Here, I wrote a “non-review” of Django Unchained. As I wrote then, I’d fallen for Pulp Fiction and felt compelled to return to Tarantino, repeatedly, looking for that sugar high. But most all of his later work I found goofy-to-execrable. I concluded on a less than conscious basis that his later films must be flukes. Yeah, that’s the ticket. A long string of flukes. But by the time of Django, I had decided enough was enough, and that I would just not go. And so I wrote a non-review.
But as it happens my impulse control is poor so I found myself, almost against my better judgment, watching Django somewhat later and finding once again, no surprise, that it was yet another of those odd Tarantino one-off flukes.
I fought with myself again on the release of The Hateful Eight. It was showing in a grand old restored movie house nearby in 70mm and I was tempted for that reason alone. As Blowhard Esq. wrote in his review of Django here, Tarantino’s visuals can be impressive and the 70mm experience appealed. But I held firm.
But then there it was a few days ago, staring up at me from the rack at the local library. All I had to do was walk out the door with it and pop it into my DVD player. So I succumbed.
What did I like? The opening visuals, accompanied by a Morricone score, were majestic. After that, I settled back to see if it would be another fluke. From what I saw it was. But I didn’t complete the journey and hence this partial review.
Reviewing Django, Blowhard Esq. accused Tarantino of weak storytelling and wrote this:
(The) third act contains Tarantino’s worst scene since his segment in Four Rooms in which Django convinces the world’s dumbest slave traders to free him by retelling what we’ve seen for the previous 30 minutes.
Just so. Tarantino’s labored efforts to story tell are on ample display here, too. There’s a scene in the stagecoach near the outset where the ex-confederate Mannix (Walton Goggins) recognizes Marquis (Samuel L. Jackson) and commences, in a strangled Southern accent, to tellin’ the story of Marquis’s misdeeds during the Civil War.
It is common in drama to squeeze needed backstory into what seems like natural exposition but here Mannix goes on . . . and on . . . and on. TIME OUT! BACKSTORY ALERT! Tarantino uses this extended backstory technique a few more times, too, in the haberdashery, with equally labored results.
Now, I am one who likes words in movies and am not put off, when they are employed artfully, if they are clearly visible as artifice. I liked that a lot about the Tarantino-inflected Bone Tomahawk. And for sure that tendency is on display here. But what was original and fresh in Pulp Fiction is by now trite and repetitive. We even have a Samuel L. Jackson rant lifted in tone and spirit directly from Pulp Fiction.
The first time I tried to watch the film I fell asleep part way through, before any violence. I tried again the next night and once again nodded off. Third time a charm, I hoped. But even on night three I couldn’t make it much past the first killing, of the Bruce Dern character. So far, mostly bloodless and mostly charmless.
But then later that third night I found myself waking to the film in progress. I thought to rouse myself to go to bed. I glanced at the screen in time to see two or maybe three heads exploding like bloody pumpkins. I can’t be sure about the number or sequence since I was half asleep. But the sudden violence of the visuals, combined with my dreamlike state, prompted in me a feeling of strong revulsion.
I saw the trailer to Scanners when it came out, the one that includes the scene of the exploding head, and it got under my skin enough in a dreamlike way that I was afraid to see the film. Haven’t seen it to this day.
So kudos to Tarantino in a way for creating imagery capable of such a strong emotional reaction, at least for someone half-asleep and prone to dream consciousness.
But I will not finish the movie. It goes back to the library today. I may not have sworn Tarantino off altogether but this is progress. I am in recovery and taking it one day at a time.
I note though that he may be doing a gangster movie set in Australia. Maybe it will be good. I liked Pulp Fiction.