August 11, 2009 | 8:35 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Quentin Tarantino’s new film “Inglourious Basterds” is the ultimate Jewish revenge fantasy. In it, a band of physically intimidating American Jews, led by Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine go on a Nazi killing spree that turns the brutality of the Holocaust onto its perpetrators.
The film is generating tons of buzz for rewriting the ending to one of history’s greatest tragedies and perhaps, even more notably, for challenging the cinematic legacy of Jewish victimhood and replacing it with a brutal, empowering alternative.
We’ve got much more ‘Basterds’ coverage coming your way, including exclusive interviews with director Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, actor/director Eli Roth and several other cast members. But for now, check out Jeffrey Goldberg’s quite brilliant interview with Tarantino, in which the acclaimed director is painted a hero for turning Jewish victimhood on its “mother*&%$#” ear. Though it’s worth adding that Goldberg isn’t afraid to take him to task on the issue of torture. Is the film too violent? Too brutal? Is it, as Goldberg concludes, a film that could only be made by a non-Jewish director?
Read more from the Atlantic:
...I found myself sitting beside Quentin Tarantino’s pool in the Hollywood Hills, listening in wonder as the writer and director of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction diagnosed what he saw as the essential, maddening flaw of every Holocaust movie ever made.
“Holocaust movies always have Jews as victims,” he said, plainly exasperated by Hollywood’s lack of imagination. “We’ve seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let’s see Germans that are scared of Jews. Let’s not have everything build up to a big misery, let’s actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this situation.”
It is true that most—some might even say all—films about the Holocaust focus on the persecution of Jews. The Holocaust was very bad for Jews; this is an immovable fact of history. But Tarantino isn’t wrong to suggest that the cinematic depiction of anti-Semitic persecution can become wearying over time, particularly for Semites. In Judd Apatow’s comedy Knocked Up, Seth Rogen’s character praises Steven Spielberg’s Munich for featuring Jewish assassins: “Every movie with Jews, we’re the ones getting killed. Munich flips it on its ear. We’re capping motherfuckers!”
Early in the film, Aldo the Apache announces the goals of his unit: “We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. They will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us.” Soon enough, the Basterds are committing war crimes, beating prisoners to death and collecting the scalps of dead Germans. “Every man under my command owes me 100 Nazi scalps,” Aldo demands.
The horror-movie director Eli Roth—his film Hostel is the most repulsively violent movie I’ve ever seen twice—plays a Basterd known as the “Bear Jew,” whose specialty is braining Germans with a baseball bat. Roth told me recently that Inglourious Basterds falls into a subgenre he calls “kosher porn.”
“It’s almost a deep sexual satisfaction of wanting to beat Nazis to death, an orgasmic feeling,” Roth said. “My character gets to beat Nazis to death. That’s something I could watch all day. My parents are very strong about Holocaust education. My grandparents got out of Poland and Russia and Austria, but their relatives did not.”
Tarantino’s producer, Lawrence Bender, says that after reading the first draft of Inglourious Basterds, he told Tarantino, “As your producing partner, I thank you, and as a member of the Jewish tribe, I thank you, motherfucker, because this movie is a fucking Jewish wet dream.” Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the film’s executive producers, also reportedly enjoyed the film’s theme of Jewish revenge.
It is not an accident that it took a non-Jewish director to concoct this story of brutal Jewish revenge. It is difficult to imagine a Jew in Hollywood—each one more self-conscious than the next—portraying Jews as vengeance-seeking knifemen. Neal Gabler, the author of An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, told me that Jewish revenge fantasies aren’t entirely alien to the movie industry, but they’ve always been exercises in sublimation, Superman being only the most obvious. “Jews have gone from being nonexistent in film to being thoroughly represented, but no Jew would ever make a film like Inglourious Basterds,” Gabler said. “It’s too brazen.”
Check out the trailer:
And this Atlantic video analyzing the film:
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