Monday, 30 December 2013


“You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity.” - Bobby Seale

Quentin Jerome Tarantino (born March 27, 1963) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. His films have been characterised by nonlinear storylines, satirical subject matter, and an aestheticisation of violence that often results in the exhibition of neo-noir characteristics. Tarantino has been dubbed a “director DJ”, comparing his stylistic use of mix-and-match genre and music infusion to the use of sampling in DJ exhibits, morphing a variety of old works to create a new one.

Tarantino grew up an avid film fan and worked in a video rental store while training to act. His career began in the late 1980s, when he wrote and directed “My Best Friend’s Birthday”, the screenplay of which formed the basis for “True Romance”. In the early 1990s, he began his career as an independent filmmaker with the release of “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992; regarded as a classic and cult hit, it was called the ‘Greatest Independent Film of All Time’ by Empire magazine. Its popularity was boosted by the release of his second film, 1994's “Pulp Fiction”, a neo-noir crime film that became a major critical and commercial success, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. Paying homage to 1970s blaxploitation films, Tarantino released “Jackie Brown” in 1997, an adaptation of the novel “Rum Punch”.

Tarantino’s films have gained both critical and commercial success. He has received many industry awards, including two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTA Awards, the Palme d’ Or, has been nominated for an Emmy and a Grammy, and has been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine in 2005. Filmmaker and historian Peter Bogdanovich has called him “…the single most influential director of his generation”.

Last weekend we watched Tarantino’s 2012 “Django Unchained”, starring  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio. This is an offbeat “Western”, set in the Deep South, two years before the American Civil War. This gives Tarantino ample scope for making a brutal, bloody, terrifying, hilarious and awe-inspiring film masquerading as a buddy movie. Akin to “spaghetti Westerns” this movie is a “gumbo Southern”.

The first half of the film takes place on the road from Texas to Mississippi as bounty hunting dentist Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) recruits a slave named Django (Foxx) to help him find three outlaw brothers known by appearance to Django alone. After Django helps Schultz with his job, it’s time for the doctor to aid his partner to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda, who resides at “Candyland”, an antebellum plantation run by the sinister and sadistic Calvin Candie (DiCaprio).

The film is excessive on all counts and there are points of awkward humour, lots of bloody, gory violence and much pandering to populist racist/anti-racist sentiment. At 165 minutes, it is a long and meandering film, yet it has its moments and it does manage to keep interest up through a number of devices – plot twists, violence, character surprises, oddball humour, violence, playing on our expectations and did I mention violence? The movie is a western, a drama, a tragedy, a comedy, an action, a thriller, a parody, an anti-racist paean, and in its heart a romance as well. Typical Tarantino, with a cherry on top.

Not surprisingly, the film has polarised viewers. We saw it and were engaged by it, although some scenes were quite horrific and did not please us at all. If you can’t stomach violence this film is not for you. The idea behind the film was interesting and Tarantino’s screenplay showed originality – in answer to his critics perhaps, that his movies are derivative and a rehash of old ideas in new garb. The film is not in the best of taste, but somehow engages and the viewer watches helplessly. I am loth to recommend it, and yet will do so – watch it if you have a strong stomach and can cope with strong themes and colourful language.

1 comment:

  1. I really should have seen this film by now! Your critique puts it higher up my 'soon' list!

    Happy New Year!