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Archive for the ‘Samuel L. Jackson’ Category

Django Unchained

05 Jan

Django Unchained – written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Western. A bounty hunter joins with his slave to make a killing in the bounty business and to liberate the slave’s wife. 165 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★★
If you want to watch A Quentin Tarantino movie properly you must gauge whether he pleases you with the way he pleases himself in telling his tale, for the way he tells his tale pleases Tarantino so mightily, so obviously, and with such relish, there is no way of avoiding it with pleasure at all. He is a show-off. A great show-off. You either put up with it, or you go ice-skating.

And we find wonderful performances in his pieces, here from Cristoph Waltz, as a bounty hunter disguised as an itinerant dentist, and speaking an English so elaborate no one in Texas has a clue as to what he is saying. This joke is replayed again in reverse by Bruce Dern speaking in an argot no one in his vicinity, or in the theatre audience itself, can gather at all, save Leonardo DiCaprio who understand every word immediately.

For Tarantino is a witty director indeed. And he is one who knows how to structure a scene powerfully, so the movie moves forward not so much through its story as through our expectations of another even wittier scene. These are interlaced with spectacularly shot vistas of the West. Waltz and the slave adventure assassination after assassination, buffaloing among others Don Johnson as a vicious slave-owner, and collecting bounties hither and yon.

All this works well until the last act when they come up against two formidable actors, Samuel L. Jackson as the Uncle Tom major domo of a vast cotton plantation and its owner whom he cow-tows to, bullies, and influences. Jackson’s is a stunning performance and a ruthless exposé of the Negro favoring the white tradition over the hearts, minds, and bodies, of his fellow slaves.

The owner is brought off by Leonardo DiCaprio brilliantly, with every requisite furbelow of the Southern plutocrat on display. Finally, DiCaprio is in a character lead! He is not a leading man, he does not have the technical substance to fake it or the acting instrument for it to begin with, but give him a part with some character, an accent, a costume, (The same is true of Meryl Streep), and you’ve got an actor doing what God made him for to do.

Jamie Foxx plays the slave, and our surprise is a tribute to his gifts to see what a fine actor is in him, for he starts off unrecognizable as a shackled slave, and he gains in character and stature as the story goes on and the costumes and facial hair change. Dressed in rags, his soul is in rags; dressed in cowboy rig, he grows into man of position high on a horse; dressed in turquoise knee breeches, he is a disdainful fop; dressed in work pants and an old shirt, he is a captive renegade. Then dressed in Zorro duds, he is a Hollywood star on a trick horse, ready to bust out into “Home On The Range.”

The film is richly entertaining. Until it isn’t, and that means that Tarantino plays 52-pick-up with his finale, which consists of five, count them, five hugely detailed slaughters. Sharp and imaginative as these bloodlettings are, we are drenched numb by them, and they cancel one another out, and us along with them.

We do not need the second. All we need is his being handed the gun. A blackout with gunfire. Cut to his removing the weapons from the bodies.

We do not need the third. All we need is the six men lounging in the cabin, the shadow of Django in the doorway, and his walking away with the cabin on fire behind him.

As to slaughter number four, we need less dialogue. The slaying of the sister is wonderful, but the scene needs fewer slain, two would do, the castrator and the sister – who are those other people anyhow?

The major domo must meet his comeuppance in slaughter five, which I shall not tell you about.

Anyhow, Tarantino lacks, here, the sense of narrative selection which would stop the movie from being a film he himself would want to see and let it be the film the audience would want to see. Self-indulgence is the worst crime an artist can engage in. But show offs are always showing off for themselves. It’s a problem with the type.

But still, Tarantino has given us a first class drama of retribution. The white race is totally annihilated. How gratifying. Everyone dies who should.

Did we ever think they wouldn’t?

No, but up to the last ten miles, the trail that meanders through a maze of surprises to that inevitability is stunning. Who would ever have thought to make a movie like this?

Quentin Tarantino.

Right.

 
 
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