Monday, May 9, 2011

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is my favorite living director. Unlike other fans, I like his later films better than his earlier ones. While I liked Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, my favorite film in his ography is Jackie Brown. I loved both Kill Bills, Death Proof, and Inglourious Basterds. So even though I would love to go into all of his films cold, it just never happens because his scripts are usually leaked and I can't help myself. I read them.

Which brings us to Django Unchained, Tarantino's next film, a Spaghetti-style Western set in the old south. This is going to be one interesting film. It's essentially a popcorn flick with a freed slave wreaking revenge on slave-owners while attempting to rescue his wife from an evil plantation owner.

Here are ten thoughts on the script:

1. There has never been a film like this (people who think Tarantino does not make original films are not paying attention). The mixture of an entertaining genre film, mixed in with constant horrendous slave imagery--whippings, rape, castrations, auctions--is going to really put some people off. But I think it will work. Why is this period of history off limits in the movies except for incredibly reverent films?

2. The narrative sequencing of the movie is fairly straightforward, and at times it seems to amble a little bit without big set-pieces. But once all the characters are introduced at about the halfway mark it starts to really cook.

3. If filmed as written this will be Tarantino's most violent film by far. Think about that for a moment.

4. Tarantino writes parts with actors in mind and it's clear that King Schultz, the German bounty hunter who frees then mentors Django, is written for Christoph Waltz. It's a great role, funny and dangerous but with a rock-solid moral base, an interesting character for a Tarantino movie. He's a decent father figure. That's like having a decent mother-figure in a Hitchcock film.

5. The plantation owner Calvin Candie's house slave is a character named Stephen, referred to as a black Basil Rathbone, and it was most likely written with Samuel Jackson in mind. He will knock this out of the park.

6. This is the first Tarantino film that is set in a time before movies were made and I missed some of the out-loud movie referencing that is always part of his character's landscape. However, this is a film very much about the movies. It occurred to me that King Schultz (a German) directs (in a sense) the transformation of Django from slave to hero, from victim to bad-ass, and that the film is another meditation (like Basterds) on the the cathartic nature of film imagery.

7. This film is also a mythological tale, a retelling of the Siegfried and Broomhilde myth (I'm not being pretentious here--this is all part of the script). And like Kill Bill (another mythological revenge tale), the emotional pay-off is huge.

8. There are tons of roles for sniggering ugly gun-toting white guys in this film and it's impossible to think that Tarantino will resist casting himself as one of them. But I wish he would, resist that is. (And please don't cast Eli Roth either).

9. There are rumors that Will Smith might play Django. At first I thought this was a terrible idea, mainly because Will Smith is a little tainted for me these days with the vanity projects, the script tampering and the way he's cutting deals left and right to turn his offspring into mini-stars. But then I think back to Smith's early career and how good he was and I think he could play Django. In fact, I think he might be perfect. His star quality would make an interesting counterpoint to some of the degradations he suffers.

10. Django Unchained is not a sequel to the 1966 Django, except for maybe in attitude. If you haven't seen the Franco Nero (picture below) classic, it's worth checking out. Pay no attention to the horrible dubbing and just enjoy the over-the-top Spaghetti Western violence and the beautiful cinematography. Also, one of the best title songs of all time. Maybe not one of, maybe just the best.

1 comment:

  1. Jazz aficionados should be warned beforehand that this is not a biopic of Django Reinhardt.