An old pal swept me off the other day to see Tarantino’s blaxploitation spaghetti Western, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I thought the script was extremely witty, and all the performances were sheer delight. I’m so old-school that I think a movie ought to last exactly ninety minutes, not a minute more and not a minute less, but I wasn’t even bothered by the length. It was just a fun-filled boyish romp from start to finish, and hardly — I won’t say never, but hardly — a dull moment.
Spoiler alert: I am going to mention some things that happen in the story. It’s not exactly a suspenseful narrative — everything is telegraphed pretty thoroughly — but people don’t always like to know beforehand, so be warned.
My favorite bit was the proto-Klan guys bitching about their hoods, a scene which must have lasted ten minutes, and should have lasted twenty. It was really just about all the commentary that Birth Of A Nation needs. That’s the part shown above, though the image doesn’t at all do justice to it. The night riders come galloping in, and of course you think Oh shit, how sinister, and then… but I can’t begin to convey it; it’s all in the writing, and actors who know how to put the lines over; just go see it.
Then there was the wonderful moment when Django guns down the gaping, insipid but not particularly offensive sister of the Leonardo di Caprio character, which is pure sight gag, like Toto falling out of the frame in Palm Beach Story. Hey, you too, beeyotch. In a glaring and deliberately obvious stunt effect, the victim is abruptly yanked backward through a doorway, apparently by the mother of all bungee cords. Anybody who doesn’t laugh at this simply has no susceptibility to slapstick. Do not consort with such folk.
My comrades on the Lefty mailing lists mostly took a much dimmer view, e.g. “unrelenting tastelessness — exclamatory kitsch — on a subject as loaded, gruesome, and dishonorable as American slavery.” (‘Dishonorable’ in this context is the mother of all anticlimaxes, innit? Speaking of mothers.)
I have to wonder just what these guys expect of a movie: something Spielbergian in its high moral seriousness, but also impeccably Marxist? I don’t think I would go see that movie. I’d approve of the Marxist part, but the Spielbergeoiserie would kill it, for me.
Much of the commentary ended up wondering what ‘point’ Tarantino was trying to make, or what the movie was ‘really about’. (One ingenious contributor suggested it was an allegory about racism in… Hollywood!)
Why do we do this: go to the movies — of all places! — looking for meaning, or instruction, or edification, or political analysis? That’s a pretty sad commentary on us, isn’t it? Don’t we have better sources for all those things?