Django Unchained

Released on December 25, 2012 0 comments

When Quentin Tarantino opens a movie, it’s always an event.

Despite what the flock would have you believe, the same cannot be said for Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese or Robert Zemeckis. While those three have morphed from story-tellers into Oscar-chasing sirens, Tarantino remains the naughty little boy infatuated with movies. Not films, movies. Listen to the man in long-form interviews and its immediately clear he could be the foremost authority these days on movies and how they’re made. (With huge respect and big ups to Peter Bogdanovich and the recently departed and greatly missed Sydney Pollack.)

After being forced into making “Inglorious Basterds” for the Weinstein Blobs, Tarantino returns with something much closer to his Blaxploitation-revering heart. “Django” is his look (a thoroughly demented take we’re sure,) at one of the Nation’s most enduring and polarizing periods. It’s even got a title to rival good/bad classics such as “Shaft In Africa,” or “Truck Turner.” Django is Jamie Foxx, fronting the charge as a former slave. Along with Christoph Waltz, a dentist moonlighting as a bounty hunter (a sly nod to “Marathon Man,”) the two rip a swath through antebellum south cracker plantations in search of Django’s missing wife, who was sold into the servitude of Leonardo DiCaprio, a mustache-twisting, sadomasochistic dickbag-dandy.

Tarantino’s films are nothing if not bloody, often to the point of trivializing body counts. Some of his work would have made Peckinpah squeamish. Though stylized blood spatter is only one of the arrows in his impressive quiver. There is an argument that he takes his violence over the top for the gratuitous hell of it, and he’d likely agree. He grew up ditching school to watch B-Flicks in flea-ridden theaters, so it’s easy to see how his narrative sensibility was informed. In cinematic terms, he prefers tight, framed shots over wider masters, strong lighting over moody dinginess, and protags in love with themselves and their own voices, all of which cranks the intensity of the excellent dialogue. Tarantino might be a relic due to his preference that stories unfold through the spoken word, most of which he writes himself.

This isn’t to suggest that he lacks the visual gene, far from it. Tarantino shoots his movies as a cinematic kick in the stones, and he rarely lets us down. (Inglorious Basterds was his weakest effort, though we’ll blame that on the pressure from the Blobs.)

With “Pulp Fiction” and the “Kill Bills,” he turned linear narrative on its behind. Both are superb and formidable, though “Jackie Brown” remains his true masterpiece, a love song to 70’s star Pam Grier that also featured Sam Jackson, Bridget Fonda and even Bobby Deniro, all packing their A-game.

As the “Kill Bills” were a Valentine to the Bruce Lee/Martial Arts era, “Django” will unfold with the same menace and muscular narrative as “Superfly,” or “Willie Dynamite.” As in those romps, the corrupt, pale-faced devils need to be taught a lesson. Foxx and Waltz will give them all they deserve and then some, with a heavy dollop of physical humiliation to sweeten the experience.

Love or hate him, Tarantino’s talent is unique. Yes, his cache is loaded with violence and blood, still, his stories are so boisterously enthusiastic, it’s hard not to be pulled in. Expect to be repelled while laughing, no easy feat when translating controversial subject matter.

This is what the man does, better than anyone else.

FYI: Enjoy your holidays… the angry man will return just after the New Year with a fresh look, if not a fresh perspective, at the movies of 2013.