Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quentin Tarantino: Django Unchained

Its always nice to hear from Tarantino, no matter how grandiose and self-aggrancizing he's become. The fact that one of our country's most iconic, cinephilic voices has become engorged in regurgitating revisionist history isn't quite the reason his film's have lost some of their edge. While his pictures remain thrilling and rambunctious, they lack the raw bombast in conjunction with urban wisdom which made his first three feature films some of the best American cinema of the 90s.

Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2, marked a brilliant departure, in that homaging the martial arts flicks he so loved as a child, the artist commanded a common ground betwixt his rough early mastery and the worldly reach of substance outside his origins. Death Proof, as always, delighted with genre and character, but lacked the sharpness of his early works. Inglorious Basterds contained countless masterful; set pieces, but in tackling WW2 and Nazis, the auteur had exceeded his genius grasp. For Tarantino does contain genius; his passion for all cinema, but especially everything exploitation, B-movie, grindhouse, drive-in, is sublime and singular; no other American director can lay claim to his heart for trashy heritage. The way he has imbued his passion into his art, via a gift for unbridled, bristling dialogue and uncommon framing and juxtaposition, marked him early on as a maverick in every sense of the word

The first act of his splendid new slavery epic Django Unchained, are some of his strongest work. Exposition, character, form, and style, are all dynamically displayed. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz do some of their best work as Tarantino's Reconstruction revisionist mouthpieces. Waltz, not surprisingly, in particular, steals the show. Things begin to lose traction somewhere in the second half. Leonardo Dicaprio's brilliantly bodied turn as villain Calvin Candy notwithstanding, Tarantino loses focus, devolving into a typically violent climax which would have been more impacting had Sally Menke still been around to trim the film down considerably. The extra 30 minutes dulls down what could have been Tarantino's best film since Kill Bill.

A lot has been said about the racial and violent content, but this is Tarantino, and racism and violence, their intrinsic qualities in American society, are his bread and butter. The fascinating dynamic of commentary and exploitation are what make the maestro so relevant and controversial. Despite Django's weaknesses, it remains better than most filmmaker's best works. Paying beauteous homage to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Corbucci and his ilk, Tarantino carves a distinctly American slice of bloody pie.

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