DJANGO UNCHAINED directed by Quentin Tarantino (USA, 2012)

The men (and handful of women) who commit murder, behave savagely or revel in brutality have deep-rooted problems that are not triggered solely by exposure to the wrong kind of entertainment. This makes it all the more bizarre that the premiere of Django was delayed by the Weinstein Company in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

Both Tarantino and Samuel L.Jackson publically criticised this decision and the director was equally disdainful of Krishnan Guru-Murphy’s puritanical line of questioning in a recent Channel 4 interview.

Django Unchained is without doubt a violent movie but it is wildly misplaced to regard it as just a tasteless or gratuitous bloodfest. It borrows from exploitation-movies but it is far too intelligent and knowing to be treated as a common or garden splatter movie.

The scenes of cruelty and killings can even be justified in view of the subject matter and are surely mild compared with the actual treatment handed out to slaves in America.

This is not to say that Tarantino’s aim was to make an anti-slavery movie any more that Ingluorious Basterds set out to be an anti-Nazi film. Django (Jamie Foxx) is the hero but he is out for number one and shows no interest in taking up the cause of exploited blacks.

What both films do though is to take for granted that slave owners and fascists are the bad guys, a point of view only sick and twisted minds would take issue with.

Aside from this, there is always something deliciously political incorrect about Tarantino’s movies. This is evident in the one hundred and ten uses of the n-word (someone was counting!) or in an audacious, and hilarious, Mel Brooks type scene where a Ku-Klux-Klan style lynch mob fall out over the fact that the sacks they wear over their heads have been badly made.

At the heart of the movie is the superb Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz, a well-educated bounty hunter. His suave manner and eloquence make him one of the most civilised  killing machines in the history of cinema.

Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor I don’t usually like that much, is also great in the part of the odious slaver Calvin Candie.

Tarantino’s screenplays are so inspired that it is no surprise that he can pick and choose his actors. Aside from the peerless performances of the main players, cameo roles for Don Johnson (Big Daddy) and Franco Nero (Amerigo Vessepi) also work brilliantly.

Another sign of his sure touch is the blend of folk, country, pop and hip hop in the dazzling soundtrack. Who’d have thought that Jim Croce’s You Got A Name would fit in so well and choosing to use the music of Ennio Morricone is no great shock since the debt the movie pays to Sergio Leone-style Spaghetti Westerns is huge.

Shaving half an hour off may perhaps have made this an even stronger movie but reigning in Tarantino’s scattergun style would also risk losing something of his bold blend of high art and low culture that is his trademark. Django Unchained is nothing short of a masterpiece.

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