Django is earning Quentin Tarantino a lot of praise, from some. And the Box Office suggests it’s a big hit.
But it really left me jangled and upset. It felt like the Marquis de Sade met Road Runner. The succession of brutal, excessive, sometimes pointless (from the pov of any real character motivation) violence was relentless. The number of uses of the “N” word may have set a new world record for feature films. At times that seemed to be Tarantion’s main motivation: slip the “n” word into every scene and have at least one white and one black character use it. Over and over. Tarantiono clearly thinks he has an entre into black culture and a free pass on the use of offensive speech and the depiction of appalling acts of cruelty against blacks since these are what the kind of cartoon characters he creates would say and do. But they seem to exist only to say and do these things, with little link to any historically complex reality. From the hodgepodge of locations to the glee with which everyone scars, maims, or kills others, in a manner just about totally devoid of remorse and lacking in any sense of moral consequences, the film exists in its own peculiar world. That may be why the packed theater I was in did not erupt in anger or disgust: it was clearly not competing with Lincoln for historical accuracy or insight. There is, in fact, just about zero insight into anything social, political or psychological. Everyone is a sadist, to one degree or another, including, by the end, our hero, Django, who maims and kills with the worst of them.
Why is it so popular? Is it the cartoon quality that provides an alibi? Is it the strange frisson of hearing the “n” word and other expletives repeatedly? Is it seeing a rebirth of Shaft with Jamie Foxx’s super macho black male hero? Is it seeing whites, rich and poor, revealed as a single collection of trash and depravity, with the possible exception of Dr. Schultz who is at least somewhat philosophical about his lucrative career of killing wanted men to collect the bounty put on them? Is it seeing Leondardo DiCaprio camping it up as the corrupt, decadent plantation owner? I will wager it isn’t seeing Quentin in a little cameo role near the end. I only wish he had found a way to link this kind of carnage and depravity with the kind of Let Evrey Good Man Have a Gun To Take Out the Bad Guys rhetoric of the NRA, which could have produced this film quite happily I suspect. Or perhaps Tarantino could have alluded to “enhanced interrogation” (torture) or the sickness of Abu Ghraib, as some other films have manage to do, but metaphor and allegory seems far more absent than the urge to imitate and empty the spaghetti western of its form without its content. Django gives us the spaghetti without the calories of a nourishing afterthought; it is all high energy carbs and more than a disappointment. It’s a symptom of a director without a moral compass.
I basically prefer to write about films I like or love so take this as the knee jerk rant it is; something may considered may emerge down the road.