Tuesday, August 3, 2010


We missed "Inglourious Basterds" in the theaters. Ellie draws the line at the kind of violence she associates with Quentin Tarantino movies; I'm turned off by the kind of modal he favors--movies about movies. There's a cleverness I don't enjoy, a kind of wink to the knowing that goes along with the violence and seems to want to justify it. But still, we both enjoyed the movie, once the rental arrived from Netflix. Neither one of us could watch the scalping scenes, and there were other moments when we had to turn away. Bottom line, though, the film was a smart and harmless way to take revenge on the horrors of the Nazis, their unspeakable and obsessive hatred of the Jews, and their occupation of France.

Despite his obvious intelligence and his movie-making skills, there is something juvenile about Quentin Tarantino. He has the imagination of a little boy gone wild. In this instance, not untypically, he dreamed up a story so absurd, so bloodthirsty, so unrestrained in its pursuit of its villains that it succeeded in toppling over from horror into hilarity; at some of its most gruesome moments, we found ourselves laughing hysterically--that kind of laugh that is truly therapeutic, cleansing--well, cathartic.

From graduate school days--some time ago now, I have to say--I recall a professor whose central thesis was that the "theater of the absurd" is the closest we can come to tragedy in the modern world. Once the gods left the scene, with the justification they seemed to provide for the otherwise inexplicable mystery of death, the demise of a great and noble figure at the hands of destiny no longer held such compelling and exemplary power. "Tragedy," once seen as senseless, becomes absurd. We are all clowns in an exploding taxi, subject to the whims of a fate that has no explanatory context.

It's in this light that the Tarantino oeuvre makes sense. His total lack of inhibition leaves him an open field to exploit our fears and fantasies, to present us with a world we recognize, shamefully, to be the one we humans have created, where reason is but a thin veil that fails to hide the dreadful truth: our attempt to exercise control over our lives and our environment is nothing more than a delusion.


mandt said...

"the dreadful truth: our attempt to exercise control over our lives and our environment is nothing more than a delusion." Tarantino's movies, like the rotting filth of a garbage dump, may be 'real' and true, in so far as evil is true. personally, I exercise control and avoid the garbage dump at all costs, unless some right wing agency dumps me there, against my will, dead, in a heap like Auschwitz. Tarantino's sensationalist trivialization of Nazi horror is revolting! A simple comparison to a film such as, 'The Diary of Anne Franck' illustrates the point in differential quality.

CHI SPHERE said...

I was hired on to a Tarantino film a few years back and was 'exposed' to him during preproduction meetings. That was enough for me! I withdrew the next day. He is quite full of himself and it spills rather poorly.

Mandt sure has it right about his sensationalism. I hear he's friends with Dick Cheney which confirms
his love of the hunt and the killing of small creatures
and possibly others who make be innocent bystanders.

ENOUGH of the Q ball.

PeterAtLarge said...

mandt, see my follow-up today

and Gary... it wasn't my intention to attack Tarantino's character, which for all I know might be as dreadful as you suggest. Sometimes, though--as I'm sure you know!--dreadful people can make pretty good works of art. And it was the movie I was talking about. See also my follow-up entry.

Thanks for nudging me further in my thinking!