An exchange on 'Django'

Rembert's piece linking Django and it's attendant tension to bigger ideas surrounding the messiness of race in 2012, and the coming year, is probably one of the more interesting perspectives I've read. I would say that my opinion lies closest with this take from IndieWire ("Spike Lee did not lose. There was nothing to win. He was sounding the alarm. That's all"), which also convinced me to reconsider watching Lincoln - though I'll probably just stream it.

As for the "real" controversy - tbh, I don't really care about Tarantino's position on slavery? Maybe (probably) I am speaking from a privileged/unaffected POV but this didn't seem to me a film "about" slavery (in the way Amistad or even Lincoln might be) as opposed to a film set during slavery. I think when we posit that Tarantino's making a revisionist film, we're giving too much credit to one white guy's perspective. And I understand how those things can be damaging and have some kind of endemic legacy, especially given his profile. But I really don't think this was Tarantino editorializing on slavery so much as using it (probably consciously) as a very particular context - one that's been largely unexplored, at least when it comes to big-budget Hollywood movies.

I know you can't really seat an argument in a void, but I'm just really glad this wasn't another "hallowed" serious film about the slave experience from a white dude's perspective. And I think Tarantino's "opinion" on all of this (if he actually has one) was summed up pretty early in the film when Schulz is freeing Django and he says, regarding his : "I feel guilty."

In short: there's no way he could've won and I'm not really trying to say "white people can't make movies involving slaves/slavery." A worse filmmaker would've fucked this up and I don't think this film was a stretch for Tarantino - like, some unexpected gratuitous fantasy project - or maliciously/naively offensive. It just was, and as far as movies made by white dudes about this kind of stuff it didn't make me wanna slit my wrists. Spike Lee's only real valid point of contention is that a black filmmaker wouldn't be able to get this movie made. That much is probably true. 

It's pretty awesome that Tarantino can make a movie that makes us talk about these things. I think that much was intentional! - A

yessss, thanks for this awesome reply! I assumed maybe you had drowned in django conversations and couldnt bear any more. 

I really enjoyed the movie as entertainment but also for the structural idea behind it. I think with his last 2 movies Tarantino has been using (highly sensitive) historical settings as narrative devices and nothing more - essentially tools to turbo-charge his scripts. These are not political movies and any social commentary is secondary or accidental. Quite a predictable accident yes - but i dont think he set out to make political movies with the last two. He's a cinophile, not an activist. Take away the historical placement and both IB and DU are pretty straightforward tarantino revenge/hero flicks. Tarantino's principle loyalty is and has always been to the story, and his foray into revisionist historical films is just a way to make them more vivid.  Amazing how different tarantino-esque violence feels when framed by slavery/the holocaust.

I think it probably took a lot of courage to make this film - from everyone involved really - and I doubt he couldve made DU any earlier in his career. He didnt yet have the license and the plot, language and imagery are so explosive. The actors obviously trust Tarantino too, if this movie wasnt received well Don Johnson, Leo, and possibly Samuel L would have had major damage control situations. I suspect a lot of the actors involved were nervous about the public reaction to this film. 

I found spike lee's reaction surprising and pretty anti-art - these discussions about who 'can' or 'should' or 'is allowed to' always make me nervous. (The chief keef bit in the Grantland piece is quite unfortunate) I think its a responsibility of artists/writers to disregard taboos and be adventurous. Ironically, no one seems to be noting that cultural ham-fisted-ness is a pretty central element of the spaghetti western genre which tarantino is referencing. Its usually the white settler vs. american indian variety but nonetheless, these movies are subtlety-free zones. 

definitely liked the film and kudos to quentin for having the balls to make it!

(also, here is a streaming link to lincoln) - D

Much needed centering c/o Jeffrey Eugenides..