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Hitler's Last Laugh?

Loving it or hating it -- or both -- reviewers of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds have seemed most at ease deconstructing its artful camerawork or tracking its profuse references to other movies. Better that, perhaps, than grappling with the theme: a fairy-tale transvaluation of Nazi villains into the hapless victims of brutally avenging American Jewish soldiers, played largely for jokes and gore.

According to one report, German audiences at sold-out screenings have taken the movie in the spirit of an uproarious if grisly entertainment. American critics, like the reviewer for the Christian Science Monitor or Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, haven't been so sure. Writing in the Daily Beast, Lee Siegel raged at Tarantino's nihilistic brand of absurdist fun-and-games; at the Huffington Post, by contrast, Mark Blankenship discovered a profound moral message in the filmmaker's never-never-land device -- the message, in short, that we are all capable of acting like crazed Nazi murderers.

But is it just a coincidence that the crazed Nazi-like murderers in this film fantasy are a band of avenging Jews, or that Inglourious Basterds has made its debut in a world already habituated (as MEMRI has copiously documented) to the even more fantastic notion of democratic Israel as today's reincarnation of the Third Reich?


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