Saturday, August 29, 2009
Tarantino really does think violence is "like, cool."
Violence in the movies can be cool," he says. "It's just another color to work with. When Fred Astaire dances, it doesn't mean anything. Violence is the same. It doesn't mean anything. It's a color." He scorns anyone who tries to see simulated violence as having meaning. Sadists take human suffering seriously; that's why they enjoy it. No: Tarantino is morally empty, seeing a shoot-out as akin to dancing cheek-to-cheek. He sees violence as nothing. Compare his oeuvre to the work of a genuine cinematic sadist -- Alfred Hitchcock -- and you see the difference. Precisely because Hitchcock enjoyed inflicting pain, the pain is always authentic, and it is never emptied of its own inner horror. We don't leave our moral senses at the door when we go to the movies, or pick up a novel, or go to a gallery. We feel such tension in Tarantino's movies because the good and sane part of us doesn't want the violence to come -- while the debased part of us is cheering it on. The artists who have claimed their work was purely aesthetic were either frivolous, psychopathic, or lying. The novelist Vladimir Nabokov -- who I love -- claimed in the introduction to Bend Sinister that, "Politics and economics, atomic bombs, primitive and abstract art forms, the entire Orient, symptoms of 'thaw' in Soviet Russia, the Future of Mankind, and so on, leave me supremely indifferent." He was writing in the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he and everybody he knew came within a few hours of dying in a nuclear war. How could he be "supremely indifferent" to that prospect? How can you revere aesthetics and not mind if every aesthetic object you love is incinerated? The answer is, of course, he wasn't indifferent. If you read his letters, you find he worried about these issues at great length. Similarly, I suspect Tarantino has deeper instincts beneath his life-is-a-grindhouse-flick pose. The tragedy of Tarantino is that he could have been so much more than the Schlock and Awe merchant that he has devolved into. -Johann Hari: The Terrible Moral Emptiness of Quentin Tarantino Is Wrecking His Films, The Huffington Post