Django Non-Review

Fenster writes:

People are rightly criticized for criticizing movies they haven’t seen, so I won’t set myself up as a critic of Django, which I have not seen and don’t plan to see.

I don’t know, it’s just that I have seen the trailer and I find the whole enterprise, in miniature form there, so tedious, so faux-shocking, so pre-adolescent, so self-referential-into-a-cul-de-sac that I can’t get it up to spend the time on the long form.

I’ve been down this road before.  I doubted that I really wanted to see Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds after those trailers but took the plunge, with later regrets, in those instances.  Unless my curiosity or your comments get the better of me, though, not again.

This was not always the case with Tarantino ‘n me, for sure.  I have to admit I really liked Pulp Fiction when it came out, though even then I had reservations about the content.  Sure, the violence and the dialogue were both clever, but what works when challenging genre conventions doesn’t always work as well if it aspires to be victorious as a new genre.  Every hero is, as they say, a bore at last.

A special exemption, IMHO, for Jackie Brown, which was earnest and honest in its throwbackness.  But most of the rest I can do without.

Now, I am not going to criticize Django, as I said.  But I will reference a little to-do over the use of the n-word in the film.  It is used a lot, apparently, and Drudge has been making much of that fact in his unique fashion–i.e., not by saying anything directly but simply through the number and nature of linked articles.  As a left-leaning journo on a Village Voice blog put it:

Drudge just puts the very fact out it there, apparently hoping that it illustrates two weary complaints of white conservatives: 1. That liberals are at best hypocritical and at worst the real racists; 2. That if white conservatives have to watch what they say, than everyone else does, too. The assumption is that Tarantino’s film is, by math, 100 or so times worse than, say, the Fox Nation commenter who just spews it once.

The blogger goes on to defend Tarantino, but he does so in an unusual way.  He seems to want to make it out that Tarantino has some kind of Ken Burnsian obligation to history to use the word.

First, and most obviously, the film is set in a time when the word was, for white Southerners especially, practically a synonym for property. To not use it would have been the most distracting of compromises — a whitewash, if you will.

It also helps the the word gets the biggest workout from the leads: a former slave and a bounty hunter who deplores slavery.

This makes sense both in terms of plotting — the duo go undercover as slavers themselves in an effort to free Django’s wife from her own legal bondage — and in terms of verisimilitude.

Verisimilitude?!  Did you ever think someone would resort to the v-word in discussing Tarantino?  Is it really credible to maintain that using the word 100+ times in a Quentin Tarantino film is an effort to be respectful to history?

Ah, but I am not out to critique a film I have not seen.  Perhaps I should see it.  The Voice critic seems to think I should:

The film is complex, surprising, and somewhat great. Also, being Tarantino’s, it’s impossible to unpack sight unseen — or even after just one viewing.

Gee, I may have to see it more than once even.  We will see.  In the meantime, I remind myself of Confucius’ maxim: he who has tongue too firmly in cheek may find head up ass.

About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
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6 Responses to Django Non-Review

  1. Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

    Agree with you that Tarantino doesn’t really give a hoot for history. It seems to me that the n-word is just a Tarantinoish sort of thing. It’s gritty and colorful and shocking and throwbacky and it has street cred. It’s also a black thing, and Tarantino has long been obsessed with black things. Conservatives are probably right that there’s a double-standard regarding who gets to use the n-word and who doesn’t. But there are so many double-standards of that type that I’m not sure it’s worth getting hung up on. QT gets away with it by having prominent black actors involved in his projects, and surely it helps that “Django” is strongly pro-black and anti-slavery. Still, Spike Lee complained mightily over the use of the n-word in some of Tarantino’s ’90s films. I wonder how Spike feels about that now…


  2. epiminondas says:

    Confucius say, once you see, you cannot UNsee.


  3. Toddy Cat says:

    Doncha love how liberals “say” things, and conservatives “spew” them?


    • Yep.
      As for the movie, I will go see it. Frankly I hate the content of all of QT’s work, but to watch a film in the hands of a talented director–it makes us realize what we’ve lost. The opposite of how anti-counterfiting FBI agents are trained or gemologists, when they study the real thing so closely for so long that they can spot a fake almost instantly, we are fed mediocre, meandering movies so often that when a director can actually create tension and drama it’s like having studied cubic z’s and then being blinded by a diamond. It’s just so sad that brilliance tells these stories.


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