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Black Book, Grindhouse and the Relativist Hole

A movie only a Nazi could love? (Jaap Vrenegoor/Content Film)

On the principle that there’s no such thing as too much publicity, it’s always nice to see your stuff reprinted elsewhere on the Internet, right? Well, almost always. Last week, my mostly negative review of Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book, in which I took the director to task for leveling the moral playing field between the Nazis and the Dutch resistance, appeared on a white nationalist Web site with the motto “No Jews. Just Right.” embroidered on its logo. I won’t name the site — why give free traffic to the lunatic fringe? — but among its charming faithful readers, two wrote in to say, “I guess the kikess kritic didn’t like it. Too bad. So sad,” and “Jews in German roles. That’s like drawing chink eyes or putting black face on white actors.” Mr. Verhoeven, meet your new fan base.

Actually, this kikess finds herself less rattled by hate-speech nutballs festering in rural Montana than by other movie reviewers whose work I respect, many of whom waved briefly at Black Book’s noxious moral relativism before rushing to lavish praise on its undeniable merits as an edge-of-your-seat thriller. I won’t fall into the relativist hole of invoking Leni Riefenstahl, whose skills as a cinematographer may yet outlive her well-documented deployment of those skills as a publicist for the Third Reich. But we live in dodgy critical times when aesthetic sophistication trumps moral and political discrimination. And when pop aestheticism reaches all the way from effusing over the ritualized violence and reverse feminism of a Sin City or a Grindhouse to heaping laurels on a movie that pits sensitive Nazis against treacherous resisters, it may be time to get uncool and start pointing the finger.

Question or comment? Email askfilm@laweekly.com


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