Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: UPDATED: Rosenbaum Sticks His Head in the Sand Responds

Thursday, August 27, 2009

UPDATED: Rosenbaum Sticks His Head in the Sand Responds

Over at the esteemed Jonathan Rosenbaum's site, he posts "Some Afterthoughts about Tarantino," a sequel to his previous post on Inglourious Basterds where he accuses the director of creating a "film that seems morally akin to Holocaust denial." In today's post he states:
I’m waiting for any of the enthusiasts for Inglourious Basterds to come up with some guidance about what grown-up things this movie has to say to us about World War 2 or the Holocaust — or maybe just what it has to say about other movies with the same subject matter. Or, if they think that what Tarantino is saying is adolescent but still deserving of our respect and attention, what that teenage intelligence consists of. Or implies. Or inspires. Or contributes to our culture.
Well, maybe he wouldn't have to wait so long if he opened the comments section on his site, and allowed some feedback. Or maybe he'd get some insight if he read some quite eloquent defenses of the film in the reviews and accompanying commentary at Dennis Cozzalio's SLIFR, Jim Emerson's Scanners, Greg Ferrara's Cinema Styles, Glenn Kenny's Some Came Running, or Bill R.'s TKoFYH , sites where intelligent debate by the film community is not only welcome, but thrives. Maybe Mr. Rosenbaum could find the guidance he seeks by looking up these discussions, instead of looking down at the rest of us. UPDATE: Mr. Rosenbaum was gracious enough to clarify some of his controversial comments at his site in a postscript to his original post, and in the comments section here (below), at Bill R.'s site, and at Bright Lights After Dark (maybe elsewhere, but these were the only sites I was aware of).

9 comments:

Jonathan Rosenbaum said...

Why do you assume I don't read other people, including most of those you mention? (At this point, I've read all of them--and others.)

Here’s one example of what you’re describing as brilliant: “I don't think this film -- or any of Tarantino's films -- have much to say about morality, except that revenge is righteous and necessary, and miracles are dramatic devices.” This is correct, certainly, but what kind of wisdom is that? I think it's the kind of sand you're accusing me of looking at.

“Righteous and necessary?” Is this your idea of grown-up guidance? About how I should rethink World War 2 and the Holocaust? Or Iraq and Afghanistan? Or movies in general? Or art? Or how to spend my time?

Sorry—-I’ve been down that road too many times already. And that includes all those roads of brilliant discussion you’re referring me to. I already traveled down lots of those when I was blogging at the Reader, too--and anyone who wanted to could respond in the same place.

You're free to call me a jerk and ostrich on your own blog. Isn't that enough?

Jonathan Rosenbaum said...

P.S. Sorry--I should have said "eloquent" instead of "brilliant".

Admittedly some of the prose I've been reading about the film is well expressed. But if any of it qualifies as grown-up guidance of the kind that I'm requesting, you haven't yet pointed me in the right direction. And believe me, I've been looking.

Tony Dayoub said...

Here are examples that don't look at the film as superficially as the quote you put forth.

"The 'happy ending' of the film is hollow as hell, and there is plenty there to argue that QT is telling us that the revenge fantasy we've all been hoping to fulfull is another form of atrocity."

"Why risk creating sympathy for the Nazis at all? Well, I think a very simple response to this question, an answer also, perhaps, to why some of these other more sober dramatic inquiries into the Jewish experience don’t seem to work very well (Jakob the Liar, Life is Beautiful, Defiance), is that while Tarantino is unapologetically keyed in to the pleasures that movies can offer us, not even close to the least of which is the unambiguous and vicarious rush of seeing justice meted out to those who may escape it in 'real life,' he is also an artist interested in exploring the possibilities within what might on the surface seem like simplistic reactions to purgative violence."

Jonathan Rosenbaum said...

Thanks for offering these. The first, at least, makes some sense to me--at least as an indication of what some of us might WISH QT was saying. The notion of "justice" in the second is a bit beyond me, but then again the major problem I have with revenge fantasies as they've been played out both in countless movie fantasies and in escapades like the occupation of Iraq is that they really are delusional forms of behavior. Whatever illusions the perpetrator may have about "justice," the results are wanton cruelty--and, in real life as opposed to movies, a form of cruelty in which "justice" becomes a hollow pretext. (I'm sure that the Nazis thought they were delivering justice too.)

Maybe it's been a mistake for me to be airing my alienation from the very terms of a discussion; that's been my major problem with these debates. So I'll try to shut up for a change.

Tony Dayoub said...

"I'm sure that the Nazis thought they were delivering justice too."

That's the very point I believe Tarantino is trying to make with his film. He wants us reexamine the notion of "justice" and arrive at the conclusion, I'm sure that the Basterds thought they were delivering justice too, or I'm sure Shosanna thought she was delivering justice too.

He is also forcing the viewer to confront their own lust for violence. If the Basterds' audience gets a vicarious thrill from such retribution, then they are no different than the German audience getting their kicks from Nation's Pride, the film within the film.

These are themes explored throughout the film that elevate the film beyond a simple revenge fantasy.

P.S. In any case, though I did imply you were an ostrich, I certainly didn't imply you were a jerk. I was not being sarcastic when I called you esteemed. Though I may disagree with your opinion, I definitely respect it.

I was a little irked by your post because it seemed to call for a discussion without providing a venue for one. So I appreciate you coming here to respond.

Ryan Kelly said...

Tony, this is why the internet is a dangerous place.

As I wrote at my site this movie has had me tied up in knots as few movies ever have; I understand where a lot of the detractors are coming from, yet I read their reviews (and this goes for people I deeply admire, such as Rosenbaum and Dargis), and simply feel like I saw a different movie. "Boring" is just the last thing I could ever call it, and I feel like it's a case where the messenger is judged as opposed to the message. But yes, there's more to the movie than just revenge fantasy, though this element didn't occur to me until I saw the movie a second time, and had the borderline barbaric response of my audience during the scenes of beating and scalping (which are not a large portion of the overall movie, another point that tends to be ignored) reflected back at me during the Nation's Pride premiere portion of the movie. I had a similar reaction to Death Proof when I watched it, being turned off by how misogynistic it all was, then realizing Tarantino was making a kind of commentary on sexism on the screen. I know that Tarantino has his image as a hyperactive, hyper-violent movie geek, but there's more depth and care in his films than I think many people give him credit for.

And as for the comments on his blog, I wish he would open them but I understand why he doesn't. Even I sometimes have trouble keeping up with the comments threads on my blog, where I tend to write as much or more as I did for the initial post --- if Rosenbaum wanted to have comments and do it right, that would be a full time job unto itself (I'll never understand how Ebert finds time to review so much AND manage his insanely popular blog).

Biff N. Happy said...

OMGz peoples... It's just a revenge fantasy. It doesn't glorify anything and doesn't deny anything. It's just a fucked up, disturbing and violent Tarantino movie. And it's extremely enjoyable and (as a Jew) extremely cathartic. Eli Roth gets to blow up Hitler's face with a machine gun! Fuck yes! I apologize in advance if I am not being enough a brooding intellectual about this, but fuck it. It was fun to watch and it felt good when all those fucking nazis died.

Adam Zanzie said...

If I may throw in my two cents here, I would like to add that I admire Jonathan Rosenbaum's fearlessness. Somebody was bound to call "Inglourious Basterds" a Holocaust-denying film eventually.

Anonymous said...

Funny, somehow Jonathan see the Holocaust denial side (true and naive imo) and others prefer to deny any political intervention (Hoberman let`s say?).

Tarantino is a pervert ;) there`s probably a hidden political agenda there ... do you remember Godard`s "Law of Stereo" and Palestina?