Django Unchained – 165min – R
The 70’s pulp or exploitation films Quentin Tarantino has based his career on were not really focused on making well made movies as much as just banging out movies to get them out there. What was once just an excuse to make a quick and dirty movie he has worked to make a legitimate art form. This is one of his better films. I am not a fan of this style or his gratuitous nature in his films, but he is an excellent wordsmith when it comes to dialog. This movie is still dripping in blood but he is refining his filmmaking skills to include a good story. I enjoyed the ride even if I was uncomfortable with the subject matter. This one gets a green light from me.
Django (Jamie Fox) starts the movie as a slave in a chain gang being marched across the land from a slave market. He is abruptly “bought” by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter who needs Django to identify three fugitives. After Django identifies the three people he is set free, but the two have developed a friendship. Django is going to go and try and free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from slavery. The two go to the plantation that owns his wife and try and trick the plantation owner into selling her. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) owns Candie Land *RIMSHOT* a plantation he uses to train slaves to fight to the death. He is brutal and ignorant -- a deplorable person. His house slave is Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), he plays the weak and subservient slave but he is the one who is really in charge. After copious buckets of blood and swearing there is a resolution that ends as a revenge picture.
Christoph Waltz is wonderful in this movie. He has a wonderful presence on the screen and it is very nice to see him as a good guy for a change, I think it fits him better. Jamie Fox is great as two types of characters the naive slave and the then the refined world wise bounty hunter. Leonardo DiCaprio does a great job of wearing the vile skin of the completely appalling character. I wonder if he had to use mental floss to get Calvin out of his head. Samuel L. Jackson can do no wrong, but the thing about him is even of he is in a bad movie he is going to play it to the hilt and own it. It’s great to watch him get his.
I am going to use this section for talking through something that’s bugging me, excuse me for not talking about anything more than this, but as it is my blog I can use it. Forgive me for the self indulgence.
I am completely uncomfortable with the word nigger and they use it in almost every scene. At the beginning of the movie, I flinched at every instance but I got more used to it as the movie went on. I did not like it but it was a very common word in the time the movie was set. I can see using it in this context but as a person in the modern time it’s hard for me to see past the ugliness of the word to enjoy the story the movie makers are trying to tell. I recently watched Blazing Saddles and it was not on Network TV. They used that word over and over again and I was just as uncomfortable. Lenny Bruce said “the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness.” I have to look at myself and examine why I was uncomfortable. It is because I have given that word power over me. I am not going to start using it but I am going to look at how I am affected by it. I would like to think that Tarantino was trying to desensitize the viewer to it but I really think he is just using it as set dressing and a way to shock people. Regardless at least as a viewer, it made me think.
Do you think that he will ever make the movies of his youth a true and respected art form, or is he just looking back with nostalgia that will never really have a place of honor?