We had a sneak preview of Quentin Tarantino's new film, Inglourious Basterds, last week at the Museum. The screening was introduced by Harvey Weinstein, and Tarantino hosted a Q&A after the film joined by Melanie Laurent, the female lead.
I will confess that I was nervous about this screening given the nature of our audience and the distinct possibility that some might have come to see the film thinking it was a serious movie about a serious history. Well, it's not. I had seen the movie several weeks ago in a mid-town screening room. It is, in parts, stunningly violent, and it departs from historical fact in both intended and unintended ways.
By now, most people are aware of its premise: a rag-tag group of Jewish soldiers are dropped into occupied France to kill -- and scalp -- Nazis in dramatically violent ways. The denouement involves the kind of revenge that some people dream about: A movie theater filled with Nazi leaders and the German High Command that is.... well, I won't spoil it.
Now, we were careful to warn everyone about the explicit violence and the fantasy nature of the film, but nevertheless, as I scanned the faces of the audience as they arrived at the Museum, I was concerned.
My worries were misplaced. With one or two exceptions, the audience remained throughout the screening, and the general reaction to the film was overwhelmingly positive. I think Inglourious Basterds has every prospect of becoming a sensational success. It is brilliantly acted, with sharp and intelligent dialogue, and is chock full of subtle --and not so subtle-- film allusions. I also think that it will attract its share of criticism from those who will claim that it trivializes the Holocaust, champions revenge at the expense of morality, and devalues historical truth.
Harvey Weinstein anticipated such criticism in his introduction to the screening by saying the first words of the film are, "Once upon a time," emphasizing its fable-like character. And Quentin Tarantino responded to one critic during the Q&A by saying, "It's a war movie, dude." For my part, I am perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief -- and perhaps some of my better judgment -- in the face of such a thoroughly entertaining and well-made movie.