Django Unchained

Django Unchained ★★★★★

I was expecting this to be one that had fallen a little bit with time -- movies which I see in theaters and knock my socks off but don't inspire me to rewatch them quickly tend to -- but I do find that this holds up real slick actually, standing alongside Pulp Fiction as Tarantino's clear masterpiece for me.

Where I struggled to find substance in the Hateful Eight to a degree, particularly the kind of substance I see a lot of other folks on here having seen in it, this strikes me as the Tarantino movie with an actual point and it's such a worthwhile point that the movie really centers around channeling. In how it varies the way it represents violence against white people vs. black people (Django's three big violent outbursts are vintage Tarantino whimsical brutal fun, whereas stuff like the scene that introduces Candie and the one where Candie lets the dogs at his slave that had run away are basically horror movie shit), how it structures the shifting dynamic between Django and Schultz and how they each relate to the situations they find themselves in, especially as the movie goes on, how Stephen becomes the most repulsive character in a movie certainly not lacking for them, the arc of the movie on the whole for all its ambling and shambling at times. It paints a world in which Tarantino gives the long-overdue heroism back to the people who were truly suffering in the time period so many westerns adopt, in which even the well-meaning white people get too riled up by confronting slavery and the institutional problems it propagated to be the ones to ultimately fix the problems themselves, and in which complicity in that problem can't be forgotten after those who propagate it are cut down (itself also tempered by the scene in which Stephen talks to an upside-down Django and it becomes clear how, really, there wasn't a winning option for him).

I think you'd have a compelling point if you wanted to argue that this should all have been done by a black filmmaker or screenwriter, or with their involvement at the very least, but I do also think that the movie is specifically constructed to address that idea itself, too. That that's why Schultz, for whatever ridiculous category fraud you're gonna put on it, is undoubtedly the other main character in this film, that he's so key to the movie so that he can represent what Tarantino intends to pass on. It reminds me a lot of the way that Max and Furiosa related in Fury Road, Schultz' role is to get Django where he needs to be so he can actually start fixing shit. Beyond that, even, with Schultz' end Tarantino seems to be tacitly admitting that he is very far from perfect and that he won't make it to the day when the issues this movie reckons with are being really solved, but that he wants to be a stepping stone there if he can. His use of the N-word in his films is highly criticized and it certainly didn't stop after this and I certainly can't blame anyone who feels that undoes what he certainly seems to be aiming to aspire.

There's, of course, plenty else worth talking about, how Django's defining character trait, I'd argue, is patience, how it's what he tempers his very righteous uproarious rage with and gets him to the end of this movie. How this is far and away the best-looking Tarantino movie, with all its oodles of reds and sun-drenched vistas all leading into the spooky shadows of Candie's mansion. How, much as I said with the Hateful Eight, Aaron Sorkin can fuck off because nobody writes more interesting conversations about whatever the fuck than Tarantino right now, for my money. But the stuff above is what I wasn't sure there was to find in the movie and what I'm incredibly happy to have found.