Feb 12, 2010

Quentin Tarantino's war: t'was ever thus

Interviewing Quentin Tarantino on her show last night, Rachel Maddow made the point that Inglourious Basterds “is not just a revenge fantasy about World War II; it’s a torture and terrorism fantasy.” She pointed out that the Basterds' methods are terroristic — their aim is not to so much dead Germans as it is to sow fear in the hearts of the living. I wish she'd taken it further. One of those most unsettling things about Inglorious Basterds was its retooling of the second world war as bloody Bush-era revenge fantasy. This may not be what Tarantino had in mind when he made it, but it is almost certainly what has made it a hit. The torture of Nazis soothes the conscience of Abu-Ghraib-era America: don't worry, it says, our standards haven't slipped, we've always tortured our POWs. We've always fought this lawlessly. Nothing was ever any different.


  1. Dear Mr. Shone,

    I'm a huge fan of your "Blockbuster", but I've got to side with my hometown (SF) critic Mick Lasalle on this one. He writes:

    "It would be an epic misperception to see "Inglourious Basterds" as some irreverent pastiche. It's not. Every liberty Tarantino takes, in both tone and history, is part of the filmmaker's overarching determination to remind audiences - remind them so they feel it - that World War II was, to put it mildly, the worst thing that has ever happened. Nearly seven decades of cinematic cliche may have dulled our response. Tarantino explodes those cliches to shake us awake."

    If the movie took the Basterds seriously, and weren't so outrageously and transparently fantastical, their terroristic ways would indeed be disturbing. But this isn't juvenile pulp in the vein "24"; it's better than that. Any wrong reactions to the movie ("torture is good", etc.), I think, are the fault of the audience alone - the very misspelt title of the piece tells you not to take it at face value.

  2. You may be right. I just didn't enjoy the movie much. I tend to get a little peevish when I'm bored.

  3. But I'm not peevish when people say they've read and enjoyed my book! (where are my manners?) Thank you very much indeed

  4. My pleasure! I hope you make it out to San Francisco sometime in the not-too-distant future. :)

  5. I hope so too — I've never been

  6. What an interesting point!

    It's odd how much debate Tarantino's movies seem to provoke when, at the same time, they seem to say so little.