Jews killing Nazis is the dream

Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds is a Jewish revenge fantasy, showing Jews kill, maim and torture Nazis. I saw it last night and found it pretty entertaining, if a tad overlong. Witty, brutal, childish, surreal and self-referential. Don’t read too much into it and recognise that Tarantino isn’t really making any deep points about anything, and it’s a fun ride. It didn’t really get my Jewish blood running, though (oh to kill Nazis to revenge my family’s many deaths):

The Independent’s Johann Hari has a few quibbles:

“Violence in the movies can be cool,” he [Tarantino] says. “It’s just another colour to work with. When Fred Astaire dances, it doesn’t mean anything. Violence is the same. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s a colour.”

He scorns anyone who tries to see simulated violence as having meaning. With a laugh, he says: “John Woo’s violence has a very insightful view as to how the Hong Kong mind works because, with 1997 approaching and blah blah blah. I don’t think that’s why he’s doing it. He’s doing it because he gets a kick out of it.” Praising Stanley Kubrik’s direction of A Clockwork Orange, he says: “He enjoyed the violence a little too much. I’m all for that.”

What’s wrong with this vision? Why does it make me so queasy? I don’t believe works of art should be ennobling. I don’t believe the heroes should be virtuous, or that bad characters should get their comeuppance. It can show deeply violent and deeply cruel people, and tell us that – as in real life – they can be charismatic and successful and never pay a price for their cruelty. But what it should never do is tell us that human suffering itself is trivial. It should never turn pain into a punch-line….

Not long after 9/11, he said: “It didn’t affect me because there’s, like, a Hong Kong action movie… called Purple Storm and they work in a whole big thing in the plot that they blow up a skyscraper.” It’s a case-study in atrophy of moral senses: to brag you weren’t moved by the murder of two-and-half-thousand actual people, because you’d seen it in a movie.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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