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Bloodier Is Better
December 11, 2012 1:33 AM   Subscribe

"We had a bunch of extras from the community, St. John the Baptist Parish. It was cool, re-creating this history with black Southern extras whose families have lived there forever. They knew what went on back then. Then there was a social-dividing issue between the extras that mirrored the ones between their slave characters in the movie. The ponies were pretty, and they looked down on the extras playing cotton-picker slaves. They thought they were better than them. And the people playing the house servants looked down on the people playing the cotton pickers. And the cotton pickers thought the people playing the house servants and the ponies were stuck-up bitches. Then there was a fourth breakdown, between the darker skinned and the lighter skinned. Obviously not for everybody, and it wasn’t a gigantic problem, but it was something you noticed. They started mirroring the social situations of their characters, being on this plantation for a few weeks."
Playboy interview with Quentin Tarantino for the upcoming Django Unchained.

Read the interview straight through on livejournal if you want to avoid multiple pages.

More recent CBC interview here.
posted by mannequito (78 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
IIRC, the same dynamic played out in Das Experiment also, between the actors playing the prisoners and the guards. It does add something visceral to the performances, even when you don't know why.
posted by zinful at 2:01 AM on December 11, 2012


They started mirroring the social situations of their characters, being on this plantation for a few weeks.

I think it's called acting and I can understand Tarantino's surprise at seeing it on one of his recent movie sets.
posted by three blind mice at 2:27 AM on December 11, 2012 [31 favorites]


During the making of Animal House, John Landis kept the actors playing the Deltas and the Omegas apart to keep them from getting too chummy on camera. The Delta actors would get together in Belushi's room every night and party and drink and play a piano and sing, and Omega pledge Kevin Bacon, who had the room below, talks about sitting in his hotel room, shining his shoes, listening to the party, and cultivating a loathing of the Deltas that he used while filming.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:47 AM on December 11, 2012 [26 favorites]


You know, if I had been asked to name the movie that was least affected by method acting I would probably have said Animal House.

Goes to show what I know.

That said, I find the spectacle of Quentin Tarantino wandering into the middle of probably the most sensitive area of American cultural life dispensing tactlessness the way the Easter Bunny gives out chocolate eggs perversely entertaining. If I'm very lucky, I'll get almost as much fun out of the movie itself.
posted by Grangousier at 3:03 AM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


I too am caught between a "they can't do that" horror and a gleeful "I have so got to see this movie" anticipation.

"Killing white folk, and they give me money. What's not to like".
posted by zoo at 3:06 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I caught a screening of Django Unchained last week in London (optamystic, another Mefite, was also in attednence). I'm not a huge Tarantino fan, but I really enjoyed this movie. Incredibly stylish, well-shot, and - to my untrained eye - rather more accurate to history than, say, Inglorious Basterds. Not that that's very difficult, of course - it's not like Django goes out and kills Jefferson Davis or something.

Amusingly, it took about half an hour before anyone in the audience asked Tarantino about, you know, the subject of the film: slavery. But that's Brits for you.
posted by adrianhon at 3:11 AM on December 11, 2012


Most rich white guys who want their own plantation nowadays... they'll buy a Walmart, or a sports franchise. But Quentin? He goes whole hog!
posted by markkraft at 3:40 AM on December 11, 2012


Anticipating scathing comments on Django Unchained from Spike Lee in 3, 2, 1...
posted by markkraft at 3:50 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen the film, but I've seen other Tarantino films, so I can tell you that there's a bloodbath toward the end where the slaves win by using their ninja skills. Am I right?
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:54 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm an unabashed Tarantino fan. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Tarantino to release a genuine stinker, so sometimes I get a little apprehensive whenever he has a new movie out. With that in mind, I'm keeping my expectations artificially low for Django Unchained, so that I can just sit back and enjoy it as it comes.

In related news, I saw The Man With The Iron Fists recently, directed by the RZA, "presented" by Tarantino. Movie was hella fun and hella ridiculous, even if much of the movie seemed to be torn from RZA's own Asian fetish stroke book. The movie's also notable for making Russell Crowe seem fun, which is hard to do, and for having RZA's own character be a freed slave, in what is otherwise a light-hearted, ludicrous kung fu movie.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:07 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amusingly, it took about half an hour before anyone in the audience asked Tarantino about, you know, the subject of the film: slavery. But that's Brits for you.

Goodness, I wonder if you could elaborate on what you mean about "Brits" by this?
posted by ominous_paws at 4:20 AM on December 11, 2012


I read the reviews of Man with the Iron Fists, which sort of didn't understand it. It was fantastically baroque, insane, and incredibly entertaining, (though the first cut was 5 hours!), but if you went into it expecting a ludicrous kung fu movie you totally got it.

As for Django, I love Tarantino, but I worry about his racial politics, and i like the chutzpah it took to approach his critics directly, but still it's worrisome.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:39 AM on December 11, 2012


Good interview, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:18 AM on December 11, 2012


I've seen the trailer for this movie. There's a phrase involving bat guano and insanity that comes to mind.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:31 AM on December 11, 2012


but still it's worrisome.

This is by design. The scene when they kill the stoic german officer, and the good-guys, Jewish special forces fighting Nazis, are the villains, just for that scene - Tarantino likes making his audience squirm uncomfortably. Django offers a great opportunity to make his audience confront their own notions on race with blatant manipulation - I bet he'll put you in the slaveholder's corner a time or two, and then mock you for going along with it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:54 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Tarantino to release a genuine stinker

You haven't seen his recent movies, have you?

Seriously, I can't think of another director where there is such a sharp quality divide (at least to my tastes; I'm sure the box office results are fine) between his early movies and his later career. It's an odd move, and makes the early films look like outliers.
posted by Forktine at 5:55 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched any Tarentino since I was at a friends and had to endure Kill Bill 2. Jesus. Boring, tedious, the dialogue was crap, the whole thing was unbelieveably awful. It made me think he can only do the quick patter dialogue of Pulp fiction, but when he tries to be deep or interesting it is just prattle.
posted by marienbad at 6:06 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The one problem with the interview, and with general criticism of Tarantino, is overlooking Jackie Brown, which is just a great bit of storytelling. Perhaps his best work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:12 AM on December 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Tarantino to release a genuine stinker

I assume that you didn't see Death Proof, then.
posted by item at 6:21 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I happen to love Tarantino films, unabashedly so...but if anyone comes across this post who doesn't and feels a burning need to get up in arms about him addressing slavery here's my suggestion: keep calm, carry on, and watch this instead. Mischief managed.
posted by trackofalljades at 6:24 AM on December 11, 2012


I enjoyed Death Proof.
posted by Mezentian at 6:24 AM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


You haven't seen his recent movies, have you?

Seriously, I can't think of another director where there is such a sharp quality divide (at least to my tastes; I'm sure the box office results are fine) between his early movies and his later career.


Those of us who like his recent movies have seen them, yes. Tarantino's movies, and especially dialog, are so wildly stylistic that of course not everyone likes them.

I assume that you didn't see Death Proof, then.

Death Proof is great.
posted by Huck500 at 6:24 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Perhaps his best work.

Ehh. It's his most approachable work for people who consider themselves serious movie people. It's Tarantino Lite, more dialog and less spectacle, and that's OK, it really works for some people.

To my mind, the combination of storytelling, dialog, theme and mastery of the cinematic art which best represents Tarantino is his short film in "Four Rooms." Interlaced and merging storylines, some of which are deliberately left unresolved in service of the larger plot, characters with motives that are clearly defined and developed, suspense, surprise, dark humor, wonderful cinematography, chances taken.

I assume that you didn't see Death Proof, then.

Death Proof is awesome... just remember, you're seeing the movie from two perspectives. The dark and seedy and oversaturated, hypersexed serial killer's view of the world, and the world the way it actually is in broad daylight.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:25 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The one problem with the interview, and with general criticism of Tarantino, is overlooking Jackie Brown, which is just a great bit of storytelling. Perhaps his best work.

I gotta agree with Blazecock Pileon here. I think Tarantino suffers from The Peckinpah Curse. He became known for these stylized, hyper-violent films, and now that's all anyone wants from him. He can tell different stories, and direct good films, but everyone expects another Pulp Fiction, just like everyone just wanted another Wild Bunch from Peckinpah and ignored his quieter work, like Junior Bonner. I'd love to see Tarantino direct another movie like Jackie Brown. Not gonna happen, though.
posted by dortmunder at 6:29 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a pretty cynical guy, but it genuinely makes me sad to know that there are people who have seen Death Proof for whom Zoe Bell jumping up and saying "I'm okay!" did not instantly become one of their favorite movie moments of all time. It's like the little birdhouse in their soul burned down or something.
posted by trackofalljades at 6:34 AM on December 11, 2012 [24 favorites]


I like Jackie Brown, but there's a place in my heart for the utter mayhem of the House of Blue Leaves and the mission actually succeeding in Inglorious Bastards - if a holy shit moment like that doesn't grab you I don't know what does.
posted by Artw at 6:52 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Django Unchained Q&A - Live From Comic-Con - some great stuff here.
posted by Artw at 7:15 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found Death Proof unwatchable. I swear I tried, but the extra-mega-Tarantino dialogue in the first 10-15 minutes was so grating I couldn't take it. Kill Bill Part II wasn't great either. But those are really the only two Tarantino movies I have a problem with. Inglourious Basterds was very entertaining, and also surprisingly moving at times, which I didn't expect at all.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:25 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been ridiculously excited for this since I saw the first trailer but "Tarantino directing a Western in the Deep South" basically pushes most of my buttons.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:28 AM on December 11, 2012


I haven't seen the film, but I've seen other Tarantino films, so I can tell you that there's a bloodbath toward the end where the slaves win by using their ninja skills. Am I right?

So I started watching Roots recently - my wife wanted to see how it held up and I'd never watched it, it not being part of the cultural language in UK like it is in the US, where they probably show it in schools. Anyway, were at the end of episide 1 and a number of things stood out:

1) I'm really enjoying it. I have a high tolerance for excessive 70sness but for something from that era I think it's held up well.
2) Pa Walton is a motherfucker.
3) The end of episode 1, where the slaves chant "kill the white man", you kind if know from the format that it isn't going to work out. But it would be kind of gratifying to see a sudden Tarrantino style swerve into alternate history.

I guess that would be a different boat and the name of that movie would be Amistad.
posted by Artw at 7:29 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, I can't think of another director where there is such a sharp quality divide (at least to my tastes; I'm sure the box office results are fine) between his early movies and his later career.

Oh really? No one springs to mind?

And is Kill Bill before or after the divide. I did not enjoy Kill Bill, but Basterds was back to good form, imo. Tarantino has a not surprisingly unconventional filmography, but I'd say his major films are Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Grindhouse/DeathProof, Basterds, Django. So where's the divide?

I'd love to see Tarantino direct another movie like Jackie Brown. Not gonna happen, though.

I'd be very surprised if we didn't see it.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:05 AM on December 11, 2012


Inglourious Basterds is terrific, and the it was great to catch it opening night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. People were flipping their shit at all the right parts, e.g. when Landa shows up in the restaurant, or "I've been chewed out before." When Tarantino is at the top of his game, he plays the audience like a fiddle.

I'm a big fan of Death Proof. It's as talky as the actual movies that it's aping, and there was actually a point to drawing a contrast between the two different groups of young women. Plus, wicked car chase, and a well-deserved, savage beating.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:01 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jackie Brown is adapted from an Elmore Leonard story (Leonard got screenwriting credit, too). I don't know that any of his other films have origins with such accomplished story-tellers. I think Tarantino should collaborate with more top-quality writers to put together actual stories, rather than over-the-top set-pieces hung like bloody beads on a flimsy strand of plot. Not to say I don't enjoy that kind of thing time to time, but his is a one-note oeuvre. He has this in common with M. Night Shyamalan; these guys are both competent film-makers who should collaborate with competent writers to make good films.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on December 11, 2012


Comforting to see the usual arguments - only his early movies were good, his dialogue's so stylized it's unwatchable, Jackie Brown's his actual masterpiece - are already in place. I'll drop in "Pulp Fiction's overrated" and "True Romance is his best movie because he didn't direct it" to complete the set.

The over-stylized dialogue is the point. The cartoonish violence, the episodic structures, the overall giddy glitzy schlocky 3D comic book zeal of it all - these are all deliberate and distinctive, features not bugs. They're what makes Tarantino Tarantino. You like it or you don't. If you believe he was at his best going slow and methodical and realistic using Elmore Leonard's usual menagerie of stock crime-novel characters, Tarantino himself is probably not your thing.
posted by gompa at 10:59 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't mind that style, gompa, but it's become predictable and boring. I just haven't seen a lot of growth form Tarantino lately. Maybe he doesn't have it in him to develop past where he is now, but I hope so because he makes visually compelling art.
posted by Mister_A at 11:10 AM on December 11, 2012


I gotta be honest that PF is probably going to be my favorite of his films for some time yet to come -- although Django may well contest the title, I dunno. I felt that KB was less satisfying than others did, but it didn't feel like a huge misfire, either. IB showed me that he could continue taking his experiments way off into left field.

I mean, yeah, he could put his talents to more conventional storytelling, but why? He's good at what he does.

I think it's called acting and I can understand Tarantino's surprise at seeing it on one of his recent movie sets.

Oh, good grief. This is the guy who took John "Look Who's Talking Too" Travolta and transformed him into an Oscar contender. (The guy's normal instincts run to, well, this.)

There's an anecdote I've relayed here before from him appearing on Letterman. Dave asked him if, as a writer-director, he was open to actors' suggestions, or just wanted them to execute his vision. QT got weirdly uncomfortable and did one of his sort of springing-lizard poses and said, "Well, gosh, I hope they bring something to the table." He elaborated by saying that he was just the director, and he needed his actors to do what they do best in order to achieve what he wanted. He is an actor himself, of course (with, it should be acknowledged, a pretty limited range), and I think that always contributes to that sort of "actor's director" approach.

(OK, my memory may be faulty, or there was a different interview. But here he talks with Dave about his style of working with actors.)

Maybe he doesn't have it in him to develop past where he is now

*shakes head* Have you seen Inglourious Basterds? There's a great narrative and thematic complexity there. It's not the same as in PF at all, where he fucks with the timeline -- here he's fucking with not just your narrative expectations, but your narrative engagement and your character sympathies. It's really challenging the audience time and again. He dares you to sympathize with Nazis and condemn American GIs -- or vengeance-craving Jews. It's not flawless but I never felt like I was watching a retread of anything, least of all his previous work. I expect much the same from Django, in that the source material -- chop-socky flicks in KB, war movies in IB, now the western and the spaghetti western -- is what he's engaging with. At times his approach seems to vary within his own movie, and that's frustrating and I think that's where he often loses people. But at the same time it's a revolt against the brutal, simplified, book-plotted epics that Hollywood is churning out year after year these days.

Sure, somebody like Spike might get on his case for making a slave movie with his own instincts to fuck around with perspective and put a lot of coarse language and behavior on apparently glorified display, but I think he's earned the right to do a slave movie, especially if nobody like Spike has even tried. I mean, wow, what a huge, unexplored narrative landscape that is for modern American cinema. Given that the premise is already pushing political buttons (Foxx is, of course, almost quoting his character, hence QT), I think he's doing what he likes doing best.
posted by dhartung at 11:24 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


*shakes head* Have you seen Inglourious Basterds? There's a great narrative and thematic complexity there. It's not the same as in PF at all, where he fucks with the timeline -- here he's fucking with not just your narrative expectations, but your narrative engagement and your character sympathies. It's really challenging the audience time and again. He dares you to sympathize with Nazis and condemn American GIs -- or vengeance-craving Jews. It's not flawless but I never felt like I was watching a retread of anything, least of all his previous work.
I have noticed that a lot of people, even a lot of people who are nominally "movie people," conversant in film history and the rules of how movies tell stories (if not necessarily in the academic sense, at least on the gut level) are unwilling to give Tarantino any credit for Inglourious Basterds, even though it is in some ways the most audacious and interesting movie he's ever made. I don't know why IB gets singled out for that kind of dismissal, but I've seen it all over, in person and online, and I just find it strange.
posted by protocoach at 11:35 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, there was that Oscar nomination.
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was talking more about informal conversations.
posted by protocoach at 11:39 AM on December 11, 2012


I just haven't seen a lot of growth form Tarantino lately.

Yeah, that statement boggles my mind. The last movie before Django (IB) was his best, Django certainly looks like something "new" to me ...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:18 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm fine with Tarantino playing with the audience's sympathies and offering multiple persectives, but this isn't anything new. Reservoir Dogs made you feel for Tim Roth's and Harvey Keitel's characters. The sense of betrayal and mourning Harvey felt at the end was priceless. It was marvelous.

I enjoyed Inglorious Basterds, but it wasn't thought-provoking or new; it featured the same kind of hypermasculine stereotypes and woozy dames that we've seen time and again in Tarantino's work. They aren't characters so much as archetypes, especially in Death Proof and Inglorious; that's not a bad thing on the face of it, but is also not evidence of his growth as a film-maker and storyteller.
posted by Mister_A at 12:44 PM on December 11, 2012


woozy dames that we've seen time and again in Tarantino's work.

I don't think you and I have been watching the same Tarantino movies.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:53 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're suggesting that Tarantino writes strong, believable women, well, I must respectfully disagree. Tarantino's female characters are cardboard cutout wish fulfillment vehicles.
posted by Mister_A at 1:12 PM on December 11, 2012


If you don't think Beatrix Kiddo, Jackie Brown, or Shosanna Dreyfus are strong women, I'm not sure what qualifies?
posted by entropicamericana at 1:16 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I have a weakness for characters on fuck-the-world burn-it-all-down revenge missions.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like a good revenge fantasy as much as the next guy, believe me! But let's take a look at Beatrix Kiddo. She is a sexualized deadly ninja assassin who slept with her boss, who then shot her, putting her in a position to be serially raped. This is not a character! This is a revenge fantasy setup! The poor treatment she received allows the audience to be OK with her butchering a large number of people.

And you know, it's fine, it's entertainment, but it ain't deep and it sure ain't a good representation of a 21st-century woman. In my opinion.
posted by Mister_A at 1:34 PM on December 11, 2012


She's got a death list! She's methodical!
posted by Artw at 1:39 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


She is goal-oriented!
posted by Mister_A at 1:40 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Inglourious Basterds passes the Bechdel test
posted by achrise at 1:47 PM on December 11, 2012


Having seen both the Grindhouse version and the full version of Death Proof, I have to say I liked Grindhouse better. I know it was a big financial flop, but I saw Grindhouse on opening night with a theater full of film geeks who knew what they were getting into, and it is still one of my favorite theatergoing experiences. I guess the people who wanted to see something like that all REALLY wanted to see it, and we all came out at the same time, and then the theaters sat empty for the rest of the weekend.

(Also, it was my birthday, so that might have had something to do with how much fun it was in the theater.)
posted by vibrotronica at 1:51 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Inglourious Basterds passes the Bechdel test

Really? I didn't read the whole link, but it seems a bit dubious. Which female two characters? I don't think the interpreter should count, and even then, that conversation is kind of about men. (I think someone in your link mentions how IB shows how the Bechdel test itself fails.)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:59 PM on December 11, 2012


As for Django, I love Tarantino, but I worry about his racial politics, and i like the chutzpah it took to approach his critics directly, but still it's worrisome.

The thing that's interesting about Tarantino's "politics" is that he's completely in favor of giving all oppressed groups an equal right to wreak bloody vengeance on their oppressors. Kill Bill has the Bride begin her revenge spree by killing a redneck who attempted to rape her and a hospital orderly who rented out her comatose body to be raped. Inglourious Basterds rewrites World War II history to give Jews a chance to kill Hitler instead of having Hitler die by his own hand. And if my interpretation of Django Unchained is correct (based on what I've seen of the trailers), it appears Tarantino is using the conventions of the Western to rewrite the history of slavery so that black people get the same symbolic chance to lash out at their historical oppressors, like a Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song made for the 1860's instead of the 1960's.

In addition, I wonder how much Django Unchained has been influenced by the improving critical reputation of the film Mandingo, which film critic Robin Wood devoted an entire chapter to in his book, Sexual Politics and Narrative Film. Mandingo got horrible reviews when it came out in the mid-1970s, but I think a lot of the criticisms were focused on salacious material that was admittedly more accurate to what happened in the Confederate South than, say, Birth of Nation or Gone with the Wind, although the "classic" or "historic" status of those 2 films generally goes unquestioned. Similarly, I wonder whether Tarantino might get the most criticism aimed at those aspects of Django Unchained which are the most accurate in terms of depicting the hellish day-to-day horrors of plantation slavery.
posted by jonp72 at 4:27 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really? I didn't read the whole link, but it seems a bit dubious. Which female two characters? I don't think the interpreter should count, and even then, that conversation is kind of about men. (I think someone in your link mentions how IB shows how the Bechdel test itself fails.)

Live by the arbitrary checkboxes, die by the arbitrary checkboxes.
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


PinkMoose: "As for Django, I love Tarantino, but I worry about his racial politics, and i like the chutzpah it took to approach his critics directly, but still it's worrisome."

I have at times felt the same way; recently, though, I read an interesting piece by Stanley Crouch (a person probably best described as a conservative jazz critic, and one of the biggest influences on Ken Burns' Jazz documentaries) wherein he argues that Quentin Tarantino is the premier thinker on race in film in America today. It's worth glancing at, anyway; I found it intriguing. It's in his book The Artificial White Man.
posted by koeselitz at 5:48 PM on December 11, 2012


I don't know if it's the same piece koeselitz was thinking of, but I googled around and found a 1994 Crouch article in the LA Times:

Pulp Friction
posted by mannequito at 6:14 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a good read, thanks mannequito.
posted by Mister_A at 8:16 PM on December 11, 2012


I'm fine with Tarantino playing with the audience's sympathies and offering multiple persectives, but this isn't anything new.

I didn't say the technique was per se new. The purpose to which the technique was applied was new and more relevant than re-examining our relationship with gangster/heist film. He was challenging the audience to re-examine its relationship not just with war films, especially as regards their functioning as propaganda, but also with World War II and the Holocaust. Similarly I expect DU to be more challenging in terms of America's relationship with slavery and race than the idealized, platonic battles of individualism and avarice in which Sergio Leone dealt. And he'll do all this without being trite, obvious, and self-serving (although I wouldn't discount egotistical).

I really don't think I've seen in any comparably popular/populist American film a critique of the war propaganda film as confounding and effective as Stolz der Nation. The DVD has the complete film-within-a-film as a separate feature, or at least as complete as was produced, and it's quite an interesting thing to watch disassociated from the outer context of the IB story. I think this is intentionally central to understanding IB itself.

FYI Amazon has Crouch's book searchable and the chapter in the book is much more in-depth than the LA Times piece; it isn't even a reworking. They are broadly similar, though.
posted by dhartung at 8:25 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]




I guess what I don't like about the looks of this movie is that it looks more and more like Tarantino is just prowling through history trying to find better and better tragedies to use as grist for a Tarantino revenge movie. Because a Tarantino revenge movie is pretty much just a Tarantino revenge movie -- Kill Bill doesn't say much about rape culture other than "it sucked, kill people, reclaim your cool!", Inglourious Basterds doesn't say much about the Holocaust other than "it sucked, kill people, reclaim your cool!", and this movie doesn't look like it's going to say much about slavery other than "it sucked, kill people, reclaim your cool!". They get a ton of energy and emotional fuel from the material but they don't give a thing back. I was kind of OK with that for Kill Bill because it was so intentionally over-the-top and comic-booky, and I was marginally OK with it for Inglourious Basterds* because there's not much Quentin Tarantino can do to the firmly established idea of the Holocaust, but something like slavery, the huge, shallowly buried national trauma that has stuck undigested in the throat of America since before its founding, demands a little more than to be used like this.

* When Inglourious Basterds came out there was all this maundering on in the press (I can't remember if Tarantino actually said it, but it was definitely part of the general promotion of the film) about how someone was finally making the Great Jewish Revenge Fantasy, and all I could think was, dude, did anyone ask you to make the Great Jewish Revenge Fantasy? Because to me it just looked like a standard Tarantino revenge fantasy that was getting projected onto Jews to make it new and different. And this looks like the same thing all over again. I wonder where the next one is going to be set? Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia?
posted by ostro at 1:39 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]




Quentin Tarantino not that big a fan of Roots.

Great interview. Thanks.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:23 PM on December 12, 2012




In praise of Death Proof.
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuckin fantastic article artw. DP is actually my favorite QT and I was a bit sad when I first read that quote from him. But that offers a far better rebuttal than I ever could.
posted by mannequito at 3:27 PM on December 28, 2012


Oh man. I just saw Django. It's fantastic, possibly the best Tarantino.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on December 29, 2012


HLG: What will you say when people criticize you -- because it is unsettling to see a man torn apart by dogs? How did you decide what to represent of the suffering the slaves went through?

QT: I write film criticism and film literature. I haven't published any of it yet, but I just collect it. You know, it keeps me writing and keeps me thinking artistically and analytically, and even critically.

And [after I finished Inglourious Basterds], I was working on a piece on Sergio Corbucci -- a big, big piece. He's the guy who wrote and directed the original Django. And I was looking at all of his spaghetti Westerns, and I got really enamored with the West he created, because it seems to me that the really great Western directors had their own version of the West that they presented.

And the thing that really started jumping out from Corbucci's cinema was that there was no West that was as brutal as his -- as the characters, the bad villains who ruled the story. No archetype can perform their function, except in contrast to the villain or in relationship to the villain. And the villains had a sense of depravity about them that was off the scale, and the other characters had such a pitiless nature, and life was cheap as hell. Violence was surreal.

And it really did seem like in his cowboy pictures what he truly was dealing with was fascism -- which makes sense, as Italy was getting out from under Mussolini's boot heel not so long ago -- just gussied up with cowboy-Mexican iconography. Even when his outlaws would take over a town or something, it had the feeling of a Nazi occupation, and with Holocaust-like suffering to the victims.

So I'm writing all this, and part of the thing that's fun about subjective criticism is it doesn't really matter what the director was thinking. It's about you making your point. So at some point I was like, I don't really know what Sergio Corbucci was thinking at the time, but I know I'm thinking it now, and I can do it.

And with that in mind, this violent, pitiless Corbucci West: What would be the American equivalent of that -- that really would be real -- that would be an American story? It was being a slave in the antebellum South. 


I really think that fits together and he pulls it off. I also really want to read his film critisism now.
posted by Artw at 8:50 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It really is a great movie. There is absolutely no reason for people to be offended. Honestly, I can actually see reasons why a person might be offended by some of Tarantino's moments – his "dead n-word storage" cameo in Pulp Fiction, mostly. But in this movie? If anything, Quentin Tarantino failed to make the antebellum South horrific enough – and he acknowledges that in the interview; I don't know that there's any way he could have really given a complete picture of that, unfortunately, since it's just more than a movie can convey. But good god – QT is right: people need to confront this shit. And this movie forces them to start. It shows shit that movies have been avoiding for a long, long time.

I also want to take exception to Spike Lee's dismissive tweet:
American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.It Was A Holocaust.My Ancestors Are Slaves.Stolen From Africa.I Will Honor Them.
The thing that Spike Lee is totally missing here – and frankly it's a little shocking that he's missing it, considering that he's been a freaking film professor for at least a decade now – is that QT actually really likes Spaghetti Westerns. He has a reverence for Spaghetti Westerns. And why the hell not? What precisely is wrong with Spaghetti Westerns? That kind of blunt dismissal of whole genres kind of bugs me. You could blithely label a chunk of Spike Lee's movies "hip hop / urban" movies and dismiss them; that'd be just as bad.

Mostly, it's crazy and weird to me that Spike Lee is so blind to what Quentin Tarantino is trying to do that he completely misses that they both have the same priority here. Almost all of Tarantino's movies have set out to say something about the black experience in America. It took me reading that Stanley Crouch piece to figure this out; the one linked above is good, but his piece in The Invisible White Man is seventy pages and much more comprehensive, I recommend highly it if you can get your hands on a copy. But even if a person hasn't read that, all they have to look at is awesome three-part interview vidur linked above. Heck, all the have to do is watch Django Unchained. This is clearly a heartfelt project for him.

But Spike Lee seems to be under the impression that Quentin Tarantino doesn't really care much about the subjects of his movies, that he's just a lover of utterly meaningless schlockfests. And I can appreciate that point of view I guess, but it's really quite unfair when you actually listen to what Quentin Tarantino has to say.

Artw: “I really think that fits together and he pulls it off. I also really want to read his film critisism now.”

Yeah, me too. Actually this part was the part that floored me:
Oddly enough, where I got the idea for the Klan guys [in Django Unchained] -- they're not Klan yet, the Regulators arguing about the bags [on their heads] -- as you may well know, director John Ford was one of the Klansmen in The Birth of a Nation, so I even speculate in the piece: Well, John Ford put on a Klan uniform for D.W. Griffith. What was that about? What did that take? He can't say he didn't know the material. Everybody knew The Clansman at that time as a piece of material... And yet he put on the Klan uniform. He got on the horse. He rode hard to black subjugation. As I'm writing this -- and he rode hard, and I'm sure the Klan hood was moving all over his head as he was riding and he was riding blind -- I'm thinking, wow. That probably was the case. How come no one's ever thought of that before? Five years later, I'm writing the scene and all of a sudden it comes out...

One of my American Western heroes is not John Ford, obviously. To say the least, I hate him. Forget about faceless Indians he killed like zombies. It really is people like that that kept alive this idea of Anglo-Saxon humanity compared to everybody else's humanity -- and the idea that that's hogwash is a very new idea in relative terms. And you can see it in the cinema in the '30s and '40s -- it's still there. And even in the '50s.
I mean – wow. I've had a reverence for John Ford for a long time – I even thought that maybe The Searchers said something interesting about overcoming racism. And maybe it says... something. But this is going to make me completely reevaluate John Ford. Really, wow. He was one of the Klan members in Birth Of A Nation? That is disturbing.
posted by koeselitz at 12:02 AM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love Spike Lee. But Spike Lee is Spike Lee: He's always going to say shit like that.
posted by Artw at 6:26 AM on December 30, 2012


Until Quentin Tarantino releases his Spaghetti Western film essays I can thoroughly recommend Alex Cox's history of them, 10,000 Ways To Die. It's out of print but you can get the PDF here.
posted by Artw at 6:31 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Samuel L. Jackson interview - he acts the shit out of that movie. Everybody does. There's four or five performances that on their own would be remarkable and they're all together in one movie.
posted by Artw at 7:02 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]




To be honest, there's only one major criticism I would level against Django Unchained - it seems implicitly misogynist to me. I feel like there have been many times in the past when Tarantino has failed to write good female characters, but in this movie they seemed like an afterthought in a lot of ways. In fact, the mythic dimension of the core story, which is of course Siegfried and Brunhilde from the Nibelungenlied dressed up in Spaghetti Western guise, has a way of rendering actual women out of the story: Django Unchained's Brunhilde becomes this glowing ideal, a repository for all kinds of things like Django's manhood, Django's domestic bliss, Django's potential freedom, etc. In the process, she stops being human. Quentin Tarantino says that the central characters of this story are black people, but in a sense that's really only half right; the central characters of this story are black men, with black women characters taking a surprisingly minimal role in the actual action of the film.

Oh, and one other thing - I begin to think most criticism of this film is a bit off-base in how much it talks about genre films. Quentin Tarantino clearly likes spaghetti westerns; hence he talks about them a lot in interviews. But I think viewing this film as principally a spaghetti western homage is a mistake. My sense is that the few spaghetti western tropes in the film (and there are fewer important ones than one might realize) were introduced by Tarantino not because he thinks spaghetti westerns are neat but because they seemed like a useful vehicle for him for confronting the kind of desolation and lawlessness he sees in the antebellum South. And really, at heart the story doesn't seem to have much in common with the story arcs of spaghetti westerns; it's Siegfried and Brunhilde, an entirely separate mythic trope. It's interesting how Tarantino fuses these together, but again, I get the impression that his heart is in Wagner rather than Corbucci, no matter how much he may say to the contrary.

And it's possible he's picking up the sexism of his source material; I'm not familiar enough with Wagner to say, but I am willing to bet that there's a lot of sexism there just judging from the way Wagnerians historically tended to treat women. And Quentin Tarantino seems to be really affected by his sources on this point. His strongest woman character, I think - particularly his strongest black woman character - is Jackie Brown, and she's an Elmore Leonard character, right? Well, there's another book I need to read, I guess.
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 AM on December 30, 2012


It's amazing it's as much of a love story as it is when she only gets one real big line.
posted by Artw at 3:52 PM on December 30, 2012


This movie was just so much better than the Hobbit.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:23 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw Django today, and I loved it... but it's true, there are no good female characters in the film at all. The thing that bothered me the most was the woman with the red bandana on, who was with the marble-mouthed hillbillies with the dogs (trappers, I think they were credited as). I kept expecting her to bust out but she just dies, and then in the credits it turns out that she was Zoe Bell from Death Proof... so he must have cut something out? Or else WTF?

My wife loved when Broom Hilda clapped at the explosion of the mansion... I was hoping she'd kill a couple of slavers, but she was played as an innocent, so whatever.
posted by Huck500 at 9:16 PM on January 4, 2013


Tom Savini interview
posted by Artw at 6:11 AM on January 5, 2013


I think I vaguely recognized when Sonny Chiba popped up in Kill Bill, but when Franco Nero showed up at the bar in Django Unchained I immediately recognized him. Cool cameo and would've been cooler if he had a bigger part.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:55 PM on January 6, 2013


After finally seeing it tonight - that was a rare case of the acting in a QT movie carrying the poor script. Usually its the opposite, for me anyways.

Overall, good but not his greatest. Probably rank it somewhere in the middle of the pack.
posted by mannequito at 1:26 AM on January 9, 2013


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