Monday, January 7, 2013

The brutality fest DJANGO UNCHAINED? Better to refer to it as Tarantino bound.

You gotta hand it to this guy. Quentin Tarantino (shown below) is at it again, homaging himself silly. Not content with doing it, three years back, to WWII movies and those naughty Nazis, and this year to Spaghetti westerns and the slave trade in the USA, now he's even homaging himself! And repeating himself. (How many times must our Django gaze off into the distance and see a vision of his slave-traded woman?) All this takes extra time, of course: two and three-quarter hours to be exact. TrustMovies managed to last out two full hours of the film before heading out to the lobby to finish an article he'd begun reading (prior to entering the theater) in the current issue of Cineaste -- a magazine you should take a look at, by the way, if you don't know it already: It's the best of any in terms of connecting movies to our society, past and present).

After being unable to sit through either Inglourious Basterds or DJANGO UNCHAINED (and I almost never give up on any movie), I suppose it is time to reconsider the oeuvre of Mr. T. Later for that. Right now, I'll just say that Tarantino is doing in his most recent work exactly what he did in his penultimate one. He's giving us the questionable pleasure of thrilling to and egging on ultraviolence against folk who so obviously deserve the worst that can be dished out: those WWII Nazis who so abused the Jews, and now the disgusting white slave traders who so abused the blacks. Talk about straw men (women, too).

This kind of on-screen shit -- and that is exactly what it is -- is crass and simple-minded, not to mention fake history, as nothing like what is seen in either of these two films actually existed. Excuse me? Yes, there was a WWII, and slavery flourished here in the good ol' USA. But all our Quentin has managed to do is let us free our inner bullies and cheer on the violence against the villains, who, in the actual day pictured in both of QT's films, were generally accorded praise and fealty, even by their victims who would have otherwise been all the sooner killed. So here's your fantasy chance to even the score! How paltry, pitiful and beneath the level of intelligent audiences. And yet, I guess, it is not. Our current audiences are even more cretinous than I had suspected.

Yes, Django Unchained is pretty to look at -- dat's one big budget up dere on da screen!), is in most cases extremely well-acted, especially by Christoph Waltz (above) as a semi-moral bounty hunter and Samuel L. Jackson (below, left) as the Uncle Tom of all time, and tosses around the word "nigger" like it was about to go out of style and so must not, on any account, be forgotten.

The "n" word, as so many journalists offer it up these days, is used especially often and "well" by Django himself (Jamie Foxx, below), and so gussies itself up ironically -- but so consistently and repeti-tiously that any irony is finally long gone. As violent as the movie is, however, Tarantino actually cuts away from some of the beatings, blood and gore. So this could have been a lot worse. But were not the filmmaker so enamored with himself and his "style," the movie could have been so much better. Shorter, too. There is enough content here for maybe 90 minutes rather than its current 165.

One set piece after another passes before our eyes until, eventually, the eyes begin to glaze over. I cannot vouch for anything in those last 45 minutes that I missed, but I saw only one visual moment I thought very creative on QT's part in the first two hours: the scene in which Django -- dressed in his light blue, silken, Little Lord Fauntleroy attire -- walks quickly across the huge plantation to try to stop a slave being whipped and happens to pass a young black woman swaying beautifully on a swing.  This was a graceful, surprising moment, unlike anything I have seen. Lovely. For the rest, it's just business as usual.

Django Unchained is playing all over town in just about every town. Click here to find the theater nearest you -- and go crazy. Maybe, if you're really lucky, you live in a location where you can legally carry a concealed weapon into the local theater and have yourself some fun. I'll tell you: This movie'll rev you up to it. But remember: You can only shoot the really, really bad guys. 'Cause that's just A-OK.

The photos above are from the film itself,
except that of Mr. Tarantino, which is 
by Donald Bowers, courtesy of Getty Images

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