Monday, June 24, 2013

Django Unchained

I've been thinking about a couple of things lately related to film and storytelling and Django Unchained (Quentin Tarrantino, 2012) brought them vividly to the fore. This is the fortnight in which I watched The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann, 2013) at the cinema, and yawned my way through a ABC drama - The Time of Our Lives on the box. Why do some things work – entertain us, move us – while others fail? Django Unchained, set in the south of the USA in 1858, two years before the Civil War and a tale of slavery, had me hooked from opening frame. Or was that note? The spaghetti western soundtrack signposted its Genre intentions from the get-go.

Lurid beyond measure, comic in the extreme, violent to excess it is a film that is in turn shocking and entertaining and even entertaining with its shocks. There's no doubt that Tarrantino immersed himself in the history of his subject, but what his imagination produced defies categorisation. It includes a verbose German dentist turned bounty hunter (the excellent Christopher Weisz), a brutal Francophile plantation owner by the name of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Django himself, performed with conviction and sensitivity by Jamie Foxx. As a portent of things to come – a free black man – he cuts a powerful and commanding figure on horseback whose presence unhinges every person in his path.

I loved its complicated set-pieces, sequences that were taut with tension and enjoyed Tarantino's easy mastery of the medium, his confidence to revel in silliness and then just as suddenly flip the mood like a switch to serious.

I won't get stuck into The Great Gatsby other than to say maybe this is not the right time for that period film. With all those "modern" characters having their "modern" crisis against a contemporary soundtrack I could not work out why they were not txting their issues or on smart phones 24/7.

And The Time Of Our Lives? The less said the better.

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