chavel’s review published on Letterboxd:
Most provocative, even mind-altering, are witnessing the survival tactics of Samuel L. Jackson’s duplicitous and power-crazed Uncle Tom, the way he uses his blustery clout to subjugate all other lowly blacks, thus, this is how he retains his privileged position at the Candie House. Bald but with some white flecks that suggest a weathered soul, Jackson has a menacing glower and penetrating suspicious eyes that he lays upon any slave who may be up to some deceit. What I personally know about myself is that Jackson single-handedly made me re-think everything I ever thought I knew about the roots of racism in this country. For the privilege of hanging out with white aristocrats, a black man pitilessly moved up to ranks by being exceptional enough to sell out his brothers. For his performance of Stephen, I believe Jackson gave a performance that I would rank as one of the best of the decade.
Oscars would be bestowed for original screenplay, and a supporting acting one by Christoph Waltz for again doing some masterful swirly-talking, the way he talks his way out of violent predicaments and always comes out on top. The Austrian-German thespian doesn’t quite rip my heart out of my chest like Jackson. But I see more clearly now Waltz is fantastic in this role, as this too-good-to-be-true German catalyst whom turns slave Django (Jamie Foxx) into a free man and collaborative bounty hunter. Critic Roger Ebert properly defined the King Schultz character as a “deus ex machina,” since he is an impossible creation who helps black men free themselves from chains when in the 1800’s there would be no such willing person.
Schultz is a wizard from a fairy tale, a man capable of knowing about people's lives, steering their fates, seducing them into situations in which they receive the destinies they deserve, Ebert would say of him.
Schultz will help Django reacquaint him with his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), a “comfort slave” on the Candyland plantation. Leonardo DiCaprio with that beanstalk physique of his should not be threatening as the Mississippi aristocrat Calvin Candie, but he has Quentin Tarantino words to make use of; some of them are spellbindingly evil soliloquies such as the meretricious one about three dimples inside negroes’ skulls.
Schultz does most of the negotiating to come away with a Mandingo fighter from Candie’s stable of slaves; Django is his expert consultant weighing in on options. But it’s a subterfuge to liberate ideal beauty Broomhilda. No white liberal should go this far as an assist, I mean, Schultz’s life is at risk on behalf of a black man he barely knows and so the very nature of these proceedings must be seen as preposterous – not unless such a point is moot since we can now look at Schultz with retrospective eyes as a wizard from a fairy tale.
Bizarrely to myself, Django Unchained is a greater film every time I rewatch it with this as my third time. I had considered it mid-tier Tarantino originally, and now it is becoming God-tier. Original reservations? Foxx hadn’t necessarily wowed me originally with his sparse dialogue, but that’s only because he needs time to arc from meek drudge to empowered hero. In fact, none of the good guy characters are real but are rather vessels of a fantastical wishful thinking. The excessive violence was over-the-top, and given an over-stretched final act of gaudy mayhem. The plain ol’ cruelty was sadistic, and per se, over-creative? And, as aforementioned, the Schultz character is just a device of convenience.
Here’s a movie that’s just so goddamn offensive to the senses, while it’s at it!
A few years after its 2012 release, it’s not a mere movie. One starts to look at it like a work of art. Jesus Christ, the realization is this: Q.T.’s work should be offensive, as offensive as humanly possible. It should regale in its cruelty and wail in its bloodshed.
Why? It paves way to understanding that slaves may have been treated a lot worse than depicted in our previous imaginations, with Tarantino opening a cruel door to revisionist ideas on what unspeakable savagery of Confederate America looked like. Django’s ascent to flawless hero is an absurdity and therefore a slap in the face, because there wasn’t a single black man in America that had that empowerment. Sensibly, the only empowerment a black man could have in that time was to be a Mr. Stephen type.