Django Unchained

djangoA quick Screenwriting 101 tutorial:  In any good film you need a character, or characters, who want something and want it very badly.  Then there have to be road blocks put in the way of the characters that they must over come.  The characters’ struggles then create conflict, which moves along the story while holding the interest of the audience.

In his new movie “Django Unchained” writer/director Quentin Tarantino sort of does this, but not to the extent that he could have, at least not to the point of holding the attention of an audience for a movie that is two hours and 45 minutes in length.  Yes, the main characters, Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), do have an objective toward which they are striving.  I will not give it away here, although it is revealed in the film’s trailer.  My issue was that it seemed to me that there was a rather simple way to achieve this objective.  However, for some reason (most likely the convenience of the screenplay) the characters were not taking the obvious route.  Granted, every story is a contrivance. The key is to not make it look contrived.  There needs to be logical, believable reasons as to why characters are making, or not making, certain choices.  When I, as an audience member, am wondering why the characters are not doing what, to me, seems obvious, I am, at that point, ahead of the story and  find myself buying out of what is happening on the screen.  Be warned “Django Unchained” is rather talky in parts, but, rest assured, Tarantino does reward our patience with bloodier than bloody shoot outs.     

Tarantino’s films are frequently a pastiche (a stylistic imitation) of scenes and moments from other films.  The character of Django was the subject of many an Italian Western, in which Django was frequently played by actor Franco Nero.  When Nero left Italy to come to Hollywood to be in the movie “Camelot” (1967),  the “Django” producers panicked.  Soon they found an actor who looked like Nero and continued making “Django” movies.  Apparently no one knew the difference.

In Tarantino’s vision, Django has been transported to the antebellum south and turned into a slave, nicely played by Foxx.  So perhaps “Django” should be more accurately called a “southern” rather than a western.  “Django Unchained” has a stellar cast which, in addition to Foxx and Waltz, also includes Leonardo Di Caprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson (yes, of TV’s “Miami Vice” fame) and Russ Tamblyn (yes, Riff from “West Side Story!”).

“Django Unchained,” director Quentin Tarantino, 2012

The Weinstein Company, 165 minutes, rated R


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on January 17, 2013, in New and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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