27 December 2012

Dr. Tarantino Prescribes What Film Goers Need -- Django Unchained!

I do not have to post this. I can write whatever I want so long as it's true.

I frequently write just after bouncing back from a cold or even as now when still suffering the sniffles the soar throat the chills. The easy agony of a common cold. When I taught middle school I would average three or four a year. Now that I work with an adult population I get by with one or two. Hallelujah.


Slept let today not having to go into work. Later oldest daughter and I saw Django Unchained which you may have heard about. Director Quentin Tarantino is an acutely self aware film maker. He knows exactly what he's doing and what effect he wants. There is a comfortable self consciousness about his desire to push our buttons. He is a film lover who wants his films to be loved. He is in fact a director who constantly puts himself in the the mindset of the audience. But the good thing is that Tarantino is not trying to sell tickets -- just please those who purchase them. He doesn't pander or sell out his vision indeed his vision is as clear as crystal.

You sit down for a Tarantino movie and your going to get what he thinks is best. Dr. Tarantino has your prescription. Swallow whole.

Why are his films so violent? I don't know why is life so violent? You ever read a history book or check out the news? People be getting shot everyday all over the place sometimes in great numbers. Film violence is wonderfully unreal with the big fat benefit of no one actually dying. In fact cinematic violence is often an effective story telling device as long as it is used in the forwarding of telling a story and not as an entertainment end to itself. Tarantino tells the types of stories that call for shots to be fired people to keel over screaming in pain and for blood to spurt. Django Unchained would not have worked if Eric Rohmer had directed it. Just as Tarantino could not have done justice to Clair's Knee (1970).

Think about -- tell me I'm wrong.

One thing that struck me about Django Unchained was how closely the antebellum slavery it depicts resembled everything I've read and for 18 years taught about the peculiar institution. The treatment of the slaves the look of the plantation the attitudes the dress the manner. Credit to Tarantino for nailing all that. It was an ugly unpleasant and very violent world and would that there had been a whole mess of real Djangos to extract a little --nah, a LOT -- of revenge. Pow! Bullet in an overseer's gut.

Django is freed and ultimately hired by a bounty hunter (Christoph Walz) who teaches him the tricks of the trade and how to bloody well read to boot. Waltz is just the sort of mannered self conscious actor ideally suited for a Tarantino movie. Match made in film heaven. Kerry Washington is Django's ravishing wife whose freedom they seek to gain from a plantation owner played to perfection by Leonardo DiCaprio. Samuel L. Jackson is the embodiment of the loyal Uncle Tom House Nigger (as called by field slaves). A fawning sycophant whose got it far far far better than 97% of those in bondage and ain't about to rock no motherfuckin' boat. Whitey could count on his house slaves.

Django Unchained is a buddy picture. A revenge flick. A twisted slice of historical fiction. It is most of all a way of giving a cultural corrective to the horrible image of the beaten and submissive slave who had to watch from his knees as his woman was beaten or sold or both. I never sugar coated my teaching of slavery. It would have been a disservice to make this sad history anything other than the horror that it was. It also needed to be (and still does need be) taught as precisely and accurately as possible. Full of the cruelty rape duplicitousness savagery and stench of high hypocrisy. There is no pretty little ribbon to be put around the real story of American slavery. Stink. Stank. Stunk.

So let's have this film where we can at least play with the notion of one ex slave extracting some revenge. And how about this message: a freed black man "going back" for a woman. The woman he loves.

It is a story told with bravado with rich charters aplenty an eclectic soundtrack brilliant visuals and yes large dollops of blood.

And damned if it didn't make me completely my cold for two and half hours.


1 comment:

Tudor Queen said...

I love Tarantino, and agree with you that he's sui generis. Inglourious Basterds is one of my favorite films ever - how it went under the radar in Oscar's boring Hurt Locker/Avatar debate is a puzzle to me, though at least Christoph Waltz got his due. Also, of course, a huge Pulp Fiction fan. But really, every film Tarantino does leaves me curious as to what he'll do next.

I teach history, and though I can't show his films in class, I do recommend some of them to my students, since, even though he twists historical accuracy to serve his muse, the worlds he creates in which to do so are uncannily, sometimes uncomfortably accurate.