How insensitive can QT B?
Nowhere near enough apparently.
Very few people seem to be saying anything real about ‘Django Unchained’ as a QT film. Spike Lee, the most didactic director (apart from Michael Moore) working today, has played the “who are you to…” card. He thinks it’s so insulting to his ancestors that QT would dare use the American history of slavery as pulp material he won’t even watch it. That’s total nonsense. It’s not. But it’s also just not all that good a film.
It feels overlong and structurally off kilter. Christoph Waltz’s character King Shultz gets too much screen time compared to Foxx’s titular Django, but that gets a pass because Django is the most poorly realized character in the film.
Foxx seems ill at ease with the concept of a genre bound slave, and delivers his most mixed performance in years. His cab driver in Collateral had exactly the same arc of growing confidence but with a sure footedness to the delivery that made him endearing. Django is the invisible man, both in terms of charisma and dialog.
The score weighs the film down when it strays from spaghetti western or country inspired tracks. The hip hop tracks felt tacked on and pulled me out of the antebellum South during action sequences. The contemporary music feels Iike the result of QT trying to expand appeal recklessly, and has the same “what the fuck?!” effect as his using Bowie’s ‘Cat People: Putting out fire” in Inglorious Basterds. The strength of his best soundtracks is that the characters themselves have a relationship with the music (See Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction & Jackie Brown) and that the tracks are diegetic. Oh, and contemporaneousness please.
Along the same jarring lines were Tarantno’s Terrence Malick style cutaways of Django imagining/ remembering his wife - a motif throughout the labored first 1 1/2 hours.
The biggest sign of the film’s overall looseness was the great performances QT got from Leo DiCaprio, Don Johnson and especially Samuel L Jackson as the “Uncle Tom” head house slave Stephen. There was a entirely better film hidden amongst the disconnected and uninvolving preparation scenes which were, despite some amusing clothing and patches of Waltz’ effusive dialog, utterly humorless. And therein lies the real problem with Django Unchained- Tarantino, far from exploiting American history has far too much reverence for it to turn it into a schlock fest. It’s an oxymoron - the respectful B-movie.
One of the most consistently icky feelings I got from it was a plot critical insistence that Germans were enlightened and could not abide slavery.True that Germany did not have slavery at the time, but we all know what was on the horizon. It comes across as Tarantino’s out of control buddy love for Christoph W, and an apologia to his German fans for ‘Basterds’.
I’m not even going to detail how many things were wrong with QTs cameo as a slave trader.