Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tarantino’s Two Apaches

Tarantino’s superb Inglourious Basterds mentions Apaches not once but twice…. Brad Pitt’s Southern hero Lt Aldo Raine, specialist in interesting ways of killing Nazis, is called “Aldo the Apache”.

Another Apache is “Winnetou”, whose name turns up on the forehead of a German soldier when they’re playing the cards-on-foreheads guess-the-identity game in the restaurant scene with Germans and disguised Brits. We are told “Winnetou” was an Apache, but the reference is obscure – unless you’re a bad film aficionado, as QT is, of course.

Here, M. Apache knows only what Wiki knows. Winnetou was the hero of a series of late nineteenth-century novels by Karl May, who died in 1912. Winnetou is a Mescalero Apache, allegedly, but the values are Christian, not Native American – Winnetou dies a convert.

There were a dozen awful films in the 1960s, starring Pierre Brice, a French Baron, as the hero. YouTube shows the acting as wooden, the shots conventional, the “evocative” music enthused over in the comments by sentimental contemporary Germans. It’s the kind of thing QT would know about, thought it’s surprising that – even with his eclectic interests – he should like such deadly stuff. Perhaps he doesn’t.

The 1944 restaurant scene refers to the novels, which remain popular today – Karl May is one of the best-selling German authors ever, unbelievably – but presumably QT would first have reached Winnetou the Apache through the films, and reached back to the stories.

The key irony is that the values of the Karl May novels were Christian and humanitarian. Wait until you see the end of the restaurant scene stand-off – straight out of Reservoir Dogs, with added testosterone. Or deleted testosterone, if you prefer.

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