No one does Tarantinoesque quite like the original Quentin, a man whose love for cult Seventies cinema routinely manifests itself into polarising movie events. His films are so stylised and extreme, so deliberately written and knowingly shot, you have no choice but to love them or hate them. There is no middle ground.
Me, I love them AND I hate them. They’re thrilling and disappointing, hilarious and tedious, ingenious and derivative, sublime and obnoxious, all at once. This is true of virtually all his work and Django Unchained (18) is no exception.
A comic spaghetti western with plenty of red sauce, the film tells the tale of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who is freed by a charismatic bounty hunter in order to help him track down a trio of brothers wanted alive or preferably dead. In turn, our unchained hero takes to killing white folk for money, and once he and his mischievous mentor (Christoph Waltz) are firm friends, they set out to rescue Django’s indentured wife (Kerry Washington), currently the property of a sordid Southern scoundrel (Leonardo DiCaprio) who organises to-the-death slave fights.
There is much violence, choreographed with gusto and delivered with glee. There are speeches, epic stretches of dialogue in love with itself, much of it as clever as it thinks it is. There are cameos and movie in-jokes, so many you could watch it purely as a geek trivia quiz, noting the endless references. In addition, as expected, there’s a crazy soundtrack of oddball oldies and film so grainy and drenched with oversaturated colour that you’re almost dirty from the depicted dusty trail.
Then there are the performances. Big ones. Huge, scenery chewing beasts that cannot be stopped. Another cracker from Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Oscar-winning Nazi and already a Golden Globe-winner for his educated dentist turned killer of bad men. By far the smartest man in every room he’s in, the pleasure he takes in endlessly outwitting everyone is palpable and contagious.
Foxx too is a pleasure to watch as he slowly comes out of his shell, a timid bug of a man at the start who slowly transforms into a leather clad butterfly of vengeful death. Then there’s little Leo, twisting his charm into something dripping with evil honey. And Samuel L. Jackson, simply outrageous as the squawking head of Leo’s nightmarish household. It’s a freakshow, to be sure, and everyone’s very confident and chatty.
From the opening seconds I was instantly won over by Django Unchained, but it’s a movie that abuses every ounce of your good will. Mostly because it is self-indulgently, endlessly long. Every speech needs clipping. Every scene requires a hefty edit. You want to shout at the screen, “I get it. Move on.”
By the beginning of the film’s third hour, it has already outstayed its welcome, and when all 165 minutes are finally done, all you are is relieved. Because for all its lively, winky, irreverent stylings, it’s like a house guest you initially find amusing, but one you soon tire of when he refuses to go home. And the things you originally enjoyed about him became the things that eventually annoy you the most.
But… if you’re patient and willing to forgive the movie’s excesses, if you’re passionate about your Tarantino and westerns are additionally your thing, you may very well adore Django Unchained down to its grimy cotton socks.
An inspirational true tale that recommends we seize the day, and one another, The Sessions (15) is an indie sweetheart with so much warmth, good humour and humanity, it would be impossible not to be won over by it. Though the subject matter is challenging, there’s a surprising lightness to the way it’s handled by writer/director Ben Lewin, who gives his talented cast the tools they require to fashion something intimate, precious and beautiful.
John Hawkes takes the lead as a mentally vivacious thirtysomething man in an iron lung who wants to lose his virginity. Though entirely immobile, there is still one part of his body that works, and with the help of professional sex surrogate Helen Hunt, he aims to put it to good use. Shamefully, Hawkes was passed over this year for Oscar recognition, even though his performance is one of the most beguiling I’ve ever seen in a film. What matters most, I suppose, is the movie got made and is now available for your viewing pleasure. So go ahead. View.