Django Unchained Is the Pick of the Week

The very last scene of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2 shows Uma Thurman’s character cuddling with her daughter. It is meant to be poignant as she had thought her daughter to be dead and after a long struggle she has been reunited with her. Many critics called the movie his most mature work to date in part because of that scene and ones like it.

It totally didn’t work for me. My problem was that over the course of several hours and two movies we saw Thurman’s The Bride fight, chop, and slice her way through scenes, we saw mountains of blood, lots of quips, even more homages to Tarantino’s favorite films, and some really rather spectacular filmmaking, but we what we didn’t see was any real character development. Other than The Bride is fantastic with a sword, that is. While the films were very entertaining and wholly visceral, they did not make me really connect to the characters. So that during that final scene when the Bride is reunited with her daughter I didn’t find myself really caring that much. I never really felt the character’s loss and so when she gained some of it back it didn’t effect me on an emotional level.

I had the same feeling during much of Inglorious Basterds. There are a number of scenes in that film which are filled with nail-biting tension but that fell flat for me because none of the characters had been developed enough for me to care whether or not they were caught, captured, or killed. Tarantino shot and edited the scenes to perfection, but forgot to make me feel any sort of empathy.

The point I’m trying to make is that while I feel Quentin Tarantino is a very good filmmaker and more than knows his way around his craft, he’s all too often too busy creating interesting scenes to bother with fleshing out his characters.

And yet I can’t help but love his films despite this. They so often work on technical and visceral levels that I immediately forget my lack of emotional connection.

Setting Django Unchained inside the American slave trade is both a bold and somewhat predicable move for the director. Bold in that even many decades out it is still a touchy and politically loaded subject, but predictable because it falls down the same exploitation path the director loves so much. I’m excited about watching it and yet I am reminding myself that its not likely to be more than a thrilling ride. Any expectations of a thoughtful treatise of racism in America is being tossed right out the window.

Still, here I am naming it my Pick of the Week and ready to grab it up and give it a go. Extras include three short features about the making of the film and a homage to J. Michael Riva, the production designer who died during the shoot.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Repo Man (Criterion Blu-ray): The classic 1980s sci-fi comedy gets the Criterion treatment.

Spies of Warsaw: David Tennant stars in this recent adaptation of the Alan Furst spy novel. Its gotten pretty bad reviews but I’m a sucker for Tennant.

Women in Love: A new BBC adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel. It has gotten pretty good reviews so I’ll give it a go.

Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System (The Thick-Walled Room, I Will Buy You, Black River, The Inheritance) (Criterion Collection): Four films from the celebrated Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi.

Mat Brewster

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