens to be set on an alternate-reality universe circa World War II.




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Postby Uri » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:07 pm

Zahveed wrote:The vibe I got from her throughout the majority of her encounters with the Germans was her hatred for the Nazis, which resulted in her being rather bitchy and snobbish toward them.

Back in 1978, when I watched Grease, I knew it reminded of something, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Now, thank to you, I got what it was – the Holocaust! I guess that for those who like the world to be a big, vivacious schoolyard, the fact that this film is "a joy to watch from start to finish", filled with "tension, dark humor, film references and moments of shocking violence" makes it the ultimate holocaust flick. The new Steindler's List for the High School Musical generation.


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