Monday, March 31, 2014

Django Unchained

* As usual with Quentin Tarantino films, he has great dialogue.
* As usual with Tarantino, he manages to pull off long self-indulgent scenes with meandering dialogue, and yet still keep the tension high.
* As usual with Tarantino, the sound track for this film is awesome.
* As usual with Tarantino, the film has all sorts of clever homages to the 1970s style of filmmaking.
* As usual with Tarantino, he’s managed to pull together yet another all star cast.
* Great performances by the aforementioned all-star cast

* As usual with Tarantino, he’s being trivial with subject matter he really shouldn’t be trivial with.
* As usual with Tarantino, there seems to be a degree of sadism going on in this film.
* The film starts out strong, but the resolution is just a boring shoot-‘em-up. 

The Review
          At this point in Quentin Tarantino’s career, everybody knows what to expect.  The usual strengths are fully on display, as well as his usual failings. 
            There’s a thorny question about whether it’s appropriate to exploit real historical tragedies for trashy revenge films.  That question is outside of the 100 words I’m giving myself for this review.  But if you put that aside, and focus just on the entertainment value of this film, I’d call it a success.

Rating :
7 out of 10 stars.  (Assuming you focus only on the entertainment value, and ignore questions of appropriacy, I think it gets a solid 7 for entertainment.)

In my review of Black Ajax, I made reference to the controversy surrounding Django Unchained.  Having seen this film, I have to say it’s even closer to Black Ajax than I realized.  Both stories involve a Francophile sadist slave owner who trains his slaves as pugilists and forces them to fight to the death.

Also see my other reviews of Tarantino films:  Inglorious Basterds, Kill Bill, Kill Bill Further Thoughts,  Kill Bill 2, and True Romance.

External Links
            The AVclub’s review of this film does such a good job of capturing the ambivalence any sane person would feel towards Tarantino, that I want to quote the first paragraph in full:

Quentin Tarantino has devoted the last decade to meticulously crafting enormously satisfying B-movie revenge fantasies for sexy women (Kill Bill, Death Proof), Jews (Inglourious Basterds) and now, with his explosive slavery-themed Western Django Unchained, African-Americans. In the films of Tarantino’s revenge collection, a noble desire to cinematically right (or re-write) historical wrongs mingles with and mutates more problematic impulses toward exhibitionism, sensationalism, voyeurism, fetishism, and exploitation. In film after film, Tarantino combines aggressively combustible elements—racism, sexism, profanity, hard drugs, violence against women, rape, Nazi brutality, slavery—with the deranged delight of a mad scientist, then cackles with glee as he lights a flame and watches the magnificent destruction that ensues. Tarantino remains an entertainer above all else, so his lurid provocations are generally in service of the intense emotions he forcefully, confidently orchestrates. Part of his genius in manipulating audiences lies in creating immersive cinematic experiences so overpowering that they distract from the thorny questions about race, sex, violence, and representation his films pose without answering. For better or worse, Tarantino aspires to an experience more emotional than intellectual, more in line with the giddy, transgressive thrill he experienced devouring B-movies as a young cinephile than the more cerebral, less immediate charms of the arthouse. He straddles the line separating art and trash, but his allegiance clearly lies with trash.

The rest of the article is worth reading as well.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky "Globalization and Neoliberalism"


angrysoba said...

I think that quote you posted sums up how I feel about latter-day Tarantino. I think Kill Bill 1 is probably one of the worst films I have ever seen in my life. Not because I find it shocking - I wouldn't want to admit that, but honest I don't - but because it just became rather quickly a very tedious movie with lots of oh-how-shocking blood-spurting.

I didn't bother watching part 2 despite assurances that it was "better than part 1" (I've had better hangovers than part 1 so that really is not saying anything).

But I did watch Inglorious Barstewards, which I found gripping for the first ten minutes (the scene at the cottage), and was prepared to watch a good movie, but then it descended into the usual sadistic revenge formula. I found it simply horrible, and decided to switch it off when I realized I liked the Nazi characters more than the "heroes". Never keep watching a movie when you end up liking the Nazis.

When Django came out I was told that if I hated Kill Bill 1 and IG then I should not even bother with this film, so I haven't.

Anyway, for something completely different, is this documentary on the linguist who went into the Amazon and brought back some evidence that may undermine Chomskyan linguistics. I know that seems out of place on a thread about Tarantino movies. But if you liked Nim then you might find this pretty interesting as well:

I hope that the movie plays okay.

Joel said...

>>>When Django came out I was told that if I hated Kill Bill 1 and IG then I should not even bother with this film

Yeah, that's about right. This film is just more of the same revenge themed flick.

Thanks for the link. Unfortunately I can't really watch movies off my computer off the moment. I'm getting most of my Internet access through Internet cafes and work. (But I won't bore you with the details of my Internet access.)
It does look interesting though. If I ever get an opportunity to check it out, I will try to.

angrysoba said...

That's right, you're in Cambodia! I should have known that internet access is not going to be a given. I remember visiting in 2003 and there were connection problems.

Anyway, the documentary is interesting from the point of view of seeing how the Piraha live, although I think that the film-makers took some liberties with their description of the language dispute.

***By the way, it is REALLY difficult these days to prove I am not a computer!***

Joel said...

Actually Internet in Cambodia has gotten a lot better in recent years. It's more of a conscious decision for me. When I have Internet in my house, I tend to spend way too much time on-line. So I try and limit myself to Internet cafes and what access I get at work. (I have a computer, so I type out these blog entries at home, but then wait to upload them until I get to an Internet cafe.)
It does mean that i can't watch videos on line...but then I probably spend way too much of my life watching videos as it is already, so I think it's probably for the best.