Nov 1, 2014

Literary Contender or Pretender: DJango Unchained

Hypothesis: Django Unchained offers a fantasy script that will resonate with humanists, but misfires for audiences expecting a masterful composition from Quentin Tarantino.  

There's the typical Tarantino flare that pulsates from Django Unchained: The hyperbolic violence, the candid and extended dialogue, bombastic audio, and animated characters that often parallel cartoons.  This is the good stuff.  This is the stuff that helped Tarantino create his very own style, and almost, his very own genre of film literature.  Many of his works are considered, by the Sirloin Furr blog, to contain literary merit: Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Inglorious Bastards.   But these mentioned films offer more than style: they present well executed story lines that intermingle the zany characters that are standards in Tarantino's work.  And unfortunately, that story line doesn't fully bloom with the same seduction that some of his other works have evoked.  

The Good Stuff

The Visuals

Most of Tarantino's films award the viewers with flawlessly orchestrated visuals.  This is a keystone to not only his success, but a major contribution towards achieving literary status.  Django Unchained offers these iconic screenshots, which helps give the film an distinct placement within the literary community.  

Django Throwing The Blanket
This 4 second moment of Django Unchained is a fraction of a fraction in the 165 minute film.  But, it stands as not only one of the most iconic images of the film, but for Tarantino's portfolio.  Firstly, the scene erupts with frisson, when Django, launches the tattered blanket from his shoulders, and displays his chiseled back like a triumphant boxer.  But even beyond the instant visual, the scene is symbolically driven, with Django's actions speaking vibrantly like a shackled man being granted freedom.  This moment perfectly reflects the rewarding sensation of achieving freedom, and offers a very realistic sensation for its audience, which is what literature is all about.

The Dialogue

(Video is NSFW)
Tarantino's other talent is his absorbing dialogue.  His characters often recite these loaded, emotional, and magnetic strings of dialogue, that perfectly presents every complex modicum of entangled emotions in each of his scenes.  And what makes this talent so important is that the personal divide between movie viewer and witness disappears.  The viewer transcends from passively viewing the film, to actively becoming a member within the scene.  And Calvin Candie's (Leonardo DiCaprio) scene, where he confronts Django and Dr. Shultz, embodies tension, fear, suspense, and anxiety, a web of emotional terror that blankets the viewer with an authentic reflection of a cruel and monstrous slave-owner.

The Bad

Inadequate Editing

Keeping focus for 165 minutes is a challenge.  But indepth stories, fascinating characters, and sublime presentations can help conceal the challenge.  Goodfellas is considered by a few critics to be the shortest 3 hour film they've ever seen.  And it's for good reason, it has fascinating characters, absorbing stories, and has dancing cinematography that tango's with the viewer through the entire ride.  Tarantino has experience building a long film that provides these caveats, but unfortunately, they just aren't there in Django Unchained.  The story is an interesting revenge, history piece, but when broken down to its cinematic DNA, it is a "find a missing person" case.  Great films can be made with this plot line, but it is too one-dimensional for a nearly 3 hour movie.  

Although the editing is the film's biggest issue, it is a LARGE issue.  Scenes drag on, characters sit silently, and the camera doesn't feel like it always knows where it should be looking.  These aren't pandemic throughout the film, but they are serious issues that would be expected from a film student, and not an auteur.  And the issue with these missteps is how it impacts the viewing experience.  These scenes don't carry the emotional frisson, disrupting the film's ability to transition the viewer into the world of the film.  This seriously impairs Django Unchained from becoming literary merit.

The Literary Verdict

Films like Django Unchained stand in literary limbo.  Between its visuals and dialogue, but inadequate editing, there just enough reason to merit the film as literature, as there is to dismiss its credibility.  There is no right answer, as all of these observations are absorbed subjectively.  But as far as Sirloin Furr is concerned, although Django Unchained offers impressive and transcending monologues and iconic visuals, its not polished enough to fulfill literary merit.  It provides enough creativity and skill to provide valuable guidance for aspiring film-makers, and it is another diverse piece of solid entertainment for Quentin Tarantino's portfolio.  But its inadequate editing doom the film's rhythm, and breaks away from the audience too many times during its 165 minute showtime.  


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