The Thrill of Basterds

By Ed Koch
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I thought Inglourious Basterds was based on some historical facts. It is not. It's a spoof. If you view it as such and don't get super-sensitive thinking one should be extremely careful when engaging in a spoof that involves elements of the Holocaust, you will enjoy this film. Interestingly, Brad Pitt's performance does little to heighten the enjoyment. He portrays Lt. Aldo Raine, a Tennessee hillbilly in charge of eight Jews. The performance of Christoph Waltz, playing the Nazi Gestapo figure Col. Hans Landa, is the highlight of the film. His ability to convey courtliness and sympathy and then go to commit the cruelest of horrors is simply superb.

The plot is simple. The U.S. Army authorizes Lt. Raine (Brad Pitt) to take eight Jews with him, parachute into Germany and then simply kill Nazis. He states that each of them owes him 100 Nazi scalps before they are through with their campaign. They proceed to kill their share of Nazis and literally scalp them.

The Jew hunter, Col. Hans Landa, pursues Jews in occupied France. There is an enormously touching scene showing a French farmer giving up the Jews he had hidden in his house out of fear that he and his three daughters would be killed. The heroine is a Jewish woman, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), who does us all proud. A fictional finale involves an apparently successful effort to kill Hitler, Bormann, Goering and Goebbels at a French theater. The film at that point becomes a rollicking musical without the music. All I could do was hum "Springtime for Hitler," which I liked immensely.

Quentin Tarantino, writer and director, did it again.

"I didn't really enjoy the film, although it was very well produced and quite realistic except for the outrageous bits: Brad Pitt as a hillbilly, Jewish soldiers trying to pass themselves off as Italian filmmakers, and other unrealistic flights of the filmmakers fancy. I just couldn't reconcile the serious parts of the film such as the giving up of the hidden Jews with the comedic elements."

For more Atlantic commentary on Inglourious Basterds, Jeffrey Goldberg interviews Director Quentin Tarantino.

(Photo: Flickr User quotedfortruth)

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2009/08/the-thrill-of-i-basterds-i/23734/