Quentin Tarantino’s World War II Reading List

Image by Georges Biard, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

With his first three fea­tures Reser­voir Dogs, Pulp Fic­tion, and Jack­ie Brown, Quentin Taran­ti­no claimed 1990s Los Ange­les as his own. Then he struck bold­ly out into not just new geo­graph­i­cal and cul­tur­al ter­ri­to­ries, but oth­er time peri­ods. With his first full-on peri­od piece, 2009’s Inglou­ri­ous Bas­ter­ds, he showed audi­ences just how he intend­ed to use his­to­ry: twist­ing it for his own cin­e­mat­ic pur­pos­es, of course, but only mak­ing his depar­tures after steep­ing him­self in accounts of the time in which he envi­sioned his sto­ry tak­ing place. This nat­u­ral­ly involves plen­ty of read­ing, and Taran­ti­no recent­ly pro­vid­ed His­to­ryNet with a few titles that helped him prop­er­ly sit­u­ate Inglou­ri­ous Bas­ter­ds in the Europe of the Sec­ond World War.

Taran­ti­no calls Ian Ous­by’s Occu­pa­tion: The Ordeal of France 1940–1944 “a very good overview that answered all of my ques­tions about life in Nazi-occu­pied France.” Ulysses Lee’s The Employ­ment of Negro Troops is “the most pro­found thing I’ve ever read on both the war and racist Amer­i­ca of the 1940s, com­mis­sioned by the U.S. Army to exam­ine the effec­tive­ness of their employ­ment of black sol­diers.” And for Taran­ti­no, who does­n’t just make films but lives and breathes them, under­stand­ing Nazi Ger­many means under­stand­ing its cin­e­ma, begin­ning with Eric Rentschler’s Min­istry of Illu­sion: Nazi Cin­e­ma and Its After­life, “a won­der­ful crit­i­cal reex­am­i­na­tion of Ger­man cin­e­ma under Joseph Goebbels” that “goes far beyond the demo­niz­ing approach employed by most writ­ers on this sub­ject,” includ­ing even excerpts from Goebbels’ diaries.

Rentschler also “dares to make a fair appraisal of Nazi film­mak­er Veit Har­lan,” who made anti­se­mit­ic block­busters as one of Goebbels’ lead­ing pro­pa­gan­da direc­tors. But the work of no Nazi film­mak­er had as much of an impact as that of Leni Riefen­stahl, two books about whom Taran­ti­no puts on his World War II read­ing list: Glenn B. Infield­’s Leni Riefen­stahl: The Fall­en Film God­dess, the first he ever read about her, as well as Riefen­stahl’s epony­mous mem­oir, which he calls “mes­mer­iz­ing. Though you can’t believe half of it. That still leaves half to pon­der. Her descrip­tions of nor­mal friend­ly con­ver­sa­tions with Hitler are amaz­ing and ring of truth” — and that praise comes from a film­mak­er who made his own name with good dia­logue.

In a recent DGA Quar­ter­ly con­ver­sa­tion with Mar­tin Scors­ese, Taran­ti­no revealed that he’s also at work on a book of his own about that era: “I’ve got this char­ac­ter who had been in World War II and he saw a lot of blood­shed there. Now he’s back home, and it’s like the ’50s, and he does­n’t respond to movies any­more. He finds them juve­nile after every­thing that he’s been through. As far as he’s con­cerned, Hol­ly­wood movies are movies. And so then, all of a sud­den, he starts hear­ing about these for­eign movies by Kuro­sawa and Felli­ni,” think­ing “maybe they might have some­thing more than this pho­ny Hol­ly­wood stuff.” He soon finds him­self drawn inex­orably in: “Some of them he likes and some of them he does­n’t like and some of them he does­n’t under­stand, but he knows he’s see­ing some­thing.” This is hard­ly the kind of premise that leads straight to the kind of vio­lent cathar­sis in which Taran­ti­no spe­cial­izes, but then, he’s pulled off more unlike­ly artis­tic feats in his time.

via His­to­ryNet

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Quentin Taran­ti­no Explains How to Write & Direct Movies

How Quentin Taran­ti­no Steals from Oth­er Movies: A Video Essay

How Quentin Taran­ti­no Cre­ates Sus­pense in His Favorite Scene, the Ten­sion-Filled Open­ing Moments of Inglou­ri­ous Bas­ter­ds

The Films of Quentin Taran­ti­no: Watch Video Essays on Pulp Fic­tionReser­voir DogsKill Bill & More

Leni Riefenstahl’s Tri­umph of the Will Wasn’t a Cin­e­mat­ic Mas­ter­piece; It Was a Stag­ger­ing­ly Effec­tive Piece of Pro­pa­gan­da

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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