A History of Violence

Django Unchained upends the western -- and America's original sin.

There will be blood: Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio face off in Django.
There will be blood: Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio face off in Django.

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Django Unchained

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, and Kerry Washington.

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In his past two movies, Tarantino has ascended to a new level of filmmaking craftsmanship and narrative sophistication. And yet, probably because he came of age in a video store and has never quite lost the autodidact's air of bullish authority, some high-minded critics and cultural arbiters can't bring themselves to take him seriously as an intellectual. That was evident in some of the more knee-jerk evaluations of Inglourious Basterds, and it is already swirling in the air around Django. But like all of the best pop art, Tarantino's film is both seriously entertaining and seriously thoughtful, rattling the cage of race in America on-screen and off, the coveted "freedom papers" that give Django his emancipation standing in for another black man's long-form birth certificate. So it seems only fitting that when Tarantino's new western hero rides off toward the horizon, he is silhouetted not by sunset, but rather a raging ball of Wagnerian fire.

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2 comments
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Scrivener
Scrivener

Surpassingly good review, Scott. You balance accessibility with referentiality, rising above the "I can sub-reference more than anyone you know" bullishness of the well-educated film critic. You put your good knowledge of film to good expository use in making illuminating points.

AverageAmerican
AverageAmerican

"the subject of Django Unchained— slavery in the American South"...  What about slavery in the American North?  In fact the institution of slavery existed intact for up to 4 years AFTER the end of the Civil War in some Northern States.  Lincoln only freed slaves in rebel states, not union states...  Seems this was an American issue, not just a Southern issue.  Having said all that, I'm rather proud how we as Americans managed to end slavery in less than 100 years while it had existed before that time for thousands of years!  Another American Triumph!

 

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