One thing I didn't understand is how Django was such a great shot? Without any assistance from Schultz, he was a perfect marksman.
One thing I didn't understand is how Django was such a great shot? Without any assistance from Schultz, he was a perfect marksman.
Yes, when the Brittle Bros. are dealt with it becomes more about Django's personal mission. But who proposes that mission? Who decides the way it will be done, and is calling the shots for most of the rest of the story?
This isn't Ben Kenobi popping in with a few words of advice, then disappearing. And Schultz feels more like a real person than a Joseph Campbell archetype.
In the quieter scenes between Django and Schultz we're getting a real dialogue, not one man just talking or questioning another. It's part of what makes the film great.
T E A M R I V E T T E
So, this was mostly good.
Definitely quite a step down from IB and not one of my favorite Tarantino's, but, as always with him, impeccably crafted and compulsively "watchable."
The problems stem from the fact that Django is one of the dullest characters to ever come out of a Tarantino film. Seriously, just a lifeless, lifeless character, and Broomhilda is but a sketch. So the main narrative thrust is completely flaccid. This film is absolutely Schultz's and Candie's--regardless of whom the plot centers around, they are the magnetic presences that drive everything forward and draw viewers in. After the two of them bit it in the same scene, I literally couldn't give a shit about anything else that happened. Everything after the moment Schultz was shot felt gratuitous (in more ways than one).
For my money, Leo was FAR and away best in show. Well, Waltz basically matches him, but Schultz really does feel like Landa recontextualized as a good guy. They are played with such similar energy and charisma. So, the returns were a bit diminished there.
I really enjoyed the film a lot more than expected. While I liked Inglorious Basterds I thought this was much more cohesive narratively and had more sense of rhythm and purpose. While the third act is little long the ending was satisfying in a way many Tarantino films are. I thought all of the acting was amazing. DiCaprio and Jackson really bring scene chewery to their scenes and the film is outstanding when they are on screen. Waltz is also great with his sly charisma that never to me felt derivative. Tarantino delivers once again and I hope he is nominated over Hooper. Anyways I hope to get to watch out again soon and will secondly purchase the DVD when it comes out. One of the years best.
I really think comparing this to IB--as another "racially" informed revenge fantasy--is quite telling. I remember Tarantino insisting so strongly that IB was just about reveling in watching a group of Jewish men and women mow down Nazis. But the film got the better of him and snowballed into something entirely more complex. I don't think that happened here. There are touches of it, but it's more obvious and less layered (the man Django and Schultz let get torn apart by the dogs, for instance--suddenly the heroes are more gray than white, but in an obvious way. The actual act of revenge itself is not investigated with the same critical eye it is in IB, or even Kill Bill Vol. 2)
My other favorite Tarantino is Jackie Brown. I think it's also not surprising that these are the two films where Tarantino is most successful at creating actual "characters." I mean, obviously you don't have to create characters. But Tarantino isn't a Godardian polemicist. I suppose one could argue his characters, like many of Godard's, are ciphers. But Godard made them vectors for ideas--Tarantino turns them into vessels to deliver cargoes of sweet "coolness" and "awesomeness" and "bad-assness" to the audience (how appropriate, as one of my friends noted, that we were sitting in front of a group of highschoolers whose only running commentary the whole night was just that--"Awesome!"--and at all the precise moments you could just feel Tarantino snickering the exact same thing from behind the camera).
That isn't necessarily problematic in-and-of itself (I love "awesome" things! Who doesn't?) But it's just so clear that Tarantino is a storyteller. It's all about weaving the yarn for him. He indulges so much in the rhythm of conversation, in creating tension, and allowing scenes to go through really natural emotional modulations. So his ciphers tend to feel more like a hindrance than a blessing given his natural talents and the overall tenor of his films. And IB (between Shosanna, von Hammersmark, and Landa) and JB (Brown and Cherry--and to a lesser degree Melanie and Louis) don't suffer as much from that. Django has Schultz and Candie, but, as I said, Schultz's clear similarities to Landa make his character less satisfying, and the main problem remains that Django--our "main character"--is just so damn blank. The more I think about it, the more I sort of actively dislike absolutely everything that came after Schultz's death. Which is disappointing, because there's a lot great things going on otherwise. But Django and Broomhilda can't carry this movie. It isn't as rich as some of his other films to begin with, and once Schultz and Candie are out of the picture, it isn't as colorful, either. It limps badly into the finish line.
His facade (which has already shown vulnerability in aligning himself on a mission that is about someone else's need) begins to break. He playacts during the Madingo fight but he is taken aback by Django acting cruel to the slaves on the road to Candieland. It is Django, now the stronger, tougher one, who advises the importance of staying in character. Yet King almost breaks character again when he offers up the 500.00. The King we saw early in the film wouldn't do this. This King is willing to depart with the money to save this man. Django knows that this act could give away the charade and so it is Django who saves the mission. After Django and King have been found out and Broomhilda has been bought from Calvin, King's arc comes to it's conclusion. That this cretin Calvin got the best of him is bad enough. What throws oil on the fire is the notion that a person who does to humans what Calvin does (importantly we see King is experiencing flashbacks of D'Artagnan's death) gets to live. King is so overwhelmed by emotion that he begins insulting Calvin. Then he really loses it. King's killing of Calvin is also the final step into fully embracing who he truly is at heart.
Django though is the mythic hero here. Seemingly trapped in a life in the mines, his smarts (going a step beyond King as it is an improvisation where he holds none of the cards) fool three guards into handing a loaded gun to him. He kills an entire shack of bad guys with little effort. He then takes out, with running commentary, the white male who had threatened to castrate him, the white woman who prepared Broomhilda to be a sex object, and the black male who works with those who bring pain, misery and death on to members of his race. The last mission must be completed by Django alone because this film is about his journey from slave to a man who has taken control of the destiny of him and the person he loves. King has his own arc but ultimately his primary function is a catalyst for Django's journey. As the movie progresses, his relationship to Django changes from someone using Django for information to business partner to friend. As already brought up, Django's journey informs growth in King. Yes King dies but that journey brings him a redemption from the self-absorbed bounty hunter that begins the film. Django's touching goodbye to the now dead King is an expression of love, one that both demonstrates that Django is thankful for King's presence in his life and sets up the concluding act of violence.
I don't agree that Django is a dull character. Foxx plays him as a man coming to realize his strength and wiles and then staying in character until the mission is completed. This is why Django's goodbye to King and later Django's playfulness on the horse soar. These moments let us see the more tender aspects of the man. However Django displays the same stoicism under pressure that characters played by John Wayne and Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood have before him. The charisma, toughness, and resolve found in other great Western hero's of film is present in Django and Foxx's performance is equal to those. It is far from a one note performance. Foxx conveys Django's longing, his hope, his charm (the sequence when he fools the guards is sublimely played), and his despair (the moment where he begs for himself to be whipped instead of Broomhilda is utterly devastating and a great deal of that is due to the intensity Foxx brings to that moment) and yet never hits a false note.
As for the other performances, I don't care about the whole Waltz should be in lead debate. Frankly those things often tend to be based on a deeply held desire for someone else to win. The important thing is Waltz is phenomenal. His line readings are a joy* and he captures the increasing sensitivity in King in such a way that we never doubt his actions at the end. In fact, we know there is no other choice. What is interesting is how far removed King is from Waltz's last great performance, Landa. Landa was a man who enjoyed using words to mentally torture individuals and power to intimidate individuals. Landa never displays concern except for himself. That was a man who enjoys the suffering of others. King, on the other hand, is a man who uses words to explain himself and his actions, as a form of appeasement. His words are not used as a form of intimidation but as a way of communicating why his actions occurred. He shows interest in Django and is sensitive to Broomhilda when he reveals what is going on. Ultimately, besides both being conversationalists (and few aren't in Tarantino's world), there are no similarities between Landu and Schultz. Foxx and Waltz are a perfect team. They are one of two. DiCaprio and Jackson work off of each other just as brilliantly. DiCaprio is at his best when his honor is being called into question. We can see how King is getting under Calvin's skin. Calvin's demand of a handshake is a desire to have King recognize him as an honorable person. DiCaprio registers that Calvin is aware that the bubble of delusion, the one in which he see himself as a highly civilized and honorable man, is being burst, My favorite performance is Jackson. It cannot be a coincidence that the character's name is Stephen (a call out to Stephen Fetchit of those John Ford directed-Will Rogers starring flicks of the thirties?). Jackson plays Stephen as cruel, servile, in charge, whining, jocular, clever, vindictive, loyal, etc. This is one complex characterization. Take the scene where he cries out holding Calvin's dead body is played by an actor in complete confidence of what he is doing. It displays how messed up Stephen is while also working for one of the biggest laughs in the film. This is one of the gutsiest, most challenging roles I have seen in a while and Jackson walks the thinnest of tightropes without ever coming close to falling. I think it is the best performance of the year by anyone.
Other loves - Don Johnson who gets off some hilarious line readings (he did so too in the otherwise dull mediocrity that was Machete - I think he is easily doing the best work of his career now). Kerry Washington's damsel in distress may have little to do yet we immediately understand why Django would go to the ends of the earth to save her. The eyes in the hoods sequence. Tarantino getting blown up. Dennis Christopher and Walton Goggins playing different type of weasels just right. The lady fainting when the sheriff is shot by King. James Remar playing two parts.
*I think Jackson and Waltz are in a tie for who does the best job of speaking Tarantino dialogue. It is amazing to listen to.
Last edited by ldw; 12-28-2012 at 12:53 AM.
I saw this with a friend that, as it turns out, does not respond well to screen violence. The was a little hard to take in as she was squirming with her hands covering her face. I don't think she knew how violent this was going in. But she still loved it!
Anyway, I thought this was a blast. Messier and not as depth-heavy as Basterds, but it's a rollicking good time otherwise. Some scenes feel like they run long, but I remember a similar feeling during some scenes in Basterds, so I suspect they'll work better on repeat viewings.
The three supporting men are easily the highlights of the cast, though Waltz is the only one I might nominate (In either lead or supporting). He may be running over similar ground that he did in Basterds, but he's such a fun, warm, entertaining character that
"I shall immediately after I'm done watching Homeland." - DirkDiggler on his voting priorities
My favorite line of the film: "You silver tongued devil, you."
The biggest reactions at the screening I went to were:
1) Django telling Stephen not to leave/Django shooting Stephen in the kneecaps/Stephen asking the Lord to give him strength to kill Django
2) Django shooting Lara Lee
3) King shoots Calvin
4) The woman running past Broomhilda (when she is on the horse)
5) Tarantino blowing up
This was fantastic. Saw this on Christmas day with my parents who loved it as well. It's a simple story that is done so well and is entertaining throughout. I loved all the characters, especially Waltz. Also the cinematography was gorgeous and Louisiana has never looked so good.
It cracked me up how many people were complaining about the violence on the way out of the theater. Like, did you just pick a movie out of a hat? The lady in front of me HATED it anytime something even modestly violent happened. It was almost as entertaining as the movie itself.