As a fan of the cinema of Quentin Tarantino, I was more than sufficiently pleased. As a fan of cinema, I found something lacking. Especially in the first hour and the final half hour of the film. Later I discovered what I was missing. More on that later. First things first: praise Tarantino. Quentin Tarantino is a star amongst filmmakers. Something close to what an actor’s fans would generate. You know how actors do press before the film’s release? All those promotions? Tarantino does all of that, not because he wants to but because he is invited to. His movie choice matters, his presence in the cinematic world is palpable.
Obviously, I love everything he makes. Reservoir Dogs (1992, dream debut), Pulp Fiction (1994, his masterpiece), Jackie Brown (1997, most underrated), Kill Bill (2003-04, most enjoyable), Death Proof (2007, not so guilty pleasure) and Inglourious Basterds (2009, personal favorite). This is a resume any filmmaker would kill for. How does Django Unchained fare here? I say it fits damn well. But let me tell you my long and winding journey to this conclusion.
The first time I saw the film, I thought it wasn’t as tight as his films usually are. I still do believe it is a messy film, especially the two climaxes which feel stretched. Then I found out that in the early draft of the script, the climax was not split into two. I wondered why Tarantino made this decision. Instead of wishing the director had made more trips to the editing table, I made another trip to the cinema and watched the film without thinking of it as a film with a conventional screenplay. The structure started making sense. Why are the villains introduced one hour into the film? Questions like that were answered as I began to see the film as it is meant to be seen. The only thing I couldn’t ignore is the lack of Tarantinian dialogue. I love Kill Bill 2 more than 1. Why? The first one has more action and the second has more dialogue.
Tarantino loves big scenes with heavy dialogue. Unlike Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds, there aren’t many of those here. Instead there is a 45 minute long sequence. Yes, 45 minutes! I’m referring to the dinner table scene which starts with the song Ancora Qui, with the skull monologue in the middle and the shoot-out at the end. It is undeniably fantastic. It is one of the best things Tarantino has ever filmed. For the lack of dialogue otherwise, especially not giving Django and Broomhilda an actual exchange of words, I could overlook everything just because of this brilliant sequence.
I personally loved all four major actors in this movie. There are two heroes – the typically Tarantinian Christoph Waltz and the solid Jamie Foxx. Then the villains - over the top Leonardo DiCaprio and the hilarious Samuel L. Jackson. Since I am a huge fan of over the top acting, DiCaprio was my favorite. Very few actors can ham and make it look like an art form, add DiCaprio to a list of greats like Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, James Cagney and our very own Amitabh Bachchan.
The soundtrack of the film, as with every Tarantino film, is full of delectable handpicked selections. There are a few which stand out - Django (from the Franco Nero western, who also makes a brief cameo here) and I Giorni Dell’ira (from the Lee Can Cleef western Day of Anger). Two original songs which I loved were: Freedom and Who Did That To You.
I often debate with myself over violence in the movies and whether it has any ramifications in real life. The bitter truth is that it does. Do I blame Tarantino for it? No. In fact, there are few filmmakers who know how to use violence on screen (Scorsese being the king). After watching a Tarantino film you can never imitate the violence in reality. Why? Because it is NOT REAL. It is so bizarre, so fantastical that it can only exist in the movies. According to Tarantino, in films like Basterds and Django, it is used for the purpose of catharsis, as a subconscious release for the audience. I’m glad this time around; he is looking inward at domestic atrocities than global/ foreign catastrophes. If you take a look at Kill Bill where the revenge is personal, the actual revenge isn’t something that provokes violence. In fact, it provokes dialogue. This is the reason why I love Tarantino, the reason why he is a modern filmmaking genius.
The film has already garnered controversies. To me, Django Unchained is a great revenge B movie (not just good but great). This is entertainment but its vicious and brutal. But then again, if you take this film more seriously than you should, re-watch the horse dancing at the end of the film a few times and get back to me.view less