Last night, Quentin Tarantino attended a top secret, pre-screening of Inglourious Basterds at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan. Playing his alt-history WWII extravaganza for a crowd of Jews at what is ostensibly a Holocaust museum dedicated to preserving that memory created a context for high drama. In attendance were children of Holocaust survivors and even Holocaust survivors themselves. Sitting on stage with the film’s star, French actress MÃ©lanie Laurent, in front of the 400 or so occupying virtually every seat in the auditorium, Tarantino acknowledged the irony: "I’m a little more nervous and a little bit more sensitive than my normal irreverent self."
The audience’s reaction to both the director and the film was, by in large, positive with the notable exception of the yenta behind Partisans of Vilna who did her best to get Tarantino to lose his cool with a series of inane questions and plugs for her own two-plus-decade-old Holocaust documentary ("Oy, will she shut up already?", cringed the 75-year-old Museum docent sitting next to me.)
Anyway, here are some of my favorite moments from the evening. Beware: spoilers ahead.
On the Jewish Basterds’ mission to blow up a movie theater filled with Nazis and themselves in the process:
"I actually like the parallels that the Basterds are, for all intents and purposes, suicide bombers going into the theater to blow up the premiere and the fact that it is a military-slash-civilian endeavor that they are blowing up."
"That’s my thing, my dialogue. It’s not poetry, but it kinda is. It’s not music, but it kinda is. It’s not rap, but it kinda is, it’s not standup comedy, but it kinda is. It’s all those all together."
On the film’s fantastical premise:
"I stop short of calling it a fantasy. I present it in this fairytale kind of thing as far as for the masses to take in, but that’s not where I’m coming from. Where I’m coming from is my characters changed the course of the war. Now that didn’t happen, because my characters didn’t exist, but if they had existed, everything that happens in the movie is possible."
On the climax of the film:
"I set up scenes and I jerk you off to have a climax. And in this movie I jerked you off and I fucked with the climax… At some point those Nazi uniforms went away and they were people being burned alive. I think that’s part of the thing that fucks with the catharsis. And that’s a good thing."
On the Basterds:
"The reason that [Basterds leader Lt. Aldo Raine] wants to create a group of Jewish soldiers is that it’s a holy war. You can point at the gentiles and say, ‘Hey they have the luxury of being soldiers, you have a duty to be warriors.You’re fighting a holy war against an enemy that want to wipe your race off the face of this fucking earth and you have no obligation other than to be a warrior.’"
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