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Tarantino + WWII = (Evil) Genius

Tarantino + WWII = (Evil) Genius

by Sarah Dawson / 01.11.2009

Inglourious Basterds, The Prince of Postmodernity’s newest offering, opened this week with surprisingly little fanfare. I suppose of late he hasn’t been producing quite the same kind of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs awesomeness as he was in the nineties: Kill Bill was okay-ish, but actually pretty lame compared to P.F. if we’re all honest with ourselves. He redeemed some of his coolness in his enigmatically vague role of “special guest director” of Sin City, but then lost it again in the crash-and-burn anticlimax of Death Proof (which I didn’t actually hate as much as the box office did).

And then, for his big comeback, he makes a war film. Eh? Yawn. But, hold on…

Ample and serious firepower? Check. Totally barking lunatics? Check. Good looking ladies not afraid to take matters into their own hands? Check (actually this is sounding exactly like the makings of a good Tarantino). Loads of material for cheeky referential in-jokes? Check. Revenge plot? Check. Dead Jews splattered on the floor? Wait a minute…
Oh come on. Yeah the Holocaust was bad. We know that. But what’s the difference between a Nazi Blitzkrieg and some crazy motherfucker driving his invincible car into a bunch of hot ladies really… They’re both just as Freudian.
It’s just a matter of scale.
Tarantino says it’s about time to wrench it from its shackles of history and make it freely disposable for ironic use, just like everything else. It’s about damn time. Tears for the Holocaust are so 1940s.

Or does he?

Actually, this is not a film about Nazis. This is film about film. Or a “metafilm”, if you want to sound clever. Then, if you’re planning on watching this film, you’d probably be more likely to explain why they call it a Royale with cheese if you wanted to sound clever. But Quentin’s onto you.

For a large part of the film, you’re watching a people watching film. You stare the screen, they stare back. So what’s that thing in the middle?
In simple terms, Tarantino’s film-about-film says movies are in one way or another about a kind of glory, about cultural mythmaking. The Nazis did it. We do it. It’s about putting things up on the pedestal so that we can all go ooh, ahh or eek together at the appropriate time. Not that that’s never a noble endeavour, but how come we never stick out our greasy, KFC-licked fingers to poke the LG flatscreen and ask, “Hey! Where’s the third dimension?” Only when it’s leaping out to get us in plumes of flame and smoke (as it does in I.B.) do we actually start to screaming, “What is this monster?!”

Inglorious Basterds

So Tarantino’s film is brazenly and unashamedly revisionist of a history we all know backwards. (They didn’t just forget to highlight the title when they spell-checked the script), and shows us that veracity and cameras have never really been good friends.

We know the difference between reality and movies, you say? I’m not talking about the crazies who have to be reminded that, no, they can’t enroll at Hogwarts next year. I’m talking to those of you who have probably never given much thought to the fact that, believe it or not, Truman Capote didn’t necessarily sound like Phillip Seymour Hoffman got into the Spur balloon helium, or that to NOT choose life, NOT choose a job, NOT choose a starter home is pretty much like looking at the same picture, upside down.

The problem is: Tarantino, the king of hip self-referentiality, is so far inside enemy lines, the forces who sent him have forgotten he’s their spy. Either way he’s getting some sweet intelligence. But the people who need it will never crack the code. Sigh.

Inglourious Basterds is a truly intelligent film, made for and about that writhing mass of wholly unintelligent people out there that constitutes humanity. The people who consume the world like Jules’ burgers and will go out, get their popcorn and Astros, and sit open-mouthed, poised to guzzle down as many references to Internet memes and classic film their beady eyes can detect. Then they’ll go home and compare with their friends.

Hey, don’t sneer… that’s you, isn’t it?

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  1. tumi.j says:

    no it isn’t. much as I want to praise a sister – this is like the worst review in history. around 50 million people died in ww2 – that’s ‘the difference between a Nazi blitzkrieg and some crazy motherfucker driving his invincible car into a bunch of hot ladies’. what are you on? that ‘thing in the middle’ is your navel – which you’re circling like a fool. and ‘that writhing mass of wholly unintelligent people out there that constitutes humanity’ is the only thing that can save you from your dull confused post-everything cynicism, you inglorious bitch!

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  2. Miss Sarah Dee says:

    I’m so glad Quentin and I could add a little fire to your day, Tumi.
    Incitement to hyperbole, unbridled name-calling… Job done.

    No, but seriously. Cynicism, sarcasm, using the language of the enemy:
    not all the same thing.

    How’s the Royale with cheese?

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  3. Graeme Swanepoel says:

    Tarintino hype.
    Flat unexplored story. brilliant characters. Lucky his name has a following.

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  4. djf says:

    The problem with genocides is that we’re in such a hurry to forget them. Since the Nazi holocaust there have been repeat offences in Rwanda, Kosovo and millions murdered in Cambodia, Russia and elsewhere. And the world still has to formally acknowledge what happened in Armenia early in the 20th Century.

    All the while less collective thought has been devoted to our capacity for such horror than has been squandered on the likes of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Amnesia and superficiality seem to be the most powerful tranquilisers of all. If this is a signifier of our further evolution and the progress of postmodern thought, then please teleport me back to the 1940’s, not for the sake of comfort but for a reality check.

    No, I am not Jewish. That’s the whole point.

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  5. Kate says:

    Perhaps your blasé definition of the metafilmic genre is a smokescreen for your incapacity to really comment upon the film…

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  6. Miss Sarah Dee says:


    Apparently the post- hasn’t arrived.

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  7. Hidden Truth says:

    These type of films serve only to add impotus to the distorted truths that have been fed to the world for the purpose of manipulation and control. Some “countries” would never have risen to power or even been formed without WWII…or rather…would have taken a little longer to come into exisitence.
    Any hint of a question with regards to the “facts” are met with screams and howls. The enquiring mind labelled a denialist and fascist……application of the golden rule rule …they who have the gold make the rules…

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  8. michelle says:

    i think you need to go back to school and learn how to write.
    or at least get someone who can construct a sentence to proof read your articles before you publish them for all to read.
    then, maybe, you should stop trying so hard to sound smart. it actually makes you look really stupid.

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  9. Andy says:

    Yoh Michelle, such anger… what’s got you going? Name calling is silly. I can tell you’re upset – but I don’t know why? How did Ms Dawson upset you so??

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  10. Miss Sarah Dee says:

    Oh dear.

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  11. Skin Deep says:

    shame, poor tumi.j seems not to realise that his attempt to create a smokescreen of bile and vitriol to obscure his utter inability to construct a counter-argument against the review is nothing but a massive advertisement for his own intellectual impotence. how can you call someone a bitch if you don’t even know them? luckily your few lines of drivel are enough for one to be able to know your shrill shallow soul like the back of one’s hand. perhaps you should get your seratonin levels checked or at least sharpen your blunt little blade when you try to scalp someone you pathetic cowardly BITCH.

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  12. dirk says:

    Haha. Rad review Sarah.
    Even radder responses. Clearly a collection of Barry Ronge review fans who can\’t handle a little milky sarcasm in their tea. Maybe next time rate the movie using shiny gold stars to provide a little less ambiguity for them.

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  13. bored says:

    I don’t know who is more pretentious here, the reviewer or those leaving comments.
    except michelle. She speaks the truth when she says ‘you should stop trying so hard to sound smart. it actually makes you look really stupid’.
    and i love the way andy davis feels the need to respond (really defensively) every time someone makes a comment. i suppose editing mahala must get a bit boring sometimes

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  14. d says:

    wow ..

    i got so bored reading this review i stopped half way and read the comments, then tried to read it again .. to no avail ..

    its a review keep it simple, im not interested in your ramblings.

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  15. helen help us says:

    this is definitely the worst review i have ever written (and I’ve read plenty bad reviews).

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  16. Rico says:

    Saw it a few days ago — piece of overblown crap — torturously long, self-indulgent set pieces — playing fast and loose with history and utterly pointless. Some interesting characters and some very good performances by some of the actors… but all in all as banal as this review.

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  17. ARP says:

    I think that most of you saw a different movie entirely, which I guess is true to some extent, given our own personal cognitive biases and blindspots.

    I personally loved this movie, and enjoyed Sarah’s review, even though I didn’t agree with all of it, but I guess that’s okay…

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  18. wowee says:

    Sarah, these people, though i’m sure they’re very nice, clearly do not Get It.
    And when people don’t get it they always become quite shrill and foot-stompy. (And mean).
    People don’t remember genocide? Really?? What a stupid and ludicrous thing to say. That is the whole point. We “remember” all too well. That is the joke, dear.
    I thought this review was excellent. Well done.

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