Tarantino Unchained

Posted: April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Django-Unchained-Poster-2Okay, I realize it’s not a horror film, but I have to chime in on Django Unchained, which we finally got around to seeing yesterday. Twenty or so years ago, I read a piece, I think it was in Film Threat, about this brash young talent and his debut film, Reservoir Dogs. I saw it the night it opened, and was amazed. Here was a film that was cool, funny, brutal, and thoroughly satisfying. In the years since, Quentin Tarantino has had some hit and misses but, with Django, he hits new heights, and shows us all just how much he has matured as a filmmaker.

I’m not going to rehash the plot; chances are you’ve already seen it and if you haven’t, well, see it. This is a film that pays deep homage not just to the Italian spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and 1970s, but also to the great westerns of Hollywood. For each over-the-top Leone reference, there is a subtle nod to John Ford, Howard Hawks, and countless others. I should also mention that the portrayal of American slavery is brutally, unflinchingly realistic, which is in itself worthy of respect in these politically correct times. Much has been said about the film’s heavy uses of a certain word; from where I stand, every time that particular word is used, it is relevant to the story and the way in which the slaves were regarded by American society in that particular place and time.

As with most of QT’s films, the dialogue snaps but, unlike some of his other works, Django is not overly talky. My thought is that when he has a script in which he doesn’t have total trust, QT plunks in some heavy dialogue to hip things up. Not so in this case. The story is strong, the characters are vivid, and it all just works. For diehard film fans, there is also the bonus of a staggering number of cameos from across all genres of film. It was great fun to see so many familiar faces so unexpectedly. I’ve heard gripes about the accuracy of the period in which the film takes place, from vernacular used to firearms to historical events; while I respect that people know these things and admit that it drives me nuts when a story gets something boneheadedly wrong (Stephen King: if you haven’t yet learned that you can’t put a clip into or a silencer on a .38, then a great many people have failed you), I’m willing to overlook these things in Django, in part because I think a fair number of these inaccuracies were deliberate. The movies to which this pays tribute often got details wrong; in these cases, it’s the big picture that counts, rather than the details.

Lastly, I must point out the performances of Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz; Foxx is subdued and seething, turning in a masterful performance which, in other hands, simply would not have worked (very glad Will Smith turned the role down). Waltz is our conduit into the world of slavery; he is opposed to it in theory, but it is through his journey with Django that he and, by extension, we, see the true horror of this awful part of our history, and the realization that it still happens in the twenty-first century makes the story forcefully relevant.

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