Since patching that script together nearly 20 years ago, Tarantino and Avary have fallen out; also, in 2010, Avary spent eight months in jail after he drunkenly crashed his car and a passenger was killed. Avary, his friendship with Tarantino, and his contribution to the Pulp Fiction screenplay are not mentioned in the extensive biographical documentary material on the recently released box set Tarantino XX, which Tarantino told me he considers to be "pretty definitive." Given that he has exactly as many Oscars as his ex-con ex-collaborator, it makes perfect sense that Tarantino would want an honor all his own.

"How much do you care about Oscars?" I ask.

Without missing a beat, he answers, "It would be really nice."

Django Unchained was the first movie Tarantino finished without longtime editor Sally Menke, who died in 2010.
Django Unchained was the first movie Tarantino finished without longtime editor Sally Menke, who died in 2010.
Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx star in Django Unchained.
Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx star in Django Unchained.


The Weinstein Company has roped off just two rows of the 600-seat DGA theater for VIP guests, and the room is full; the rest of us waited in line for hours to ensure a seat at the first-come, first-served first screening of Django Unchained. Moments before the movie begins, Ennio Morricone's score for Once Upon a Time in the West starts to play over the PA, and the eager audience quiets. The crowd at a typical L.A. industry screening is, shall we say, rather blasé. But here, the feeling in the room is that everyone is fucking psyched that they got in.

Django begins in 1858; an on-screen title reminds us that this is two years before the start of the Civil War. As it charts Django's journey from slave to superhero, his introduction to empowerment, and his efforts to reunite with lost love, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the movie presents the American South as a land without pity, where white men are all but expected to invent identities for themselves, and women and blacks are violently encouraged to conform to the identities they have been assigned. The past it references is also present: Django himself is like white, ultra-conservative America's worst nightmare of the Angry Black Man, a cartoon symbol of the brown people they've treated like chattel rising up in revenge.

As an anatomy of how a society evolves by following the lead of heroes who murder in the name of the greater good, defending the value of human life by exterminating those who treat it most cheaply, the film works as both a funhouse analogue to Lincoln and a kind of prequel to Inglourious Basterds.

For some, Django might bear too many similarities to Tarantino's last movie. Like Basterds, it's a revenge epic informed by identity politics, and it hero-worships con men who, under deep cover, exploit a moral license to kill. Like Basterds, it climaxes with highly symbolic, pyrotechnic destruction.

Oscar voter standards aside, Tarantino doesn't hold back the gore entirely — in the first scene, a slave shoots his owner, and a red fountain of guts splashes up from the corpse — but he does suggest more than show. When a slave is eaten alive by a pack of dogs, the horror is mostly relayed on the faces of the bystanders. (At the end of the scene, Leonardo DiCaprio's Candie suggests to Django that his partner Schultz "looks a little green." Django responds, "I'm just a little more used to Americans than he is.")

The flashiest sequence, a massive shoot-out inside Candie's house, is arrhythmic and visually chaotic, with a lack of flow that draws attention to itself. A hip-hop song starts about halfway through and then abruptly stops; the action becomes abstracted by the red mist of spraying blood. In its staging around the staircase of an absurdly opulent home and its bloody totality, the scene seems to reference Scarface, directed by one of Tarantino's idols, Brian De Palma. The choice of music apparently reflects the way De Palma's film, a flop on its release, was reclaimed as a cult object by hip-hop culture. You could read this as an act of fandom — a wishful, YouTube-mash-up-style homage born out of Tarantino's obsessive study of prints in his home theater and his sessions of writing to a soundtrack of mixtapes out on the balcony of his mansion.

You also could read it as an act of radical film criticism, and on the whole, Tarantino seems to be aiming for the latter. In recent years, his own written criticism, which has never been published, has functioned as a prelude to his screenwriting. "I do my film writing until I come up with a story," he tells me. "[Criticism] keeps me going, keeps me investing in things, and keeps me thinking in an artistic way, and in a critical way, too."

At the DGA screening, when the film ends, Taylor Hackford takes the stage and introduces Tarantino. Husband of Helen Mirren and director of Jamie Foxx in Ray, he's also president of the Directors Guild. "Thanks a lot," Tarantino says to the crowd, which has risen in standing ovation. "Shucks."

Hackford sets the tone of the conversation early when he credits Tarantino as the first filmmaker "to turn the mirror on America, and how we started." Tarantino is the first to note that this crowd is not his toughest lay. After the fifth or sixth time Hackford recaps something "fantastic" that happened in the movie instead of actually posing a question, Tarantino cracks, "I've gotta say, coming here and listening to you describe my cool shots is pretty great!" Who needs Cannes? Who needs Google?

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12 comments
badcaseaa
badcaseaa

hes a low life sack of crap, he gets rich from movies like pulp fiction that glorify gun violence then he goes and becomes pimp Obama's little hooker in the gun war, to tired to post a link just Google it and you will see.

ppolperson
ppolperson

Saw it ....couldn't get out of the theater fast enough...not impressed at all.

twelvestepreaper
twelvestepreaper

After seeing a clip of Tarantino spitting on fans, I would not send a nickel his way.


Helena
Helena

i usually shy away from violent movies - just too much shoot 'em up - chase 'em up and pyrotechnics for me. but tarantino's films i can watch 'cause the characters and story lines are so interesting. we see the inner workings of their demons!  although the gore is off-puting. 

Mike Gray
Mike Gray

Saw it last week...maybe his best work.

Tj MacKay
Tj MacKay

Saw it, loved it ~ a little long

Mike Lopez
Mike Lopez

It has all the qualities we all like in a Tarantino film, and more! Great flick!

Mark Trollinger
Mark Trollinger

I do not like Quentin or his movies, but it looks good, and I have heard good reviews so I would like to see it

 

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