Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Django Unchained" (2012)

As usual, Tarantino has placed his audience in a very uncomfortable position. “Django Unchained” is a near flawless piece of filmmaking. The cinematography, the script, the acting, and the direction are amazing. One is emotionally engaged in the story, and completely manipulated by everything Tarantino does. And you feel terrible about it all.

Tarantino is the cinematic expert on revenge stories. He is not the only filmmaker specializing in this sort of story (it is a common theme) but he is the master. What he does is simple, but he pulls it off with a certain artistic flair. He takes straw-men villains, makes them completely one dimensional and hateful, and then allows the audience to see them get… not their comeuppance, exactly. They get their death delivered in the most over-the-top, almost “Looney Tune” violent way.

Tarantino likes to think that he has instigated a fresh dialogue on slavery in America. May be. What we really get with “Django” is perhaps the most extreme racism ever seen on film. Maybe there really were people that evil back then. But we suspect that the driving force here is not documentarian realism, but rather we need to be worked up into a lather of hatred to put up with the level of violence we are expected to cheer for at the end. The same beliefs that drive me to despise slavery and racism make it impossible for me to enjoy the revenge on display.

There are two stand-out things that do work really well here. One is a darkly comic scene involving a proto-Klan raid where the men argue over whether they should wear hoods over their heads or not. This ridiculing of the hate driven men may be more satisfying than seeing such men killed later on. The other is Christoph Waltz. His performance and his character are mesmerizing.

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