Sunday, January 17, 2010

Inglorious Basterds - Alternate History (?)

Finally got around to seeing Tarantino's Jewish revenge epic Inglorious Basterds on DVD yesterday.

I generally thought it was well done despite feeling like it was overly slow in places. Was surprised how little the over-the-top violence factored into the story. They sure played it up in the marketing when the film first debuted. I figured it was going to spend a lot of time focusing on how the Basterds found creative ways to take revenge on the Nazis they caught. While the scalping and the other torture is pretty graphic it didn't amount to a lot of screen time. It's almost like Tarantino want's to make a 'straight' movie but can't quite let go of the gimmicks. The morality is a bit murky throughout the film which contributes to a lot of the controversy.

Tarantino's revisionist history results in an unique alternate history tale. It works on a number of levels the most obvious of which is the divergent timeline and the outcome of World War II.

Watched a really good discussion on the film online here today - Inglorious Basterds: Can Hollywood Rewrite History? which has a lot to say about cinema, Jewish history, holocaust, Tarantino's work in general. It's in several parts and runs over an hour.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a ground-breaking alternate history novel that was released in 2007. Combining the best of alternate history story telling and hardboiled detective fiction, it's a bit like Harry Turtledove meets Raymond Chandler.

Description of Meyer Landsman:
He has the memory of a convict, the balls of a fireman, and the eyesight of a housebreaker. When there is crime to fight, Landsman tears around Sitka like a man with his pant leg caught on a rocket. It's like there's a film score playing behind him, heavy on the castanets. The problem comes in the hours when he isn't working, when his thoughts start blowing out the open window of his brain like pages from a blotter. Sometimes it takes a heavy paperweight to pin them down.

Chabon asks what if the Jewish state of Isreal never gained a foothold in the Middle East in 1948? What if, instead the Jewish refugees from the Second World War found sanctuary in the most unlikely quarters - Sitka, Alaska?

The novel opens with the imminent threat of the 'Reversion' of the Sitka settlement to the U.S. and the displacement of the Jewish settlers to points unknown after building a culture and a community for 60 years.

Meyer Landsman, an alcoholic homicide detective at the end of his rope, finds himself investigating the murder of a John Doe in the Zamenhof, the rundown hotel that Landsman calls home. As Landsman begins to unravel the identity of the murder victim with the aid of his partner and cousin, Berko Shemets, they find that a number of people don't want the murder solved including Landsman's superior officer and ex-wife Bina Gelbfish. Bina has the unpleasant task of informing Landsman and Shemets that the squad has been ordered to solve all cases or declare them unsolvable before Reversion occurs in two months time.

Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and numerous other accolades the novel is well worth the read.

You can check out my full review here - Andy's Anachronisms review of Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Labels: , , , ,