Tarantino goes west in ‘Django Unchained’

Article Published: Jan. 3, 2013 | Modified: Jan. 3, 2013
Tarantino goes west in ‘Django Unchained’

From left, Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx star in 'Django Unchained.'

Director Quentin Tarantino is one of the world’s most privileged cinephiles – not only does he relish talking about movies; he gets to make them.

He’s both praised and criticized for gleaning liberally from his favorite films, reworking particular scenes and concepts in his own unique fashion for his own purposes.

The man loves cinema, and he professes it through film.

This obvious statement becomes even more so with “Django Unchained,” Tarantino’s (“Pulp Fiction”) bloody love letter to spaghetti Westerns.

Unflinching, unabashed and incredibly stylish, “Django” is pure Tarantino, combining sharp dialogue, colorful characters and dark humor for a wickedly fun time at the movies.

Set two years prior to the Civil War, “Django Unchained” is the story of Django (Jamie Foxx, “Horrible Bosses”), a freed slave who teams up with a pragmatic bounty hunter (and retired dentist), Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”), to help identify and slay a trio of outlaws.

The well-spoken and exceptionally deadly Schultz, a German expatriate, is disgusted by the concept of slavery and, upon freeing Django, views him as an equal, to the outright astonishment, befuddlement and general ignorance of practically everyone they encounter.

During their journeys, Django reveals that he and his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington, “Ray”), were separated by their former master by way of punishment. Schultz is fascinated by his tale, particularly because of the distinct parallel between his companion’s story and the German fable of Siegfried and Broomhilda, about a hero who will stop at nothing to rescue his beloved.

Furthermore, Django’s wife was educated by a German governess, hence the name and a fluency in German, intriguing Schultz even more.

He vows to help Django in his quest, and they soon learn that Broomhilda is owned by plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, “Inception”), renowned as one of the most prominent (and cruelest) landowners in Mississippi.

In order to succeed, Django and Schultz must devise a cunning scheme that will gain them entrance to Candie’s plantation – Candyland – to legally free Broomhilda and escape unharmed.

Of course, it won’t be quite so easy as that. Tarantino loves taking the long way around, offering ample time to paint his characters and the world in which they live. This, however, is his own Wild West – a deft mesh of Sergio Leone and “Blaxploitation” films (hence the von Shaft), rife with cinematography of the era, a generation- and genre-spanning soundtrack and buckets of obviously fake blood.

Tarantino has been working toward a Western (or a Southern, in this case) for quite some time, with “Kill Bill” and “Inglourious Basterds” most blatantly paving the way, so, in a sense, “Django” seems like his cinematic catharsis. He’s obviously having fun, as is his cast, all of whom turn in dedicated and memorable performances. Particular kudos go to Waltz, who practically steals the show, and Samuel L. Jackson (“Jackie Brown”) as Candie’s despicably self-serving house slave.

Unapologetic in almost every way, it’s a violent film that tackles a grim subject, frankly presenting the cruelty, evil and outright insanity surrounding slavery, and Tarantino doesn’t spare us the gruesome details.

He does, however, expertly contrast it with outstanding performances and moments of cinematic brilliance. It’s a film packed with juxtaposition that’ll have audiences laughing in one scene and cringing at the next, done in a manner that, put simply, is classic Tarantino.

“Django Unchained,” rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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