As companion to the Tarantino piece below—and in the hopes of inspiring discussion—I’m here linking to Jonathan Rosenbaum’s most recent post lambasting Inglourious Basterds. It’s an angry, vital response to a movie I myself am loving more and more as I reflect on it, and it also makes reference to Daniel Mendelsohn’s recent Newsweek article entitled ”Inglourious Basterds: When Jews Attack”, with which it should be read in concert. (Perhaps not so incidentally, Mendelsohn’s Holocaust memoir The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million is the project that Jean-Luc Godard—whom Tarantino is frequently juxtaposed with, for good and for ill—is reportedly eyeing as his next directorial effort.)
The line of thinking that Rosenbaum and Mendelsohn articulate has been little expressed in the pre-release hoopla/puffery, at least from the articles I’ve perused, and is very much worth considering. Also of note: Over at Some Came Running, Glenn Kenny posted a glowing review of IB that one of our frequent commenters and sometime contributors—who goes by the handle “That Fuzzy Bastard”—responded to with pre-viewing reservations comparable to Rosenbaum and Mendelsohn (see that discussion starting here).
How best to describe where I part company with my colleagues? Simply that I don’t consider the film a revenge flick in any traditional sense, whatever the mass media persona known as “QT” may spout in his carnival barker’s desire to get butts in seats. For me, always: Tarantino’s public face says one thing, his movies say another. Basterds is, to my mind, about the sheer impossibility of revenge, how it razes and perverts everyone who succumbs to it or who find themselves in its path. If audiences cheer the film with the mass fervor that Rosenbaum and Mendelsohn predict (and I think that’s a pretty dubious proposition), they’ve missed the point. The Tarantino “cool” (never flawless) is the conduit to something deeper, disturbing, moving and profound.
My review of the film for Time Out New York will be published in this week’s issue, and I’ll link it here when it’s available online. I also hope, in the coming weeks, to write at greater length about Basterds for the House, so keep an eye out.
Keith Uhlich is editor of The House Next Door.