Unacceptable thoughts about Quentin Tarantino

by on September 13, 2009 at 5:03 pm in Film | Permalink

I'll put this under the fold, as it may contain spoilers from some of the people who have not yet seen Inglourious Basterds...

Tarantino made his Hong Kong movie, his martial arts movie, and his Blaxpoitation flick but I never expected him to dip into Nazi cinema.  He sure loves hearing those Germans talk — boy are they eloquent — and fascist chattering takes up most of the movie.  There is a veneer of a Jewish revenge plot against the Germans, but most of the movie strikes me as a re-aestheticization of various Nazi ideals, cinematic, linguistic, and otherwise.  I'm not suggesting Tarantino literally favors the rule of Hitler, rather he probably got a kick out of getting away with such a swindle, right under the noses of Hollywood and with commercial success to boot.  The Jewish assassin squad members hardly seem virtuous (in some ways they're portrayed to fit Nazi stereotypes), whereas the German characters light up the screen and show extreme cleverness.  (Hitler by the way is a "crummy Austrian," not up to the more rigorous German ideal.)  The sniper "movie within a movie" — which has Tarantino constructing a Nazi movie for a screening scene — is a stand-in for the broader enterprise.  Throughout one wonders what are the implied references to Israel, such as when the Jewish suicide bombers strap explosives to themselves.  There is homage to Riefenstahl, Pabst, Emil Jannings, Nazi "mountain movies" and other unsavory bits.  I found viewing this movie a disturbing and negative experience.  I've done a lot of work on the history of the state and the arts; if you don't believe me, go away and research Nazi cinema and watch the film again.

I disagree with Steve Sailer on fundamental issues but I thought on this movie he was right; if anything he didn't go far enough.

At first I thought Brüno would be the most politically incorrect movie of the year, then I thought District 9, but no it is this one and I doubt that claim will be dislodged between now and January 1.

1 Paul September 13, 2009 at 5:17 pm

I am an American studying in Germany. I watched this movie at a German theater. The atmosphere was almost too weird to describe. It was like people wanted to really laugh, but couldn’t because they knew deep down they were being mocked. I can’t imagine how I would feel watching a movie in the USA that portrayed Americans in a similar light. I felt bad for everyone in that theater.

2 roland September 13, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Thank you–I thought I was all alone in my views of Tarantino.. His work is so morally empty (empty in other ways too)that while today he works for Hollywood, there is no doubt that he would have been just as happy to work for Goebbels in Germany 60 years ago.. its all the same to him.

3 bill September 13, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Well it’s the same problem in our history books and everyday narrative of the holocaust isn’t it? It’s always ‘The Jews’- that broad group of six million individuals, none of whom are given anywhere near the amount of individualistic attention that Hitler and everyone in his little pantheon is. Maybe thats what is really horrifying. The nameless mass of six million dead is too much to identify with, while Hitler has reams of books about his every living moment, dissected all the way up to the last second. It’s weird.
By showing a horrible death for those Nazis we know best as individuals, we can remember that each and every holocaust victim met just as horrible an end, despite that we don’t know them as individuals.

4 TGGP September 13, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Tyler linked to The Occidental Quarterly!?

I’d like to recommend Chip Smith’s review, which has a somewhat different take. In short, Tarantino is still the same nerdy video clerk he always was and still obsessed with the 70s exploitation flicks he watched back then.

5 Mark September 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Like all here, the movie caused a reaction, but unlike most I view Tarantino’s art as designed to take taboo topics and imagery and ‘artfully’ shove it up our noses. He seeks to plumb the dark caves that we have been conditioned to see as too sacred or dangerous to explore. Considering the ghastly realism of Reservoir Dogs, the decidedly more amusing but still stark realities in Pulp Fiction and now this movie, which almost didn’t seem like one of his – almost. He still wants to remind us that no one gets out (of life) alive and that good and evil exist on a sliding scale.

Some here might want to look in their metaphorical farm-yard to see how the sacred cows are doing. I feel QT would rub his hands in glee at the debate caused and so he should, being a successful provocateur is obviously a BIG part of the satisfaction he gets out of movie making.

My first thought after seeing the movie was a bit cruder. I could see him pitching a story about a squad of misfit Americans (dirty dozen) who take the law into their own hands during the war. Then the studios, who are all supposed to be controlled by people of Jewish origin (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) suggest that if the squad, perchance, was all Jewish and they were successful in exacting revenge on Hitler, well, that movie might have a chance of getting made before the other one… A cynical thought, I know, but in the name of blunt honesty, that was my first thought. In the end, it’s only make believe and this movie is a little more than most.

6 Andrew Berman September 13, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I enjoyed the movie, thought it was moral, and disagree with Tyler for the following reasons:
1) A Nazi killing an American or more generally an Allied soldier was inherently a bad thing. An American or Allied soldier killing a Nazi was inherently a good thing.
2) Same with Nazis and Jews.
3) To derive pleasure from anticipating, watching, or fantasizing about a bad thing is simply not the same as deriving pleasure from anticipating, watching, or fantasizing about a good thing. Thus, there is no moral equivalence between a Nazi enjoying a movie about Nazis killing Allies, and us enjoying a movie about Allies killing Nazis.
4) To sniff at the tactics we used 65 years ago in World War II is unfair. We did things that would be considered terrorism today— and rightly so on both counts. Now, Quentin Tarantino asks us to go back 65 years in our thinking about a movie that takes place 65+ years ago. I don’t see anything wrong with that. That is to say, although I would call for prosecution of an American Soldier who carves anything into the skin of a Taliban insurgent, I still can enjoy watching a swastika carved into a Nazi.

7 Joshua Blanchard September 13, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I’m surprised your reaction was so strong. It seemed to me that the lead Nazi showed fantastical cruelty, as well as sociopathic indifference to suffering he inflicted. All of the high level Nazis demonstrated bizarre behavior including a perverse insecurity about themselves, highlighted by their devotion to an unstable Hitler (take, for example, Goebbels’ exaggerated delight when Hitler says this is his best work yet). Even the Nazi film hero, who was in many ways pitiable, ends up also having a severe insecurity in the context of his love interest, eventually turning violent.

Also, if anything the bastards themselves were an attempt to acheive some sort of belated catharsis for audience’s filled with anti-Nazi sentiment.

So I think you’re missing the bad characteristics of the Nazis. And although you identify correctly the moral dubiousness of the alleged heroes of the film, this is in fact a critique of the anti-Nazi thrust of the film.

8 Andrew September 13, 2009 at 8:02 pm

I have no clue what Tyler is saying. I just like how Brad Pitt says Natsi.

9 This is not my real name September 13, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Lonesnark wrote:

“I much preferred Reason’s Jesse Walker’s take on the movie.”

Thank you, I hadn’t read that.

10 Steve Sailer September 13, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Dennis Dale of “Untethered” commented at iSteve.blogspot.com:

I think you’ve onto something here, namely the fascist undercurrent in Tarantino’s oeuvre.
His characters are outlaws and marginal types, but they exist to celebrate the will to violence as purifying and self-justified. His heroes are heroes because they kill without shame; perhaps subconsciously, he conceals this within his traditional motifs, such as Kung Fu films–as far East as you can go to avoid the f-word.

The political implications of his work should appall the sensibilities of any “liberal” reviewer; by shuttling his violent fetish through the seemingly endless genres out there he’s made some very interesting, and some very awful, film.

11 jlkj September 13, 2009 at 10:44 pm

From the toqonline link.

The following quote raised my eyebrows (and again and again) but has a very interesting kernel of a point that I couldn’t quite get away from, even given the obvious biases of the author.

The symbolism and the message could not be clearer: Jews use movies and movie theaters as tools to destroy their enemies. And since the white people in the audience can most readily identify with the Germans, the message gets through: the Jewish movie business is a tool of hatred and vengeance directed against all white people.

Why would Quentin Tarantino make a movie about World War II in which Germans are portrayed as attractive human beings, Americans are portrayed as sadistic buffoons, Englishmen are portrayed as effete wankers, and Jews are portrayed as cold-blooded, inhuman mass murderers?

Why would Quentin Tarantino borrow plot elements from neo-Nazi Harold Covington’s The Brigade to craft a climax for his movie? Why would he use that climax to expose the true anti-white agenda of Hollywood?

Is Quentin Tarantino a Nazi-sympathizer?

Of course not. Nothing could be further from the truth. Quentin Tarantino is simply a nihilist with an unfailing instinct for finding and desecrating anything sacred. In Pulp Fiction — his one great movie, and his most sincere — Tarantino showed a profound grasp of the spiritual meaning of the duel to the death over honor, symbolized by the Samurai sword. In Kill Bill, vol. I, he made a giant joke of it.

In Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino has taken the one truly sacred myth in modern Jew-dominated America — especially in modern Hollywood — namely WW II and the holocaust, and he has desecrated it by inverting all of its core value judgments and reversing its stereotypes. In the process, he has exposed the true anti-white agenda of Hollywood. Why? Just because he can.

Hmmmm. I have to say that there is something to that idea of desecration. Inglourious Basterds is the first movie that depicts the Nazis as civilized and the Jews as savage killers rather than vice versa.

12 C September 13, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Holy shit, is it impossible that Nazi members had some interesting or sophisticated qualities while also doing rotten things? Reminds me of the dissonance around Der Untergang.

13 Douglas Knight September 13, 2009 at 11:43 pm

So what did you think of District 9? Most people aren’t calling it “politically incorrect.”

14 LoneSnark September 13, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I am appalled. There are many valid criticisms of them movie, there are many more opinions that are not directly refuted by the movie. But to suggest that the movie in any way portrayed the Nazi’s as civilized is absurd. Civilized societies do not hunt down and execute innocent people, hence the first scene of the movie, which confirms first and foremost what everyone already knew: the Nazis were inhuman mass murderers. Once that was settled, the movie moved on to what we didn’t already know: that everyone else was also. Even the Americans, which are described as punishing inhuman acts by their secret soldiers with ass-chewing.

15 Thomas Themel September 14, 2009 at 2:06 am

Well, on Tyler’s “crummy Austrian” theory – note that both Christoph Waltz and his character are also obviously Austrian, and I doubt that Tarantino has missed that fact in his alleged quest to produce a nazi propaganda movie in disguise.

Re: Tarantino – this very blog has an earlier post that sums up his work quite well.

16 glenn September 14, 2009 at 2:17 am

…and financed by the Weinstein brothers, but maybe that is meaningless.

17 H. September 14, 2009 at 2:41 am

“Tarantino made his Hong Kong movie, his martial arts movie, and his Blaxpoitation flick but I never expected him to dip into Nazi cinema.”

Why not? Nazisploitation was a prominent subgenre of exploitation films in the 70s (Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, Last Orgy of the Third Reich etc). Tarantino loves exploitation cinema in general.

Inglourious Basterds is a combination of nazisploitation, spaghetti western and old WW2 adventure b-films a la Where Eagles Dare, and a love letter to cinema (the discussions of Pabst, the movie theater setting etc). It is very difficult to find such a film truly offensive.

I think Tyler approached it with the wrong mindset.

18 Steve Sailer September 14, 2009 at 3:08 am

Douglas Knight asks Tyler:

“So what did you think of District 9? Most people aren’t calling it “politically incorrect.””

That’s because most movie critics are just plain ignorant about what’s been happening in southern Africa since Nelson Mandela was let out of prison in 1990 and Then They All Lived Happily Ever After.

District 9’s 29-year-old writer-director, Neill Blomkamp, who is a refugee from South Africa, gave dozens of interviews explaining that his movie wasn’t just an Apartheid Allegory, that much of it was about post-apartheid Johannesburg and its Malthusian future. Tyler, because he reads my stuff all the time, is one of the few who grasped what Blomkamp has been talking about:

http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/alien_nation/

I certainly wouldn’t classify Blomkamp, who was driven from his homeland into exile at the impressionable age of 17 by pervasive violence, with Tarantino, a lavishly gifted filmmaker who chooses to use his talents to jerk his audience around.

But it does say much about the pervasiveness of political correctness that few people have listened to what these two guys have had to say about their own movies.

19 Leif September 14, 2009 at 4:32 am

I’m two ways about this. Mainly I would call QT’s films morally undeveloped, in the sense that his concern with morality as a theme is minimal and as such there is very little intentional content vis-a-vis morality to be found his work.

Caveat established, there is something to be said about the fact that Landa is the closest thing to a protagonist that the film offers. To depict him as the icon of nazi slime and calculation (a motif definitely present in the film on some level – in Goebbels and the nazi captain in the bar scene, for example) would be to severely discount not only the depth of his character but the sheer amount of thought that clearly went into developing him. That’s not to say he isn’t a stereotype – he is most certainly a stereotype (just like all QT characters) – its just that he’s a very precisely developed QT version of the 19th century classical German male, intelligent, articulate and unconstrained by socially determined norms or ideology (QT is careful to not let one word of naziprop escape Landa’s mouth, despite the fact that every other nazi in the film spouts it incessantly).

And lets not forget the fact that, despite a final and intentionally superficial gesture towards the “heroes”/jew-nazis, it is solely because of Landa’s classically German, even Schopenhaurian genius that the larger situation ends “favorably”. At no point during the film was the situation ever out of Landa’s hands, and at no point was there even a suggestion that he didn’t understand the entire picture. So because Landa’s stereotype prevails (and more importantly enraptures the audience), at the very least the film can be viewed as tolerant of the 19th century German individualist, racist-or-borderline-racist, Wille zum Leben philosophy that was ultimately transformed into nazi doctrine.

This is why, like Tyler, I also had a gut-negative reaction to the movie, though maybe not to quite the same extent. I was still entertained, mainly because I knew it was a prank to get the audience unwittingly pulling for nazis, not a (lol) QT tribute to amoral German philosophy.

20 Nik Kondratieff September 14, 2009 at 8:47 am

Tyler,

stick to economics

Nik

21 Slocum September 14, 2009 at 9:16 am

I was still entertained, mainly because I knew it was a prank to get the audience unwittingly pulling for nazis, not a (lol) QT tribute to amoral German philosophy.

Count me among those who couldn’t have begun to pull for Landa and the Nazis and couldn’t have imagined that was the reaction of others in the audience or that was QT’s intention. I, too, think Jesse Walker nailed it.

QT is careful to not let one word of naziprop escape Landa’s mouth, despite the fact that every other nazi in the film spouts it incessantly

Yes, but it’s not only Landa — Zoller also imagines himself much better than the crude Nazis. But QT does not mean for us to buy into this, and I never began to ‘pull for’ Landa because of his intelligence and sophistication. We are certainly not supposed to feel pleased by Landa working his deal and getting his cushy sinecure in the U.S.

The smooth, sophisticated sociopath is a stock villain (done especially effectively by QT–but a stock villain nonetheless)–why would anyone think QT intended his audience to admire him?

22 JB September 14, 2009 at 10:07 am

So, you label these thoughts unacceptable? Is this because you genuinely believe that we should not accept this review?

23 How Movies Work September 14, 2009 at 11:31 am

Inglourious Basterds is an absolute triumph of scenes. They are masterful film scenes, scenes constructed by a filmmaker of stunning genius. The first scene of the movie is nearly 20 minutes long, and it grabs you by the throat from the first frame.

Using every great cinematic trick in the book Tarantino shows us the vivid, extraordinary villain, COLONEL HANS LANDA, as he slowly and methodically toys with the heroic French farmer in his farmhouse. In the scene, Landa slowly reduces the farmer, from a protector of his hidden Jewish guests, to a broken man who must give them up for death. Tarantino’s film making rivets you, absolutely rivets you, to the screen.

The scene is a Sistine Chapel of discrete beautiful triptychs, of sequencing, cutting, writing, and movement. I slipped into it like a morphia haze. Tarantino is a genius.

So why does the movie fizzle in the third act?

Because Tarantino’s story genius is not up to his cinematic genius.

I.e. his STORYLINE doesn’t work very well.

What is storyline?

Storyline is simply the WAY the scenes progress. How they move forward. Do they create more tension and suspense as the movie moves forward?

In studio coverage, (remember, we are script readers, who write reports on the scripts we read, which we then give to the movie studio executive who wants our opinion) we have five main Elements by which we judge a script. Storyline is one of those Elements (the others are Premise, Structure, Characters, and Dialogue.)

Think of storyline as the STRING that holds all the scenes of a movie together.

The string is good or bad, depending on how TIGHT it is.

The TIGHTNESS of a storyline is due to whether or not the filmmaker is tugging on it, tugging on you – to make you keep watching the story.

And that tightness is achieved through tension and suspense.

A tight, suspense-filled storyline is why you can’t take your eyes off the screen to go get Milk Duds or have a slash. A storyline that lacks tension is why you start thinking about whether or not you should get your oil changed after the movie —or hell, why not just go to JiffyLube right now, this movie sucks†¦

But in a great TIGHT storyline, you’re always asking — will the bomb in the scene go off? (I’ll hold off getting popcorn till I see if it does.) Will the killer catch the young girl? (I don’t have to pee THAT bad, I’ll wait to see if he does.) Will Spock make it to Vulcan before the red matter explodes the planet, killing his parents (and everybody else)? Will Spock manage to set up the villain so he is foiled through Spock’s time travel trap? Will Kirk learn to work with Spock and the others and not just be fighter?

That’s tension. That’s suspense. It sticks you in your seat.

I’ve never seen anyone create more tension and suspense WITHIN a scene than Tarantino. And IB is full of scenes of enormous tension and suspense.

But in a great movie, tension and suspense also have to increase all ALONG the storyline – not just within individual scenes.

The plot, in other words, has to pull you in tighter and tighter and tighter, ALONG the storyline. As it PROGRESSES.

But when it comes to pulling the storyline TIGHT, to making you want to watch and see what happens next, Tarantino’s magnificent scenes can’t do it.

Individually they are gorgeous pearls, but when he tries to string them together, they slip off and scatter on the floor.

In the third act, because of this slack storyline, the movie lost me.

Why?

Because in IB’s third act, the villain, Landa, who starts out so powerfully in the first act, begins to lose power to the good guys – and villains in most stories need to get stronger and stronger, not weaker and weaker.

To explain, let me describe the premise (one of the five Elements) of IB. IB is basically a revenge plot (a favorite of Renaissance playwrights like MARLOWE) – where a villainous villain gets his, but ONLY after showing the audience what a villain he is. The villain does this by horrifying the audience and making them bay for villain’s blood. That way, it’s such sweet release to see him killed. Bloodily, if possible. That’s a revenge plot story. Cinema is full of them. Try one yourself. They make for good movies.

IB has a great candidate for a revenge plot villain – the sickeningly clever Nazi ‘Jew hunter’ Landa. But Landa isn’t the only villain in IB – there is also Hitler and Goebbels, and PRIVATE ZOLLER, a young German sniper who is a hero for killing scores of Allied soldiers. How great! I always tell my students – don’t be afraid to make your villains huge, numerous, and really, really villainy. Make them as badass and evil as you can, and then DOUBLE that! (For some reason, a lot of writers soft-pedal their villains. Don’t.)

And Tarantino has great villains here. One of them is Hitler, for goodness sake!

And Tarantino does a great job in the first two acts of giving us scenes of unbelievable villainy – as Landa cuts a swathe through the Jewish populations of Europe, as he sniffs out Jews and Allied spies with cruel genius.

The story’s storyline is pulling you tighter into wanting to see the villains wasted, murdered and chopped up.

And that’s what you get.

But then, in the bottom of the second act, the storyline grows abruptly SLACK.

The climax of the movie is a scene in a movie theater where Hitler and Goebbels are
machine gunned to death by the Inglourious Basterds themselves, as well as burned to death by the theater’s owner, Shoshanna (the only survivor of the first scene’s massacre.)

And there isn’t a hint of tension or suspense in this climactic scene. (There’s lots of breathtakingly beautiful imagery, but I went out to take a pee anyway. The movie had no tension.)

Why?

Because the audience KNOWS Hitler and Goebbels are gonna get it – there was no question, no worries, it is all preordained.

Why?

Because the storyline tells us this. beginning late in the second act. It tells us that ‘hey, killing Hitler is gonna be a slam dunk.’

Suddenly, the tension is gone. We see that the good guys are suddenly holding all the cards! Suddenly the worm has turned. How? Because the Inglourious Bastards have been tipped off to how to ambush Hitler at the theater! Plus, there is a whole separate set of assassins! (Shoshanna, who was the only survivor from Landa’s killing spree in the first scene, is going to burn the theater down with Hitler in it.)

So we have TWO sets of folks going to kill Hitler. Not only that, but now we see that Hitler doesn’t even bring bodyguards to the theater! But wait a minute – it gets worse! Landa, the great Nazi villain, himself now turns ‘traitor’, goes over to the Allies, and decides to HELP them kill Hitler. (In return for some nice beachfront property in New England.)

Upshot? So much crap is about to come down on Hitler’s head that the audience finds it impossible to believe he can escape – and in fact, he doesn’t.

So there is no tension or suspense.

The scene itself where Hitler is assassinated does, have, of course, great and glorious cinematic power – Shoshanna’s face peering from the scream like an avenging angel, the image of the nitrate film showering down like god’s meteors on the richly deserving true bastard Nazis below†¦a terrible beauty. Of image.

But where is the suspense?

There is none.

It is a letdown.

Now am I spray-painting graffiti on the Sistine Chapel to make this critique of Inglourious Basterds (which I enjoyed enormously, and which I think is in many ways a film of great genius?)

No. I’m just telling you how important it is to keep the tension and suspense in your storyline.

And Tarantino can do it INSIDE scenes, but not all ALONG the storyline.

It sounds simple to do, yes? Hell, it sounds easy.

But just try to do it in your script.

It ain’t easy. Just because it’s simple and obvious, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Even Tarantino couldn’t sustain it in IB.

24 smellerbee September 14, 2009 at 11:46 am

See the racist Steve Sailer complain about a movie’s anti-Semitic undertones just about split my sides.

25 Anderson September 14, 2009 at 12:19 pm

The first uncomfortable moment for me came when the Basterds interrogate the German officer in the forest. However evil his cause and perhaps his own deeds, it’s difficult not to sympathize with him. And QT knows that, obviously: what’s the officer’s last word? Isn’t it when he says he won his Iron Cross for “Bravery”? After which “the Bear Jew” brains him with a baseball bat, like Capone in “The Untouchables”?

In “Kill Bill” we saw QT working within a strict revenge ethos where the avenger can respect and even love her victim, but that doesn’t interfere with the necessity of revenge: an infraction has been committed, and there is “unfinished business” until it’s put right again.

That doesn’t work so well with I.B., since the Basterds are seeking a more impersonal vengeance (for their fellow Jews), against German soldiers (called “Nazis” whether they is or ain’t) who may have done nothing worse than be drafted.

Then there’s the cinema finale, with the audience — particularly Hitler — laughing at the kills in a way that has to make QT’s audience wonder if they themselves are having the same reaction. QT’s defense here, I believe, is that he’s not doing the “ha ha soldier fall down” kind of movie; his violence is grittier, so you can’t miss feeling it. But it’s not clear to me that the Basterds’ own morality goes beyond that in the sniper movie.

But then, what does sympathy get you? Shoshanna shows pity for the fallen soldier she’s killed, in stark contrast to the Nazis’ reax to the sniper film — and gets killed for it.

Finally, Landa gets away — probably not to the Congressional Medal of Honor, and with a new scar, but hey, that’s what plastic surgery’s for, right? WTF is Landa doing walking out of this picture?

(And why, can anyone tell me, do Shoshanna and Marcel seem to take it for granted that they have to die in the fire, leaving aside Shoshanna’s actual demise?)

26 Patrick W. September 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Holy movie critique fail.

27 Dave R. September 14, 2009 at 2:52 pm

I’ve studied Nazi cinema, history and culture, too. I wrote my dissertation on a concentration camp (Neuengamme near Hamburg) and have interviewed former inmates of the Gestapo prison in Hamburg.

I’ve also lived in Germany for nearly half my life (I’m English).

I think you’re failing to distinguish between the craft and skill that went into Nazi cinema and the baser motivations of the Nazi elite. In particular, Riefenstahl’s Triumph des Willens is a cinematic masterpiece. Propaganda for arguably the most evil regime of the last century (or more), yet nevertheless a masterpiece.

Personally, I loved the attention to detail in Inglourious Basterds (my first thought when the British spy held up three fingers was, “Oh no! He’s rumbled!”, and my second was, “Wow! Tarantino has really done his homework.”) And I also enjoyed the fact that the Nazis were largely portrayed as human beings, rather than one-dimensional, evil henchmen, because that’s what they mostly were.

That the good guys were the brutal animals behaving in a way we’d normally expect celluloid Nazis to doesn’t seem to have given anyone pause for thought.

The vast majority of the Nazis were perfectly normal people, just like the Allies. Hearing a German at that time unthinkingly referring to Jews as dogs or similar is really not that far removed from today’s Republicans unthinkingly labelling Obama et al “Nazis”, or in the case of Brits, ignorantly blaming those “bloody immigrants” for all of society’s ills.

People would do well to firstly educate themselves a bit, and secondly learn to step back from their own fundamental assumptions about the world.

How many people know that in the 30s the US government was busy sterilising people it thought to be sub-standard, and there was healthy correspondence with the Nazis right up till the point they started euthanising people instead of sterilising?

Regarding the first post, Paul’s, what did you expect? The Germans are very, very aware of what happened, but sadly like everyone else, they are under the delusion that everyone during the Nazi regime was evil to the core.

The British public could not stop Tony Blair waging a war no-one wanted, and all he and his Labour cronies did (along with Bush and his cronies) was to abolish a few fundamental human rights here and there. What chance do you think YOU would stand against a regime prepared to beat you half (or even entirely) to death for speaking out?

28 Max September 14, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Hmm, I am German, I must say I enjoyed this movie a lot. Perhaps many Americans might have a problem with a movie that is almost all the way subtitled, because the actors either speak french or German (or even Italian), but that doesn’t seem to be the criticism in the higher eds.

That Tarantino enjoys and is interested in Nazi propaganda movies can be seen in this film and in some of his other oeuvres. However, he doesn’t glorify Germans, especially the more than stupid Hitler and the excessive Goebbles are an exceptional show-off for this.

But I think his criticism of uneducated Americans is mostly a reference to nowaday America, where most of the Americans can only speak one language and have even problems to actually locate foreign countries on a globe. He actually captures pretty easily European prejudices towards Americans (though statistics and general comparisons between European pupils and American pupils seem to support this notion).

On the other side, he never goes so far as to mean that his movie is a “historical” depiction and someone who thinks about it that way obviously didn’t understand the movie.

Yes, it certainly isn’t a morality play, but it never attempts to be one. It is a mix of a bad western and a B-movie and it should be entertaining and not teach you morals. If you want that, there are plenty of other movies. Also, many times I am pretty annoyed with those morality plays, especially if they are obvious or straight up in your face (Day after Tomorrow anyone)…

29 cbrunk September 14, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Four years of reading Tyler and this is the most surprising post I’ve read.

There is a fine line between those that consume high culture for personal fulfillment and those that do it to for grotesque reasons, such as to become elitist. Tyler is a member of the first group and the Nazis are among the latter.

Consider, for example (and there are plenty of examples), the scene in the movie in which the Nazis are considering whether to use Shosanna’s theatre as a venue for the premier. After viewing the lobby, one of the Nazis decides — in about five seconds — that this classic French theatre house is too bland to and suggests decorating it with Greek statues and art.

Tarantino is by no means celebrating the Nazi aesthetic. He is showing us how the Nazis used high culture as a weapon to supplant other cultures that they did not favor.

30 Steve_in_NC September 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I very much disagree with every interpretation in this you post.

“Inglorious Bastards” is a Clint Eastwood/Spaghetti Western set in World War II. In fact most of the main themes are direct rip offs of Films like “Hang ‘Em High” (see Brad Pitts noose scar across his neck), and “High Plains Driver” (see the fire scene). Not only does he steal the scenes he steals the music. Hitler is nothing more than Lee Van Cleef or any other swarmy mexican type from the Sergio Leone movies.

Having seen too many of these movies in my youth these connections are obvious to me. Why didn’t he just make a western, I guess that’s the conceit of the whole project.

31 Jake September 14, 2009 at 8:18 pm

I think he should kept the original title, “I Love Nazis (Also, Women’s Feet).”

32 Ian September 14, 2009 at 10:26 pm

The Nazi characters weren’t even elegant. Decadent might be a better word.

33 Senescent September 15, 2009 at 12:16 am

The inversions were kind of fascinating – like how counter to the standard WWII movie practice, where the Nazis are interchangeable and the Americans are a squad of distinct (arche)types, IB has the Nazis a diverse bunch and the allies ALL streetwise Brooklyn types. Or the way that none of the Germans seem to have any particular malice towards Jews as Jews, but all the Jews have malice towards the Germans as Germans.

Ultimately, the movie makes you notice that it kind of strange that we’ve honored the Nazis by… well, by designating them as an indistinguishable vermin race that can be killed at will and en masse without compunction, so as to more usefully serve our own culture’s narratives.

34 Josh Wexler September 15, 2009 at 5:21 am

Prof Cowen,

I appreciate the fact that you can agree with a particular opinion of Steve Sailer, even though you “fundamentally disagree” with him elsewhere (I presume most saliently on racial issues). I have read and considered Steve Sailer articles that I have found interesting and worthwhile reads, despite the fact that I think it’s fair to call him a white supremacist.

But it is odd and disturbing that you would buffer your opinion by linking to TWO articles written by white ethnocentrists (and not explicitly disavow their racial views which imbue the articles). You qualified your link to the Sailer article, but you leave your disagreement vague. And you made no qualification in linking to the Trevor Lynch article. Not only has “Trevor Lynch” (a pseudonym) written in The Occidental Quarterly twice about discouraging “the tragedy of race-mixing,” but the article to which you linked contained several queasy comments about white focal points.

Having read and admired this blog for years (I’m also halfway through “Creating Your Own Economy”), I can’t imagine that you sympathize with these writers’ racial views. And I’m generally annoyed when public intellectuals are asked to declare they are not racists. But, I hope you can see why I think this post deserves an explication. I feel a little uncomfortable reading this blog right now which is a very strange and unexpected thing to be feeling.

-Josh Wexler
New Orleans

35 Nat Almirall September 15, 2009 at 11:45 am

Prof. Cowen, I’ve read all your books, and I think I understand your opinion. Your point about political-incorrectness is enlightening, though I loved and still love the movie. And I find your reaction to it very odd–or at least not in tune with what I thought it would be. Thinking about it in terms of this post, it seems you’re uncomfortable with Tarantino’s finding decency in the Nazis. I’m sure, like you say, he doesn’t favor the rule of the Nazis, but he gives us something human about them, after all, they all of them weren’t not humans.

In any event, Inglourious Basterds seemed to have a profound impact on you, and that’s pretty notable.

36 Tyler Cowen September 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

Josh (and some others), my piece is very clearly an attack on anti-semitism (“negative and disturbing”), for one thing.

37 Neon Love September 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I liked this film, but Tarantino is just too pop for me. No. When it comes to crypto-fascist filmmakers, I still prefer Kubrick.

38 Perry December 3, 2009 at 11:19 pm

I live in Thailand and most Thai’s are predjudiced against Blacks because of the violent Black characters that are portrayed in American films. The Thai’s equate Blacks with crime, violence and death.

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