Tarantino's "kosher porn"

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic does a stellar job of profiling Quentin Tarantino, even while criticizing the darker impulses of his latest film, Inglourious Basterds.

Goldberg begins by acknowledging the giddy appeal of Tarantino's Jewish revenge fantasy. Tarantino's producer, Lawrence Bender, thanks him for writing a "Jewish wet dream." Bender uses far coarser words, but you'll have to find those for yourself.

I tripped on Goldberg's contention that Shindler's List is "a story of Christian redemption and Jewish passivity," but he illustrates the point well, both verbally and with a brief clip from the film, in the embedded video accompanying this post.

Goldberg hits his stride, though, when explaining why a revenge fantasy will leave Jewish souls empty:

My ambivalence about some of the excesses of Inglourious Basterds fully emerged only in the days after our conversation. I had met Tarantino less than 24 hours after I first saw the film. When I came out of the screening room the night before our interview, I was so hopped up on righteous Jewish violence that I was almost ready to settle the West Bank -- and possibly the East Bank. But when my blood cooled, I began to think about the morality of kosher porn in the context of current Middle East politics. Some of this was informed by my own experience in the Israeli army, in which I saw my fellow Jewish soldiers do moral things -- such as risking their lives to prevent the murder of innocent Jews -- as well as immoral things, like beating the hell out of Palestinians because they could.

... Tarantino, of course, always goes too far: Sofie Fatale's cut-off arm in Kill Bill: Vol. 1; the police officer's sliced-off ear in Reservoir Dogs. I have a high tolerance for violence in Tarantino's compelling fantasy demimonde. But Inglourious Basterds is the first Tarantino movie to reference real historical events. Which might be why I find his anti-Nazi excesses -- there's a concept -- disconcerting. Or it might be because I don't actually have revenge dreams anymore. They stopped sometime after I left the army, if I remember correctly.

I think this may be as simple as the difference between revenge and justice, even while remembering Bruce Cockburn's witty point that "Everybody loves to see justice done -- on somebody else." In any case, Goldberg takes Inglourious Basterds seriously enough to point out its moral limits. Although his essay is not in the form of a movie review, it's likely the best review you'll read anywhere of Tarantino's latest thrill ride.

Please respect our Commenting Policy