Saturday, April 23, 2016

On the Charming Neo-Nazi

I'm not entirely sure when the charming Warner Brothers Nazi disappeared, or if there were any attempts to revive the figure before Inglourious Basterds. Maybe Night and Fog killed the archetype. Although, now that I think about it, Ralph Fiennes's Amon Goethe is a little too much fun, as is Laurence Olivier's Christian Szell.

Last night, I saw Green Room, a grim slasher flick with a putrid palette, about a good-looking punk rock band who find themselves trapped in a neo-Nazi compound deep in the Oregon woods. The real stars of these things are always the villains, no matter how little screen time they get. Patrick Stewart plays Darcy. I couldn't tell if he shed his accent for the role. He's one of those actors whose phrasing is so lovely it would be a shame to rework it for any role. He plays Darcy as a paternal teacher, a Picard or a Xavier, and, like the latter, every bit the provider of his own moral code. He's eerily calm. I didn't want to hang out with any of his students, but I would have signed up for any of his classes.

Darcy has a lot in common with Michael Bowen's Uncle Jack in Breaking Bad, a professional, and in his own way, honorable businessman. Uncle Jack prefers handshakes over contracts. He's smart enough to listen to his employees. You don't see it, but you can be pretty sure he leaves his waitresses generous tips.

Darcy and Uncle Jack are in their own ways far more frightening than Goethe, Szell, or Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa. Americans know that we're supposed to be suspicious of a certain Old World charm, but our culture still honors paternal kindness, smart business sense, and civility as virtues in and of themselves. A handshake can be a deadly weapon. Some terrible people score very high on ratemyprofessors.

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