It was inevitable. As Ashley and I were leaving the theater, just after Django Unchained was over, we heard the beginnings of the conversations. A jet-black haired, deeply tanned girl with two wiry muscle-bound crewcuts explaining “That’s just how Tarantino movies are…”
When the experts on Tarantino come out, I do my utmost to flee.
Ashley and I hurried out of the movie to do our own reviews. She says she loves to hear me talk about these things as if I am an intellectual (really I believe she is being a loving girlfriend and allows me to express myself in a way that mimics some kind of import). I don’t like to wax poetic about anything really, because if I did I would just stay in the theater with the rest of the experts and indulge. I am not an expert on movies. I have seen my fair share, read critics who have studied movies their whole lives, and read interviews with people like Quentin Tarantino: people who have the utmost respect, appreciation, and love for movies.
That quality definitely shines through in Django, as it does in mostly every one of Quentin Tarantino’s more recent movies. To me, no one else creates a movie and captures the spirit, the enjoyment, and the most fundamental motivations for a “movie” like Quentin (apparently we’re on a first-name basis – from now on I’ll say Mr. Tarantino). Above all else, the movies Mr. Tarantino creates, I feel, are what movies are supposed to be about: sheer, enjoyment built by surprise, humor, and the sensual experience only a “movie” can provide.
In most (okay, basically all) movies I have seen, there is a general understanding of its construction, its plot and its resolution. There are movies that have surprise endings, but even those are constructed around an understanding of that formula (we know there will be a surprise at the end). In no other movies I have seen have I felt more uniquely separated from that formula than in the movies Quentin Tarantino makes. Like Ashley said on our way home, “In his movies, I honestly have no idea what is going to happen next.” That feels true, and is part of what made movies great originally.
As an art form, I don’t have much to say about movies. I have read critics say that Quentin Tarantino’s movies are great because they are made from a sincere appreciation of film’s history, using that as a foundation because he is such a serious fan of film. I believe that’s true; I have no basis to contend that. What I notice though, as when I was watching Django Unchained, is that no other movie was so joyfully aware of its identity as a “movie.” It is theater onscreen, but not like Les Miserables. It is theater onscreen, as a movie. I was not caught off-guard, nor did I feel squeemish when the darker moments of the movie happened, or when the word “nigger” was used. If nothing else, Django is partly a period piece quite obviously, and to fault it for its content because it makes some people feel uncomfortable now would be incorrect at best.
It’s also hard to believe anyone who would go to see this movie would be surprised by anything they saw. I can only speak for myself, but I have learned throughout my life about the nature of our country, and what built it. I understand the horrors that were inflicted by slavery, by white people, and I found it odd for other people in the theater to be surprised or feel guilty by the events in the movie. Slavery was an atrocity. Racism is wrong. Such general statements have been so endlessly pushed into our minds, that it makes us forget how specifically terrible these things are until they are brought so blatantly to our attention. If anyone was surprised or offended by what they saw in that movie, then they went into that movie choosing to not understand, misinterpret, or plainly ignore the negative foundation of our country, and they were more wrong than the movie ever could be.
I didn’t feel so uncomfortable when the dogs were released, or when the men fought for Monsieur Candie’s enjoyment. Not only did I understand that this was the reality of the time, but Mr. Quentin Tarantino is also unique in his ability to see the use of metaphor and symbolism in their proper place, in the context of film. I never felt, even in these grave scenes, that I was meant to be watching a lead-weighted metaphor, forcing symbolism, cynicism, and guilt down my throat. There’s plenty of symbolism in the movie, and plenty to understand, but not much to analyze. That’s not what Mr. Tarantino’s movies are about as well. The symbolism is obvious; the metaphors are more commonly absent. We are treated to the truth, without any veil, without any misdirection, in a dark and humorous way. There are other pieces, other films this year alone to fill us with guilt and arrogant musings for us to so intelligently decipher in the lobby of the theater to our clean-shaven, tight-wound disciples. Mr. Tarantino created a film, (a western, spaghetti included) in its purest form, in a dark period of American history, and it was done exceptionally well. Like in Pulp Fiction, as I read from a critic, it isn’t about what was in the briefcase – this movie was created by a man who loves film as art, and seems to be the only person who directs movies presently who understands how to create a pure “movie.”
And also – if you were surprised by the amount of blood in the movie, you haven’t seen a Tarantino move. It was awesome.
Every person (especially Leonardo DiCaprio, who played as good a part as he has ever played) was exceptional in the film for their part.
Finally, I guess I would say: I might go see this again in the theater, as it is the only movie I have seen since Inglorious Basterds that reminds me why I always loved going to the movies. I might even forget the ridiculous price of tickets for it.