Quentin Tarantino brings together the Western, slavery and brutal violence. This is a recipe for success as “Django Unchained” is a very funny yet deeply disturbing movie.
On opening day, the evidence of the Stratford Picturehouse audience was that this film will do hugely well at the box office and with audiences.
It’s fantastically enjoyable to watch, with its deliberately provocative themes and story.
Spike Lee has said he won’t go see it as slavery is a “holocaust and not…a spaghetti Western”. Fair comment, but the implication of it is that white people have no right to discuss slavery. Surely it’s essential that white people understand these issues?
From the first scenes, it’s violent and clearly paying homage to the Django and Mandingo movies and, yet, wants to place these comic book portrayals onto a grand scale and in the centre of audience reaction.
Django is a fantastic Jamie Foxx, but it’s Christoph Waltz’s Doctor King Schultz that holds this picture together. He plays a bounty hunter who wants Django to help him track down some lucrative criminals, dead or alive.
The violence just keeps on and on and yet always feels like it’s part of Tarantino’s patented “justified revenge” formula.
Django wants to rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington is just fine but there’s not much space for women here, except as being saved by men) and agrees to spend a winter working with Schultz, so long as the spring is about finding his wife.
You start out in Texas in 1858, but don’t let the exactitudes of history and geography trouble you. They aren’t important to Quentin, except to make his big points about myths being eternal and violent.
Broomhilda is not just a mistake on Brunhilde, central to the Siegfried mythology of Germany so loved by Wagner and Hitler. Broomhilda is an American comic book witch, much loved by children and adults.
Schultz is German and Broomhilda speaks German. You get a little French and German in this movie, with subtitles.
As always with Tarantino, the bad guys get theirs, in spectacular and blood-splattered set pieces. The most evil of the bad guys is plantation owner Calvin Candie (Candi is another American comic) played by a completely over the top Leonardo DiCaprio. You will think of Snidely Whiplash.
Laura Cayouette is Calvin’s widowed sister. Like Broomhilda, she has little to do but does it with gusto.
The star turn of Calvin’s dreadful entourage is Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, the most unspeakable traitor to his own imaginable. Think Uncle Tom and Stepin Fetchit rolled into one.
Amazing explosions feature among the big bits of gore. Quentin acts in this as well as writes and directs.
Did I enjoy it? I spent 165 minutes feeling every sense of mine being assaulted. My attention stayed on the screen. Christoph Waltz is extroardinary and should win an Oscar for this amazing role. The costumes and scenery are just beautiful although the music feels a little cheesy, as befits most Tarantino soundtracks.
I am glad I saw it but I never want to see it again. For me, it’s all just too much.