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What “Inglourious Basterds” Owes to History

What “Inglourious Basterds” Owes to History (photo)

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[Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen “Inglourious Basterds.”]

There have been two moments in film this year that have moved me to my cine-loving core. Both involved individuals stirred by the power of image, art and mythology. And both illustrated a personal investment for each character (some, real-life characters), revealing a potent significance and identification — something that ascended beyond mere fandom. Simple and yet complex, these moments were meaningful to these people.

One, occurred in Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” Watching John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) fatefully sitting inside the Biograph watching Clark Gable as Blackie, essentially playing a version of Johnny (John Dillinger) in “Manhattan Melodrama,” the look on J.D.’s face was gripping. And not only because we know what’s going to happen to the legendary gangster once he steps out of that theater, but for all of the imagined ideas going through Dillinger’s head at that moment. How could he not think of his girl (or any girl he’d like to sleep with that night) while basking in the gorgeousness of Myrna Loy? How could he not ponder the picture’s ending? And how could he not get a kick out of the very idea, that he, the most popular American criminal at that time, was watching the most beloved Hollywood movie star at that moment? An Icon for an icon. And then, as he exists the theater, a cowardly tooth for a tooth.

And then there’s the moment in the movie of discussion here, Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” a moment that, given all of the controversy surrounding the picture’s violence, is one filled with human empathy and, as Tarantino said, tragedy that’s closer to “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s when theater owner Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), a French Jew seeking vengeance for the execution of her family, agrees to hold the premiere of war hero Fredrick Zoller’s (Daniel Brühl) picture “Nation’s Pride.” Readying for her spectacular final act, in which the movie will cut to her giant, beautiful face declaring that all of the Nazis in attendance (including Goebbels and Hitler) are going to die (“look deep in the face of the Jew who’s going to do it”), Shosanna is abruptly interrupted by Zoller himself. Ducking out of his own movie because he doesn’t like watching violence, the young, smitten man comes on strong, and in order to defend herself and complete her mission, she shoots him.

But then… she glances at his movie from the projection booth. While all of the Nazi top brass have been gleefully enjoying the blood-soaked antics of Zoller, Shosanna responds to an intimate moment. Her face softens as Zoller, in beautiful black and white, takes a breather from the carnage and appears quite emotional and even, a bit tortured. Acting? Perhaps. But ever the cinema lover, it’s upon watching his face on screen (not writhing on the floor) that she walks towards his half-dead body, emotional about what she’s done. And like John Dillinger, just that act of taking in a movie facilitates her own demise. Zoller shoots her.

But unlike John Dillinger, she gets the final payback — and through her own movie. With help from her black lover Marcel (Jacky Ido), she takes down the “despicable German swine” Bill Epton-style: “Burn, baby, burn.”

09012009_Inglourious4.jpgIs Tarantino glamorizing violence here? To be blunt about it, hell, yes, he is. Should we feel guilty about it? To be even blunter, fuck no.

And I’m not simply being flip with this declaration. I’m not trying to trivialize the real-life atrocities that occurred under Hitler during World War II (or under President Truman for that matter, let’s not forget Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Japanese internment camps). And neither is Tarantino, who though never shy about expressing pro-vigilance in real life (and that’s his own business, frankly), crafts a movie that delivers both pulpy satisfaction and a complicated look at how we process violence — historical, personal or otherwise. All of his pictures, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “Jackie Brown” to “Kill Bill” to “Basterds,” have revealed the filmmaker’s interest in the grandeur and meaning of violence, aesthetically and thematically. And many filmmakers, from Cecil B. DeMille to Samuel Fuller to Sam Peckinpah to Stanley Kubrick have crafted works of violent beauty. But that was the past, and as controversial as “The Wild Bunch” or “A Clockwork Orange” were in their day, most critics find these pictures acceptable — classics — working on a different level. Enough has been written. Not so with Tarantino. And so the reaction? Outrage!

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…