Wednesday, January 30, 2013

“Django Unchained”: Slavery is no satire

“Django Unchained” is clearly a Quentin Tarantino production: from painting walls with blood to a bullet that launches “Miss Laura” like a spitball across the room—and throw in a twenty-minute massacre of blood popping out of bodies like puss from pimples—there is gore galore.  The grim Reaper of bloodbath, Tarantino has done it again while this time wielding his camera at the nation’s most vulnerable moment in history—slavery.

Even though violence may be what cinemagoers are looking for, especially fans and followers of Tarantino’s work, “Django”, a film taken place during the slave trade, leaves viewers wanting less slaughter and more solemnity.

Newsflash: slavery is never silly.  And please, can African Americans stop being patronized?  Django (Jamie Foxx) is an enslaved African American who is rescued and freed by—let’s guess—a white man, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), with a suitable name.

Yet, Dr. Schultz’s omniscient and sneaky, creepy character—he resembled an old western, historical Joker (Heath Ledger, of course)—is played remarkably, that is, until the end.  He seems to lose steam as Django gains it; Django starts to wear the sass in the bounty hunting business. Maybe the point was to create a good bounty hunter, bad bounty hunter vibe, but at the end of the film, the character that at first gave goose bumps was left in the dust. 

A more disturbing than disappointing element is the opening scene, which focuses on five chained, shirtless, sun baked and barefooted African Americans herded by two white men with whips.  This somber moment is insulted when the spaghetti Western soundtrack, a Johnny Cash wanna-be, starts trilling. As if it is mocking the barbarity of slavery, the song’s corny twang juxtaposes against the open wounds of the dark men’s’ chiseled backs.

This is not to say that serious events can not have a touch of comedic relief, “Inglorious Basterds,” another film by Tarantino, captures the butchery of WWII in Nazi Germany and also arises a harmless chuckle from the audience.  The problem with “Django” versus “Basterds” is that slavery is a blade closer to the heart than Nazism, U.S. being the home team. 

“Django Unchained” not only gashed its jagged teeth into a delicate, aching wound of the nation, but its’ fantastic morbidity and grossly offensive nature “unchained” vicious memories of the country’s racism.  Tarantino set out for an inevitable failure-- no one can turn slavery into satire.

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