A film made entirely in Quintein Tarantino’s head, IB would have been much better off as a published screenplay. A Jewish-Nazi revenge comic reminiscent of Alistar Mc lean adventures, the film ends up looking more like one of James hadley chase’s work(JHC was a British colonel with Indian army experience,who wrote novels aout the US without ever quite being there, on the basis of research. His books were great but if you were in the US, they sort of felt flat, with good reason) . This is Tarantino mainstraming himself. His erudite films usually cater to a cult audience that is into Asian ..violent or cool Independent films.
IB alas is none of the three. the goriest it gets is when someone has a swastika carved on his head. this film is QT’s homage to Warner brothers action films. death is accompanied by gunfire, not gore. Contextualized within a war, death is not shocking, painful or morally ambiguous. Death is business, like the slaughter of chicken in a poultry farm. The icons peel off the real like minimized amoral cobra skin. The study in contrast is between this film and Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (to which he pays sub-concious tribute with the scene in the forest where the Besterds kill the Nazis. ) The villains in that film weren’t merely doing a job. They were evil.
Chater I : The Script
So is Tarantino, then writing in a deconstruction of the world war to minimize Nazis? That isn’t ALL the script does. It also offers cinematic absolution to all the guilty by inaction crimes in world history. The Jews have a southern accent, as if the south was not anti Semetic enough to let Jewish people integrate . Southern Accents ( noticeably baptist) could be accents of southern black people as easily as they could be white southerners, even as the Germans speaking English might easily have Pennsylvania dutch accents.
So are the besterds really an integrated confederate force that might have won the civil war for the south(after all, wasn’t the union army equally segregated and racist, the director seems to ask)?
The denouement in a theater of Hitler being shot is also appropriately lincolnesque. I don’t see this as Tarantino advocating the dominance of the slave owning south as much as his offering absolution from unrequited ambitions of the civil war.
There is also an accusatory finger pointed at french cinema. While Melanie Laurent’s essay as the theater owner who destroys Hitler in a suicide bombing of the theater is well constructed, this is an angry Tarantino. He aims his “Uncle Sam Wants You” finger directly at the chest of the whole murky era of french collaboration with the Nazis and then at the guallist nationalism that replaced it by getting his “never neverland” heroine not only to be a “secretly jewish” french person, but also to be a theater owner with a deep friendship with an African employee (as if , to use Bazin’s description of Godard’s breathless, “anything goes” ) .
The questions from the past are fairly cut and dried. Both Hitler’s Nazis and Stalin’s communists have been dead and forgotten for about fifty years (I forgot them when at first, we partitioned off India, and then got Pakistan to divide, and they put in brutally repressive dictators first in Vietnam , then in cambodia and finally then in Indonesia. each of these Holocaust were bigger than hitler’s concentration camps. The more relevant question is : is Tarantino , then offering absolution for what the Iraqis didn’t do? Get groups of committed nationalists to take revenge on the Occupying US armies. And is he then also offering absolution or for every occupied people’s passivity in face of naked domination and humiliation? (Palestinian Suicide bombers?) This is not moral relativism. it is escapist cinema at its most self actualized.
Chapter II the politics:
The french left bank had this debate in the 1970’s. cinema, it concluded was a burgoise art. true propaganda is from action. (The French leftist Intellectuals , after having concluded this, then proceeded to be the burgoise and sat on their butts. Te last time an Intellectual actually did work for a cause actively was during the Spanish civil war) .
If IB is bourgeois propaganda, serving the purpose of informing the capitalist of the true aspirations of the proletariat(to Paraphrase aMarxist propaganda of the day) so that they may be suppressed more thoroughly, then the movie FAILS at this. this is Tarantino’s true victory as a director. Somewhere between the writing of the script and the execution of the film , it becomes like a Sikh shrine of book worship. Having constructed his altar, Tarantino proceeds to worship at it, in a way that to the Identifying audience of would be revenge takers, the film comes off like a mall magician mummified in smoke and mirrors.
While I would love to credit Tarantino with having thought all this out when he shot IB, I think this is more like guerrilla film making(snicker snort) by Hollywood. Tarantino’s business location shows through in the film’s values and aspirations. As if the declaration of Independence were written from a paris mistresses boudoir on scented pink parchment(some say it was) .
Chapter III: History
So how will history judge IB? as Tarantino’s pink period film? as the film that finally disassembled him? as a forgettable movie made by a geek who ran out of Ideas? I somehow don’t think so. I think IB will sink without a trace. and the reason I think that is not from Tarantino’s vices or virtues as a film maker, its because the Hollywood auteur , like God, is truly dead. In the marketplace for digital entertainment, Hollywood is simultaneously globalizing its output and competing with recipes cooked up internationally for audiences who neither care for Cannes fare , nor can be made to say Uncle by film theory because the true competition is really from the internet and from home videos and crowd source reality of Neda’s death in Iran ..or of Hamsters on a piano.
The wild west is here , Mr Tarantino not in france