Tarantino's Licensed Depravity
I just watched HOSTEL, which I found disgusting. I am not one to take moral stances, much less on movies. But in this case I am sorely tempted. Tarantino should have his head examined for supporting something as grotesque as this. That said, it does have some powerful imagery, once the barbarism begins (the first hour was just crap), and obviously it evoked a strong emotional response in me. But how hard is it to get an emotional response from scenes of graphic torture? (I felt the same about Tarantino’s ear-slicing scene in Dogs, which was just exploitation cinema done up in new, postmodern rags). The film was disturbing, sure, but at a visceral rather than psychological level. Footage of animal experimentation would also be disturbing. Big deal.
What I admire about movies like Blue Velvet and Casualties of War (also M), and even Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is the way they get to the psychological roots of sadism, (by) creating empathy not just for the victims (easy enough, obviously), but for the perpetrators also. Tarantino seems devoid of empathy as a filmmaker. It’s hard to imagine a greater defect (I think Kubrick suffered from it too, however, so I guess there are ways around it!). He delights in depicting scenes of pain and dismemberment with all the sadistic relish of a Goebbels.
They say a society gets the heroes it deserves. Tarantino’s success strikes me as (like everything) symptomatic of just how “depraved” (removed from basic human qualities like compassion, introspection, kindness) audiences have become, that they would take pleasure in what amount to sadistic orgies of violence with no leavening “moral” (i.e. artistic) intent behind them.
In the end, there can be no credible argument made for censorship of any kind. But if there was, Hostel would be exhibit A.