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German critics lap up Tarantino's Jewish revenge fantasy

By AFP

Quentin Tarantino's blood-drenched fantasy of Jewish GIs who slaughter the top Nazis, "Inglourious Basterds," dazzled German critics who said Thursday it ripped up the rulebook for World War II films.

Ahead of the film's international release this week, German reviewers were rapturous over the fictitious squad of Nazi killers who stop the Holocaust and take brutal revenge, with some calling the picture "historic" and "important."

Only a handful expressed qualms over Tarantino's trademark gore-splattering, most relishing the cinematic massacre of the Nazi brass including Adolf Hitler by a band of Jewish-American soldiers, led by Brad Pitt, as deeply satisfying.

"'Inglourious Basterds' is brazen, a declaration of war, a pleasure," the normally staid Frankfurter Allgemeine daily said.

"Tarantino shows the Nazis as they really were: a pack of pompous trash -- thoroughly trivial bad guys."

However the paper had a word of warning about Tarantino's larger-than-life Nazis, led by this year's best-actor laureate in Cannes, Austrian Christoph Waltz as a "Jew-hunting" SS psychopath.

"When evil is presented as well and as elegantly as he does, we can easily be seduced by it," it wrote.

Filmed in part in Germany, the picture is according to Tarantino a "spaghetti western but with World War II iconography" that was also influenced by the French New Wave.

"This ain't your daddy's World War II movie," Tarantino has said.

The title of the film was inspired by Italian director Enzo Castellari's 1978 movie "The Inglorious Bastards".

In the genre-blurring tale -- with David Bowie on the soundtrack -- Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo Raine who heads the squad of Jewish-American soldiers behind enemy lines in German-occupied wartime France.

Aldo tells his men to bring him the scalps of 100 Nazis each, and vows to terrorise the German army with the "disembowelled, dismembered and disfigured bodies we leave behind us."

A parallel storyline involves a Jewish woman bent on revenge after seeing her entire family being wiped out by the Nazis.

Hitler, Goebbels and top Nazi henchmen appear in the movie which culminates in an outlandish plot to take out the German leadership at the Paris premiere of a Nazi propaganda film.

"Tarantino manages to create great cinema with his cheeky historical concoction -- despite using actual historical figures from Hitler to De Gaulle, he made nearly everything up," the Financial Times Deutschland wrote.

"Because, unlike 'Pulp Fiction' or 'Kill Bill', only the evil are massacred, the audience cheers the violent scenes with gusto," it said in a review headlined "Kill Hitler".

"This isn't camp, it isn't pulp -- you miss the point using such categories with Tarantino -- but rather a vision never before seen in the nearly exhausted world of cinematic images," the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel wrote.

"It took 65 years for a film-maker, instead of bringing Germany's evil 20th century history to life once more to have people shudder and bow before it, to simply dream around it. And to mow all the pigs down. Catharsis! Oxygen! Wonderful retro-futuristic insanity of the imagination!"

Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said its readers "must" see the picture, and offered favourable comparisons with this year's "Valkyrie" a Tom Cruise vehicle about a failed 1944 plot against Hitler.

"Regardless of whether you then love or hate the film, your reaction will not be lukewarm. There is so much in it to discover," it wrote.

"More than horror, Tarantino fears the conventions that have long surrounded the Nazis and the Holocaust -- these leaden, sepia-toned suggestions of authenticity that a film can never really live up to.

"Tarantino throws gasoline on the fire of the Nazi film to create the big bang to clear the way. A crazy idea. So crazy that it might just work."

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