Quentin Tarantino’s World War II revenge-fantasy isn’t in theaters for another week and a half, but Jeffrey Goldberg has a great article (Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger) about the film and Tarantino in The Atlantic. Perhaps as interesting as the eminently quotable director is the light shed on the psycho-sexual allure of the film for cast-member Eli Roth and his role as Tarantino’s Jewish consultant:
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.”
There’s more than a little truth to this wishful power inversion. And perhaps, pornography is the perfect analogy — titillating, unrealistic, demeaning, exploitative, a poor substitute for the real thing, but alluring and potentially habit-forming. However, Roth also relates a crucial turning point in the development of the script at his family’s seder where Tarantino was a guest:
I was his Jewish sounding board,” Roth said. “‘Would a Jew do this, would a Jew do that?’ He kind of didn’t have an ending. But after the seder, he said, ‘I’m going home to finish.’ He understood that we are still pissed off about things that happened to us 3,000 years ago. At the end of the seder, we talked about how the Jewish thing was to remember, that there was no absolution.”
And that’s where I start to get nervous(er). If what you take away from a Passover seder is that we’re still pissed about slavery, well then… it’s like coming away from the 4th of July thinking Americans would like nothing better than to shove a firecracker down the throat of Queen Elizabeth’s corgi.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a part of me that is very excited to see this film. As much as I know the brand of sadism it peddles is probably not healthy either for Jewish or American culture (especially in a post-Abu Ghraib world), Tarantino films provide a kind of testosterone-boiling fun that I don’t want to miss out on just because of my Jewish scruples. I’ll be interested to see if that rush of adrenaline provided by the gore and profanity leaves me feeling I’ve enjoyed $10 well-spent, or just gory and profaned.
So, are you planning to see the film?