Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Django Unchained (2012)

Continuing what he started with Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino's latest handles broad universal themes like equality and justice. Liberty. Vengeance. In his deft hands, they come out alive and fill you with furious anger. Instead of turning it into a horrific Black vs. White battle, Tarantino intelligently balances things out by giving each side a friend who naturally belongs to the opposite side. So you have a White guy named Dr. King (geddit?) helping Django and a two-faced Black man named Stephen working for Monsieur Candie.  
It's a Good vs. Evil conflict and Good prevails. It does its best to offer solace, and is absolutely cathartic and empowering. 

I think we all can agree that Django is Tarantino's first proper love story. There are bits in Jackie Brown and Kill Bill, but Django's search for his wife drives this film forward. I don't think I felt as much for his loss as I would have liked to or I am capable of. Indian CBFC removed the critical rape scene (I am not entirely sure since I only read it in the screenplay) and didn't let us witness the true magnitude of cruelty. But despite CBFC's interruption, Kerry Washington's Bromhilda should have been used even better. The present version is exactly like that German fairytale Shultz tells Django about.  

One thing I found very curious was how Django kept changing his attire. Starting as a bare-chested slave throwing off his blanket and picking up the dead Speck brothers' jacket; next becoming Dr. Shultz's valet wearing a suit similar to Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy; suiting up for winter in a Green jacket and finally pulling off the Candie-suit better than Candie himself. I haven't planned on digging deep, but that's so much like Tarantino himself- blurring the lines between homages and plagiarism, the fastest gun in the West, a natural born killer. 

Due to his Morricone-fueled soundtracks, many of his films have had the Western feel. His ever-inventive Mexican standoff is another such element. But Django is his first true Western. The guns are slower but the men controlling the trigger are anything but. From 1940s Germany, he has jumped 80 years back in time and I am curious to see if he'll go back further. The Native American struggle perhaps? I doubt he is making a trilogy here. 

Django is a very different kind of Tarantino movie. He continues to rely on eye-catching visual indicators but this film isn't divided into chapters. The grand, five-act structure is very conventional for a Tarantino movie. It heavily bears all his directorial stamps but still feels like he has deliberately tried to do things different this time. My issue with the film is its false climax. Though I am sure I will eat it up on subsequent viewings, there were times when I did feel the length. At one point, after the death of a few major characters, the film doesn't tie things up and instead continues for a lot longer. 

Is it still necessary to talk about great soundtracks in Tarantino's films? Yes it is! Anachronistic soundtrack FTW! Hiphop has never sounded better in a movie. The 'Freedom' sequence is equally marvelous. The performances are great and all the characters get to ooze and drip with obligatory coolness. One can only marvel at Tarantino's ability of finding humor in some of the most inane or gravely serious things. I mean who else could call a slave habitat, the Candieland? Foxx's "I count two guns nigga!" deserves to be placed next to Wallach's "When you have to shoot.. Shoot! Don't talk!". It's moments like these that make me sad I don't know how to whistle. 

Coming to the controversy, many notable personalities like Spike Lee voiced their opinion against the film's depiction of Plantation slavery terming it 'disrespectful'. As I was watching the movie, Bala's Paradesi crossed my mind. These are two totally different films out to achieve different results. But when a Django-like treatment is drawing flak, why not hold Paradesi equally responsible? At least Django is escapist cinema which gives its audience a blissful release. If we are going to talk about blood money, isn't Paradesi simply cutting open closed wounds and making a show out of it? I understand that's a skewed argument; I just don't see how anyone could be offended watching Django.

Django Unchained is great fun.