I’ll admit it: I’m somewhat of a Quentin Tarantino apologist. In the sense that I tend to defend every cinematic choice he makes even though there are times that I understand the prosecutor’s stance. One of the common slams against Tarantino is that his films are scatterbrained homages to grindhouse-y cinema that feature sporadic moments of sheer brilliance. Critics try their best to totally detest the guy, but he’s just too naturally gifted to feel full-on assaults. The majority of a Tarantino-focused piece or review may be negative, but there’s always a sprinkle of flattery. When you’re such a daring, unconventional filmmaker, though, that’s to be expected. Can’t win them all. Opinions are like assholes, and there’s a ton of sphincters working in the film criticism field, talented or not.
The trend continues this week, as Friday’s public unveiling of Tarantino’s extremely-long-awaited World War II acid dream Inglourious Basterds loomed brighter by the minute. I saw the a couple of weeks back, and I’m a big fan. Fanboy, perhaps? As a result, I can’t help but feel a certain way about these recent critical bombings. Or several ways, even.
In recent days, a plethora of critics are waging all-out war on the film’s insensitivity. Pissed off that Tarantino pretty much ignores the Holocaust and Jewish suffering as a whole after quickly showing a family of Jewish stowaways being murdered execution-style in its opening sequence. By remixing historical facts into his own acid dream, Tarantino is taking away from the importance of WWII, they feel. Diminishing the pain and sorrow felt in those days. Even worse, feel some, is the barbaric attitudes that Tarantino’s gives the titular Basterds, a renegade crew of Jewish-Americans soldiers that hunts down and then scalps Nazis. One scene, in particular—-where Brad Pitt’s “Lt. Aldo Raine,” the Basterds hillbily leader,interrogates a soft-spoken, dignified Nazi before inviting one of his lackeys to bash the Nazi’s head in with a baseball bat—-has been cited by esteemed film critics Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere.com) because Pitt and his Basterd co-stars “behave like butt-ugly sadists in this scene while [their captive Nazi] behaves like a man of honor, character and dignity.”
I actually agree with Wells here; the scene’s primary Nazi (played by Richard Sammel) definitely comes across as a man of honor, however much honor can be had when your mission in life is to rid the world of human beings that don’t share your same background. But, sticking to your own guns in a time of war is to be expected. Later in Wells’s post, he cleverly pulls an Eminem “B Rabbit” 8 Mile move and calls out the main response to his diss before any opposer can, saying how rationalizing Tarantino’s creative cruelty is a “fool’s rationale,” because “all movies are tethered to some kind of world view that takes stock of the way things are outside the realm of make-believe.” Which is true.
Yet, I’m starting to think that I’m a fool. The way I see it, these Inglourious Basterds knocks seem like completely anticipated Tarantino blitzes. From people who convinced themselves that they’d be unsatisfied by this film before walking into the theater. See, me, I anxiously await new Tarantino films for these exact reasons. I hope that they’ll be crude. I bank on them being so over-the-top and absurd that I’ll simultaneously laugh and cringe. If good intentions are what I seek in a WWII flick, I’ll rent the amazing Schindler’s List again. That’s never been the appeal of Inglourious Basterds for me; from the day that I got my hands on the script last summer, I relished in the fact that I was set to enter a by-n0-means-authentic space.
Hitler is killed in the last act, for fuck’s sake. The second that you get to the scene where satanic Adolf is gunned down into a gooey gore-makeup puddle by some dude nicknamed the “Bear Jew” is when you should say to yourself, “Would I expect anything else from a Quentin Tarantino WWII movie?” This is the same guy who showed zero compassion for a gang of female characters in Death Proof and opted to show the grisly death of each in a car crash by giving the audience a close-up view of their individual ends, one by one. The demented visionary who transitioned into black-and-white by having a man’s eyeball plucked out by hand (Kill Bill, Vol. 1). He’s a credible filmmaker that clearly appreciates the sleaziest of horror exploitation, and people actually expected him to handle a casualty-overflowing period such as WWII with subtlety and high-browed maturity?
Not all of the expected naysayers threw their hats into the angry bonfire, though. I experienced one hell of a shock earlier today when I came across the always-vitriolic Rex Reed’s review. Normally, I disagree with the veteran hater every which way possible, but I’m stunned by just how closely his opinion of the film mirrors mine. This nugget taken from his review encapsulates our shared feelings: “World War II was more serious, complex and horrifying than all this comic embellishment, but if I sound critical, I apologize in advance. I had a helluva time watching Inglourious Basterds.”
Reed nails this one on the tippy—-obviously the actual war itself makes Inglourious Basterds seem like a childish exercise in despicable savagery, filtered through the mind of a gifted eccentric who operates in his own reality, one that’s in some distant galaxy where ludicrousness is etched into its law-book. And you know what? I loved every second of it. From the painfully-realistic way the Bear Jew’s wooden bat crashes into the Nazi’s skull, to the insane, sick and brilliant image of a vengeful Jewish girl’s face broadcast on a movie screen, laughing as the forces responsible for her family’s demise burn and digest machine-gun-fire.
The damn fool that I am.
Links for attributed articles
Jeffrey Wells’s “Jew Dogs” piece