Eli Roth Talks (Too Much) About Inglorious Basterds

basterds-helmetOn Friday’s AATM show on KVNU, we received a call asking about the insanely anticipated Quentin Tarantino film that will have non-cussers in a real pickle when trying to name the title. No, it’s not Inglorious Bast…ages. It’s Inglorious Basterds (that’s not a misspell). Eli Roth, man about town and gore/torture porn purveyor extraordinaire (Cabin Fever, Hostel, Hostel 2) has been speaking mightily about the film in recent weeks. He has a starring role, as a Jewish GI who loves baseball and uses Nazi cranium to practice his swing.

Earlier, MTV had quoted the self-assured Mr. Roth as stating:

This movie has the intensity of ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ the style of ‘Pulp Fiction,’ the violence of ‘Kill Bill,’ the adrenaline of ‘Death Proof’ and the characters of ‘Jackie Brown.’ It’s really the greatest of Quentin’s talents, all culminating in this film.

That’s cool… but take it as you will- it’s Eli Roth, who not only stars in Basterds, but also shot a mini Nazi propaganda film for the movie, The Nation’s Pride, which will be featured prominently in the final cut.  Roth spoke again, which I wish he didn’t:

“…In 2 days we did like 130 shots and Quentin was so happy he gave me a third day… I was thinking ‘God, I didn’t think I could be more offensive after ‘Hostel 2,’ but how can I upset people more than that?’ …I was going, ‘More swastikas! More swastikas!’… the Germans were screaming ‘Heil Hitler!’ and ‘Kill the Jews!’ and it was terrifying… We watched it over and over… but there was still something very powerful about that. I looked at Quentin and said, ‘What have I done?’… I’m going to, like, resurrect the Nazi party. They are going to make me their Sarah Palin. They will be like, ‘We love his movie. But he’s a Jew! But it’s such a good movie. But a Jew made it! It’s going to really throw off all the neo-Nazi’s. I can’t wait.”

This quote singlehandedly put its own baseball bat to the head of my already weak desire to see this film. I know I’m in the suspiciously eyed minority thanks to my lack of Basterds anticipation, but the to-date emphasis on all the gleeful and brutal killing with which Basterds is being sold doesn’t sit well with me, be it Nazi punishment or not.

I may have a change of heart as more details emerge before its release in August, but from everything I’ve seen and heard– and despite Basterds reinvention as an over-the-top topping of 1978’s Inglorious Bastards— the intention feels wrong, as if Basterds is wrapping itself in the justification of the Holocaust as a cheap excuse to exact the same debasement in proxy. Killing scores of Nazis may be intended as feel-good violence, but I’m not sure violence for the sake of violence should ever feel good– particularly when used for cavalier laughs and “Hey man, check THIS out” entertainment and weighted against the incredibly real suffering and sacrifice sustained by the worlds citizens throughout World War II.

I realize there’s all kinds of argument against where I’m coming from, including the ground level assertion that Basterds is “light-hearted summer entertainment”. I can understand the appeal, and don’t begrudge anyone their Tarantino love, but this one has sold me off the bandwagon on its own.

You can read the full interview, if you can bear all Eli’s blustering bravado, right here. In the mean time, Inglorious Basterds scalps and pummels its way to theaters August 21.

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