Hebrew School (Inglourious Basterds)

by on Aug.24, 2009, under Movies

This is steaming me:

But these bad guys were real, this history was real, and the feelings we have about them and what they did are real and have real-world consequences and implications. Do you really want audiences cheering for a revenge that turns Jews into carboncopies of Nazis, that makes Jews into “sickening” perpetrators? I’m not so sure. An alternative, and morally superior, form of “revenge” for Jews would be to do precisely what Jews have been doing since World War II ended: that is, to preserve and perpetuate the memory of the destruction that was visited upon them, precisely in order to help prevent the recurrence of such mass horrors in the future. Never again, the refrain goes. The emotions that Tarantino’s new film evokes are precisely what lurk beneath the possibility that “again” will happen.

As far as “what Jews have being doing since World War II ended” and “the possibility that ‘again’ will happen”, I don’t think anyone’s put it better than Jenji Kohan’s Weeds:

It’s also worth pointing out that the Basterds’ gory vengeance–goods delivered, makeup and prosthetics people–takes up only slightly more time in the film than it does in the trailer. The story belongs to Shoshana Dreyfus and Hans Landa, the hunted and the hunter. The Basterds, amusingly, aren’t even particularly central to the film. In fact, (spoilers after the jump)…

…there’s nothing to suggest that their mission, their capture by Hans Landa, and the final twist in which Landa allows their attack to go forward is at all critical to Shoshana’s sealing and burning of the movie theatre. The Basterds’ bombs and guns make it more satisfying cinematically, but the plotted consumption by fire of the German High Command is never detected.

As for this bit of fussiness:

A group of unsuspecting people is tricked into entering a large building; the doors of the building are locked and bolted from the outside; then the building is set on fire. The twist here is not that Tarantino, a director with a notorious penchant for explicit violence, shows you in loving detail what happens inside the burning building—the desperate banging on the doors, the bodies alight, the screams, confusion, the flames. The twist is that this time the people inside the building are Nazis and the people who are killing them are Jews.

Perhaps Mendelsohn should take it up with Kurt Vonnegut, who also had the temerity to make art about non-Jews being burnt alive in WWII.

Adorno may or not be right, but surely his infamous dictum shouldn’t be amended to “all inappropriate poetry after the Holocaust is barbaric.” Interpret, review, compare away to the historical record. Mendelsohn’s at his most interesting when he draws comparisons between the Basterds carving swastikas on Nazis’ foreheads with Nazis, historically, carving stars of David over the hearts of rabbis — a chilling detail, worth remembering, that Jonathan Rosenbaum added to the pile of offenses. But please, end the policing of Holocaust art. Is the current state of affairs, in which the Holocaust comes with instructions on packaging for respectable middlebrow entertainment, that much better? Take it away, Kate Winslet:

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