Quentin Tarantino is one of the most maddening filmmakers around. He loves movies in an omnivorous way. There is no film so obscure, no moment so bizarre, that he has not mentally filed it and considered a way to use it.
It's an approach that has worked at times — Pulp Fiction holds up, and I like a lot of Jackie Brown — but more recent works like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained demand not only a film geek to appreciate it all, but a more general willingness by the audience to distance itself from movies and characters because Tarantino might at any moment decide to switch genres, toss in anachronistic music or have a cameo by Jonah Hill.
It is, in fact, Hill's cameo in Django that sums up my problem with Tarantino. He loves movies but doesn't particularly respect them. I think movies should let you get lost in their world. Tarantino thinks he can pull you out of that world at any time, just to show you how clever he is. Similarly, he treats big ideas and issues, such as racism in Django, as just a place to hang simplistic fantasies of revenge.
To be sure, Tarantino has his admirers. He has won two Academy Awards as a writer (for Pulp Fiction and Django).
Django stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave enlisted by bounty hunter King Schultz (Oscar winner Christoph Waltz) in Schultz's search for a pair of criminals; he and Django then become partners — although Django's real quest is to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who has been taken by a new owner. That journey ultimately brings them to the malicious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), Candie's scheming slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) and a violent final confrontation. And, of course, tributes to the spaghetti Westerns that partly inspired it, blaxploitation films, cowboy actor Tom Mix, vintage music, TV Westerns (with several veteran actors in cameos) and, yes, Hill.
DVD extras include a look at the production design. The Blu-ray combo adds pieces on costume design and on the horses and stunt work. Django Unchained retails for $29.98 on DVD and $39.99 on Blu-ray/ DVD combo.
These DVDs were also released this week:
Films: Orchestra of Exiles; One Day on Earth; A Monster in Paris (animation); A Whisper to a Roar (documentary on democracy activists); The Colombian Connection; At the Gate of the Ghost (2011, Thailand); Save the Date; The Great Divide; Crazy Enough; The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia; Future Weather; Makers: Women Who Make America; Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System (four films, 1953-1962, from one of the most important filmmakers to emerge from Japan's cinematic golden age, The Criterion Collection); Not Suitable for Children (Australia); 4Some (Czech Republic); DisneyNature: Wings of Life; Dragon (2011, Hong Kong); Iron Man: Rise of Technovore (animated, Marvel); Pedal-Driven; Repo Man (1984, The Criterion Collection); Women in Love (BBC); Delhi Safari (animated, India); Parade's End (BBC); WWII Diaries: Volume 1 Sept. 1939-June 1942.
TV series: China Beach: The Complete Series (21-disc set; collector's edition also available); The French Chef: Julia Child's Dinner Party Favorite (PBS); Counting Cars: Season 1; Flash Gordon: The Complete Series (Syfy); Secrets of War: Espionage; Secrets of War: Shadows of the Reich.
THE WASHINGTON POST