Saturday, March 06, 2010

Movie critics want "reality," not creativity

A renowned critic wrote a Wall Street Journal piece today on how Tarantino didn't abide by history in his "Inglourious Basterds," thereby somehow not giving Jews and the rest of us a significant movie. My letter in response to this trash in the Journal is below.

Bernard-Henry Levy’s column “Hollywood’s Nazi Revisionism” exhibits a profound misunderstanding of what art is, and therefore does not give justice to director Quentin Tarantino and other filmmakers’ bold attempts to create their own moral canvas.

The philosopher Ayn Rand correctly defined art as “the re-creation of reality according to an artist’s own metaphysics,” which means that art is a sensory exhibit of the character of the artist, including his perception of reality and his perception of what’s right and wrong. Art is *not* about restating the exact facts of reality – a documentary. It is a “re-creation” of reality. Rand called the best art “romantic realism,” which accentuates the “should” of humans and lets the audience revel in heroic characters – not the mundane, the mediocre, the horrid, the malevolent.

And so Tarantino portrayed the “should” by giving justice to Jews (and the rest of us who abhor what the Nazis did). The Jewish heroes of “Inglourious Basterds” get their just revenge upon their putative murderers, and it is deeply satisfying. Hitler is shown horrified at his imminent death by burning (what justice that!) at the hands of a Nazi girl whose family was exterminated in a cellar.

And it is deeply satisfying – in a way that a cowardly suicide in a bunker is not. It is art. It is, thankfully, not the drab, amoral insistence upon historical veracity that plagues modern cinema and, I assume, consoles Mr. Levy.

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