Django Unchained - Tarantino Unleashed

                       Exploitation movies is mainly a volatile combination of ingredients, which would send most ordinary filmmakers running for the hills, and if any of them was foolhardy enough to make such an attempt, there is an excellent chance that the results would land somewhere between the unwatchable and the unspeakable. However, there is one guy who has proven time and time again since he burst on the screen two decades ago that he can make bloody epics from all those cliches and that he is no ordinary film-maker. The film-maker is 'Quentin Tarantino' and with "Django Unchained" (2012) he has created a loud, darkly funny, weird, ridiculously profane spaghetti western. 

                           Tarantino never bothers himself or the audience with historical authenticity or grounding his tales in realistically recognizable political contexts. His unique vision is to recreate all sorts of pulp fictions that take place in familiar social setting, without bothering too much about facts or verisimilitude. Like his last picture -- the holocaust fantasia -- "Inglorious Basterds" he once again takes the blood-spattered historical events, this time putting down adventures in antebellum 'Candyland.' "Django Unchained" uncovers the slavery in the American south -- a theme that has been mostly absent in Hollywood films. It is subversive and at times outlandish and make no mistake, the 'D' might be silent in Django, but the movie isn't.

         The movie is set in 1858 Texas, where the group of slaves are marching in the wastelands. In the middle of a night, their marching is interrupted by a traveling German dentist-turned-bounty hunter by the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). He sets free the slave Django (Jamie Foxx) to identify several of his former owners who are wanted dead or alive. Kill White guys? And get paid for it? Django is intrigued by the idea and soon becomes a partner in Schultz's business. Schultz also promises that he will help Django to free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) in Mississippi, after the Winter. 

               The winter turns out to be profitable for the bounty hunters and they set out to locate Hilda. They find out that she has been bought by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a third-generation slave owner who commands over the sprawling plantation known as Candy land. Schultz finds an excuse to be invited to the plantation and his act bamboozles everyone except Candie's self-loathing, black-hating house slave named Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson). He doesn't believe a word of the visitors and is convinced that they are indeed up to something. What happens from this point on involves a number of unanticipated twists and moves along in a true Tarantino fashion. 

                Django is a name familiar to most of the spaghetti western fans. The Italian actor Franco Nero portrayed the protagonist Django, a gunslinger dragging a giant wooden coffin behind him.The 1966 Sergio Corbucci's classic western inspired no less than thirty knock-offs in its native Italy over the years. When Tarantino chose that title and its setting many probably assumed that it would prove to be a straightforward revenge film. But, Tarantino once again imprints his signature on a simple material by his sharp characterization and shifty tone, which is humorous, and even campy (intentionally so). The film is often hilarious and manages to incite humor from the most unlikely of sources. In one scene, Tarantino indulges the goofy spectacle of a bunch of Klansmen debating the difficulties of seeing through the eye-holes in their hoods.

                 Django Unchained's violence level might be deliriously over the top but Tarantino is also taking quite seriously the realities of slavery’s violence and dehumanization. Apart from the blood spattering gun-fights when it comes to slaves, such as when a runaway is torn apart by dogs or when two men are forced to fight to the death in a bout of “Mandingo Fighting,” Tarantino shows the violence in a simple manner suggesting the horrors rather than making them overt. In this regard he works contrary to his exploitation film-makers, pulling back when others might go in for the blood-and-guts close-up. For Tarantino’s fans (including myself) -- expecting his eccentric touch and idiosyncratic signature -- “Django Unchanined” more than enough delivers the goods. But, looking from a more detached perspective, I find the screenplay to be too lopsided, containing many verbose monologues, and witty but distracting dialogues, which explain why “Django Unchained” runs close to three hours.

                      Tarantino as always coaxes memorable performances from his A-list of actors. After his Oscar winning role in "Ray", Jamie Foxx proved himself as a dramatic actor but he hasn't been given much of roles to prove that point further. Here, Tarantino provides Foxx, a meaty role and he really relishes it. As Django, he is tough as nails, funny as hell and touchingly vulnerable. He also displays a warm chemistry with Christoph Waltz, who is once again excellent. As Schultz, he steals the show and recites Tarantino’s cleverer dialogue better than anyone. 

                  Di Caprio as the smooth-talking, hypocritical Calvin Candie -- in his first outright villainous role -- shines in every scene he is in. The true revelation of the movie's setting is Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, a house slave in his 70s. Brilliantly performed by Jackson, Stephen has become institutionalized by time, and the small margin of power he wields with perverse pleasure over the other slaves. The character of Jackson shows the ugliest evocation of the horrors of racism and how they emanate from an indoctrinated attitude. 

                    Like all of the best pop art, Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is both seriously entertaining and seriously attentive, rattling the cage of race in America. This isn't the best of the director's films but this is a fine, accomplished effort, which forcibly reminds us that the recounting of history is as much about the bearing of the teller as it is about the content of the tale. 


Django Unchained - IMDb 


Murtaza Ali Khan said...

A very balanced review (can't really say the same about the movie) I must say... and a great one too. I simply loved it.

Inglourious was brilliant... there are no two ways about it. But, what made Pulp so special was the fact that it was the first of a kind... it even helped it to win the coveted Palme d'Or.

Btw, I have watched both of Corbucci's classics, The Great Silence as well as Django... what made the former more special, in my opinion, was its great ending and the presence of Klaus Kinski as its antagonist.

Anonymous said...

Black academics in America are hammering Tarantino for this one. But then, he's not exactly Mr Sensitive, is he?

Arun Kumar said...

@Murtaza, Thanks for the comment. I haven't watched "The Great Silence." After your opinion, it seems i really need to watch it soon now.

@Shovonc, Thanks for the comment. Tarantino never bothers himself with historical facts. He just wants his gleeful bloody epics set in different periods of history. And as you have pointed he is never going to get sensitive over others opinions.

Chris said...

Really looking forward to seeing this film...
I notice that Tarantino has not been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars this year though.

Arun Kumar said...

@Russell, Thanks for the comment. Oscars always snub Tarantino or Nolan. Decades ago it was Kubrick, Hitchcock etc.

kollywood said...

nice post i like it keep it up premium blogger templates free download