Monday, December 31, 2012

DJANGO UNCHAINED - an absurd love affair

Quentin Tarantino is among the favorite directors that most people have a soft spot for, much like Wes Anderson or Christopher Nolan. He is famous for uncompromising gratuitous violence, pithy dialogue and a wild use of mise-en-scéne. Most everyone knows that he was a video store geek turned master filmmaker. It makes perfect sense that he would pay homage to a little known but much loved subculture of ultra-violent spaghetti westerns from the 60's and 70's sometimes starring the beautiful Italian man, Franco Nero. He decided to take a crack at his very own modern rendition of Django—hold the D. 

It must be said that the original films (there are seven that I know of) are not really all that good. Nevertheless, they have incurred a reliable cult following over time. This, I think, is what makes Tarantino's new film so special. Not only does he pay ode to these films that shocked him and engendered an absurd love of cinema bizarro (which I also share) but he does so with panache, style and contemporary sensibilities. He made a far better and far more watchable film than any of the forebears. The flashback sequences are rightly grained and filtered to give one a vicarious presence of what it was like to experience these films once upon a time, sitting in the video store—namely—shitty VHS copies. 

Tarantino cast the film very well. He introduced Christoph Waltz to American audiences with his previous work, Inglorious Basterds. He hasn't been as well utilized since. Waltz has an interesting way of sweetly patronizing you into a cataclysmic rage while being amused and disarmed of your wits. Tarantino exploits this trait to near perfection. Jamie Foxx was an odd choice to replace Nero, although perfectly apt for the new narrative take. His performance was a welcome change. Leonardo DiCaprio is generally always good. His acting felt a wee bit contrived this time round. Some scenes drag on and some melodrama is attempted but not always to complete satisfaction. Samuel L. Jackson reigned supreme as the gimpy, disgruntled butler who spews pejoratives at every convenience. Kerry Washington did a fine job as the weepy heroine but I would be interested to see who else they had in mind for the role. However good a director, Tarantino cannot act as evidenced near the end. A number of interesting cameos are donned throughout as well. 

I think QT made an excellent film with a few hiccups in the middle but eclipsed the questionable with a great opening and denouement. A truly well made homage to a forgotten era with enough twists and turns and blood and humor to last you to the next one. 

Recommended Viewing: Django (1966) - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - The Wild Bunch

              Bob Scale: The Critic: 8.2   -   The Fan: 8.9
             MetaCritic: 81
 Rotten Tomatoes: 89
                    IMDB: 8.8

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