A film originally recommended to me during my last year at art-school. I caught Lone Star (1996) a few years ago and found it to be a richly rewarding film with a lot of depth. I thought this time around I could really do the film some justice after a few more years exploration of the Western. Released during the mid 1990’s when the genre had seen something of a resurgence, beginning with Pale Rider (1985) going through to, well Lone Star and Buffalo Soldiers (1997) it would not pick up much traction until a few years ago with True Grit (2010) and Django Unchained (2012) that began to rework and understand the genre for a new audience in a time of uncertainty and political tensions. Also just in time for me to catch a few at the cinema too.
So what makes Lone Star stand the test of time to some of the more forgotten films that played fast and loose with the tropes and language of the genre, they maybe fun and action packed. It also stands alone from the pack, at a time when the life in the genre had run out of steam once more it takes the history of the genre and the state of Texas becoming more introspective. You could say it’s another modern version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) – more on that later. Beginning with the discovery of a pair of off-duty army officers who discover a skeleton, only a few meter’s away there’s a sheriff’s badge to go with it. Could this be relic from the old West now celebrate on film, or is the body of a more recent officer of the law?
We then travel back in time to the 1960’s finding it’s like the good old days with a crooked sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson) who holds the Rio county in his pocket. He’s foul-mouthed, racist and greedy, he knows the power that his position gives him and abuses it to his own advantage. The other officers just let him do get away with almost anything. Except Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey) who has a conscience that doesn’t agree with the status quo. Sounds familiar when you look back at the genres golden age, a crooked sheriff and a straight-laced deputy, if only they could stand up to the corruption.
Except this doesn’t feel like the old West, its more like the new West that rose from the ashes of the civil war, corruption, the cattle boom and the demise of slavery. We have a more serious Western, or you could say straight drama that’s set in the same location as the Alamo. With a mystery at the centre of the film being led by Buddy Deed’s son Charlie (Chris Cooper) who wants to prove his suspicions right and put this case to bed before politics takes over for the upcoming election for Sheriff.
Whilst the case is going on, we take a closer look at the town of Rio County, the people who inhabit it. From the school that sees the parents fighting the teachers to educate their own ideas of the country’s history. The old saying that histories written by the winners really does shine through in these scenes. Mexican parents want a more honest account of the events leading up to the Alamo and beyond before they lost land to Texas. Whilst American’s want to hold onto the myth, a fabric and important part of their own past, informed by celebration, dime novels and of course the films that blurred that history into something far bigger and yet more vague in the process.
We focus on one of those teachers, Pilar (Elizabeth Peña) who previously had a relationship with Charlie. It’s like he returned from her past to haunt her now when she picks up her son who had been arrested. We also see tensions between her and her mother Mercedes Cruz (Miriam Colon) who has her own fight with her staff who are not helping the immigrant crisis. She identifies herself as a Mexican American, wanting to speak English North of the border, trying to assert that in others is a fight. You can already see it’s not just a murder mystery, we have the border problem – which has still not gone away. The discussion around what kids should be taught in schools, the identity of the county and the State of Texas.
The local Army base is also depicted, and it’s not just about following orders and the chain of command. We have a Black Colonel Del (Joe Morton) whose latest posting has brought him back home to his estranged father – Otis (Ron Canada) whose part of the counties history and as we see the demise of Charlie Wade. The father son-relationship has it’s moments that are about to repeat themselves in Don’s own son who aspires to go to join the army. Whilst a current soldier who sees the army as a form of security in a society that wont accept the colour of her skin.
You can see a lot is going on in this film, longer than the average Western, it gives time to develop all these facets of a town that is in a state of constant change. Attempting to grapple where they all are. For Charlie it’s too things, the truth behind the death of his predecessor that has taken on mythic stature, which ultimately he won’t try and break, the truth for him and to shut the case is enough. There’s little he can really do once the truth is out. Like that finally revealed by Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, as much as he tries to set the record straight he can’t fight the myth, defeated by a journalist who refuses to publish it, knowing the power of the truth in the face of myth. Charlie understands that power far more than the old Senator who attends his old friends funeral. It’s bigger than him or anyone can really imagine.
With so much going on and little action it’s an incredible change in tone, placing this Western in the Revisionist category, one that maintains the language but has moved on in time. You can no longer settle your disagreements like men with guns outside, times have indeed changed. It’s a film that takes it’s time to spend time with characters and really get into the meat of what’s going on in that part of the world. It’s a nice change too to see where the genre has come from the rebirth in the mid-eighties that celebrated the genre to a film that really interrogates it and ask, where has it all gone.
A Western I have been aware of but have been purposely avoiding, mostly out of ignorance and not really wanting to see a Western with Sidney Poitier I just didn’t see him fitting into that genre easily. I’d only ever seen him in less than a handful of films. I guess what changed all that nonsense when I saw him being given a lifetime achievement Bafta award, a massive selection of his films made up his show-reel. He’s had a ground breaking career, during a time when African-American roles on-screen were relegated to butlers, housemaids, the help around the house, all using stereotyped voices that today is just plain embarrassing. I could go on about the history of the African-American on-screen plenty has already been written.
Instead I want to turn my attention to Buck and the Preacher (1972) which depicts the African-American in a new light. Gone are the stereotypes, the bumbling help who look up to their white employers who they idolize, with a few sayings that they have throughout the film. I get the sense more of a Black Spaghetti Western at times with this one. It’s not even that really, its something in between as it has a sense of something really important going on. We’re told in the prologue that the now free slaves after the Civil War are moving West themselves, in search of a better life, it’s already in the history of the genre. The war was fought for them yet we hardly see them on-screen in leading roles. The closest we get in Woody Strode in a handful of roles, even then its supporting at most. However these now free slaves are being treated nearly as badly as the Native American who are historically entering the closing days of their own freedom.
Enter our hero of the film, Buck (Poitier) whose paid to be wagon master to black wagon trains. They are the pioneers of the film, wanting to make their mark on the country that is still being tamed and won. It’s a story as inaccurate as it maybe that goes unspoken on-screen for the most part. You could call him the black Kirk Douglas of the film, who means as much business as any leading white actor, he knows what he wants, will do anything to achieve it, with a lot more drive behind him as he has both the history of his race but that of the genre and the medium on his shoulders. That’s a lot of weight to bring to the role. The nearest we get to his role today is Jamie Fox in Django Unchained (2012) his Tarantino‘s Blaxploitation meets Spaghetti Western. I’ll turn to that is more detail later. Back to Buck who is a serious man who you can see has a heart and will do what is necessary.
So a black man leading a wagon train is not just rare, at the time groundbreaking, the exclusivity of the white man and his family who’re lead by men who know the open country and can survive “Indian” raids without losing too many heads along the way. This the Native American as we know them, now they play a more substantial role that really brings them into the plot beyond being obstacles, they are substantial elements of the plot. First seeing them as the potential enemy before being revealed as the ally to the Buck and his partner Preacher (Harry Belafonte) – the comic relief. Buck is able to negotiate with the Natives for safe passage (see video) for his wagon train that is about to pass through. He could have easily just ridden along through, but he decides to ask permission, instead of taking his chances like his once slave owners may have done. He has learned respect where white man have not.
I don’t want to make this another study of the depiction of Native Americans but I can’t help it as their role’s transplanted to the Black characters who are wanting live the life of the White man, It’s all messing about with the genre that for decades had laid down the rule almost in stone of where everyone should be. The White men, for a while are ten men who are after Buck wanting to restore order, to pre-Civil war life, not accepting the changes, lead by Deshay (Cameron Mitchell) whose driven by racism, unable to the future like once town sheriff (John Kelly) who will allow anyone in his town as long as they obey the law, they can pass through unharmed. They are men from different sides of the war, most probably would have fought on different sides two. Its only when Deshay and most of his men are killed and robbed is the law on Buck’s back and rightly so, he’s broken the law, and wants to bring him in to face justice, a white man would face the same destiny.
It’s unusual to have a majority black cast, that’s supported by Harry Belafonte who is loosely a man of the cloth. Like most preachers in the genre, they usually carry a gun, or carried one in a previous life, ready to survive the open and dangerous wilderness which is the West. He is the other half of Buck, the excitement, the comedy and a more danger at his side. The opposite of determined Buck, are they the Black Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, they are polar opposites yet work well together when pushed into a corner which makes the on-screen duo work. History would probably tell us differently.
Turning now briefly to Django Unchained you can see this is a very influential film. Again we have a freed slave, not so literally, the rise to glory is far quick, it’s an origin story to an extent. With Buck that’s already built-in with the prologue, he has a history of leading freed slaves to new lives, this time Colorado. The aim of Django was to find and free his wife Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington) yet he’s supported by a white man Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) he does enable him to get where other black men can’t. The White men are generally depicted as idiots and backward in their thinking, which is not so overt in the older film.
Looking at the film on the perspective as a Western it’s a bit of an oddity, the soundtrack is the first thing that hits you, it’s so unique, it doesn’t grate on your ears as much as it grabs you attention, informing you this is not your average Western, the protagonists not the usual white men, these are the underclass that are rising through, its a long fight that wont be won and some would argue is still not. In other respect the action and chase scene are as standard as any other Western, classical in style but modern in terms of themes which makes it really stand out in the genre.
I first dismissed The Salvation (2014) as a foreign western, which is very unfair really. Then I saw the trailer, showing all the “best bits” to me, I was hooked, needing to see it as soon as possible. The nearest that you can get to a standard western today, if you ignore Django Unchained (2012), The Lone Ranger (2013) which are all variations on the classic genre. Here is the closet we are going to get to a dramatic tale in the West today, having more in common with a spaghetti western in terms of the violence minus the humour.
More in the Fordian vein of an immigrant rich country, focusing the in a Danish lead Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) who meets his estranged wife and child arrive after being apart for seven years. Its all happy families, being reunited once more, ok a little awkward but they are happy to be together once more. Taking a stagecoach that would have wished he hadn’t. Ending in the death and rape of his family at the hands of a gang leaders brother. All this takes the ex-soldier back to a life he gave up once he came to America. After tracking down and killing his families killers he wants to just get on with his life. It all happens so fast too.
Tonally we are seeing the best of the classic genre all rolled into one, the 1950’s and spaghetti westerns all mashed together to give us this steely determination we find with Clint Eastwood as finds the men on his list. When news of the killings reach Jon’s town Delarue’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) gang arrive leaving with an ultimatum for the town that I have never come across before, things get Biblical for a while is all I’ll say. Giving into his gangs demands too easily the town is indeed living in fear, paying them for their own security it’s understandable.
I’m reminded of a much older western Riding Shotgun (1954) which has its roots in the communist witch-hunt era. A town living in fear, ready to give up to easily to that emotion instead of listening to reason. More religious in morality however there is still plenty of immorality going around in the form of mayor, land officer and undertaker Keane (Jonathan Pryce). Things get brutal for Jon and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) who take on the gang themselves when the town give-up of them. Theres a bit of an anti immigrant feeling as they are happy to have their money but not their presence when things get bloody. Could this be mirroring political tensions today in Denmark or America? You could say The Salvation is more representative of young America in the 1800’s trouble around every corner. The weak being taken advantage of by the strong.
All this going on against the classic back-drop of Monument Valley out of the usual season which we recognise the landscape, it’s not the hot summer with the deep orange-red buttes that are as far as the eye can see. They sit within the yellow grass, we aren’t supposed to be overwhelmed by the landscape, more to acknowledge its presence as we see the nightmare unfold for a lone man as he fights for justice.
Whilst fighting for her own freedom is new widow Madelaine (Eva Green) a woman forever silenced after Native American’s brutally attacked her, cutting out her tongue, a supporting actress who has not a single line of dialogue, fighting her own battle amongst all gang men, mostly Delarue and Corsican (Eric Cantona) who want their way with her. Mostly taking it all only able to use gestures to allow the audience to convey her emotions which is quite as task to pull off. Whilst Cantona really does surprises me, the second in command who has taken on another form as a part-time actor. It’s a European cast in an all American genre and it works, its more rooted in fact to allow this drama to take-place.
The classic shoot-out rounds up this sweet and swift film that has packed in a lot of gunfire. It’s cleverly constructed to pit two against a whole gang without falling too much into cliche. Making the build up to this moment worthwhile, having seen one man going through a lot in a short space of time. Jon really does take a beating from all sides, those who were once his allies to his enemies who want their own justice. Ultimately no-one is right or wrong which is an interesting twist on the genre, reflecting how complex and hard life in that era must have been. There’s no hero here really making this film all the more darker which I have not before. It does however lack any lighter moments which would have allowed for character development, instead going head first into revenge and justice, seeking what is right, finding his own path.
I’ve been waiting to get around to watching Nebraska (2013) even if Bruce Dern once shot John Wayne in The Cowboys (1972) but that was over forty years ago and most people have got over that awful scene that has more recently made me turn slightly against the actor (only for a day or so). I have seen Dern deliver some fine performances before and after that film. He is triumphed by Quentin Tarantino who has finally found a film for him, (after his cameo in Django Unchained (2012)) he is finding a new lease of life on film. All this could be down to his Oscar nominated performance in this black comedy Nebraska that sees an elderly father fall for one of the worst marketing scams going today, the million dollar check, which is something that really deserves to be thrown in the bin. Not for unwitting Woody Grant (Dern) who has for weeks already been making attempts to travel/walk to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his new-found fortune. Driving his family mad with despair for Woody.
What follows is an unlikely road-trip with his youngest son David (Will Forte) who reluctantly takes him to Nebraska if only to prove that he is letting himself in for a lot of embarrassment as the film progresses. You could say Nebraska is about marketing scams targeting the elderly who are more vulnerable to such practices. That’s only scratching the surface and missing the point completely, its setting things up to allow David to get to know his father better than he has in a long time. Bringing him closer to his father.
I said this was a road-trip movie, well it is in part, they do travel in a car, stopping mostly in Woody’s home town, full of memories and people from his past, one he has forgotten mostly about. Staying at his brother Ray’s (Rance Howard) home with his wife Martha (Mary Louise Wilson) and sons. This is where the real comedy starts to happen for me, the family dynamic of a family that is full of elderly and the middle-aged, all with life experience, it’s the older generation who have all the best lines though. Especially June Squibb the long-suffering wife Kate who doesn’t hold back whoever company she’s in. Stealing every scene she’s in, with a heap of charm that you can only get the older you become, the licence to let rip with what you say, not caring what others think.
Moving onto the cinematography, a rare black and white film, even though technically it’s not, filmed digitally in colour and converted in post-production. The effect does allow you to concentrate more on the characters, not distracted by the world around them. It really comes into its own when we have the wide open shots of the landscape, just as the sunrises or sets, making it come into its own. Otherwise I was trying to work out what the real colours were. Knowing also that a colour version of the film was recently shown in a U.S channel which caused a stir, which I can understand. Ultimately with two versions out for broadcast is it really much point to argue. It’s not as if the film was original shot in black and white before being colorized, which really is a controversial technique.
Coming back to around to Nebraska as a film it has a real heart, focusing on the family dynamic in later life, everyone has grown up, the truth will one day come out, you can see everyone’s true colour beyond the smiles at family gatherings. We learn more about Woody than anyone and that’s how we like it really, that’s where all the heart is, we want to know more about this man who is now a bumbling alcoholic who has become a shadow of his younger self which is quite sad really.
Supported by a maturer cast of characters who paint the picture of Woody’s life, all corrected by Martha allowing us to understand a flawed human being who has tried his best, bumbling through life it seems. We all know someone who has struggled, or struggling, a very human facet that sometimes can have a stronger hold over us. Making this a very relatable and enjoyable film that had me in laughing more than I thought I would. Whilst never mocking an elderly it celebrates their humanity which is rarely seen on film today.
I must say I wouldn’t have watched this film if it wasn’t for my manager at work who recommended I watch City Slickers (1991). And he’s someone who’s hard to impress when it comes to films. And luckily I had the chance to catch the film for myself, to see what all the fuss was about. I knew it was a comedy as soon as Billy Crystal was mentioned, I wasn’t put off by that, usually seeing comedy and westerns as very hit and miss. My mind is slowly changing when it comes to these two genres coming together. Even after seeing Blazing Saddles (1974) agin which made me re-think my position on the sub-genre.
At the time of City Slickers release there was a number of westerns around from Dances with Wolves (1990), Unforgiven (1992) before summing up with Tombstone (1993). There just the ones of the top of my head. There was a rebirth of sorts which I was too young to really enjoy, there is a slowly building wave now lead by Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained (2012) who is already working on his take of Magnificent Seven (1960) with The Hateful Eight (2015 at the moment) going into production at the end of the year. Of course back in the day when all I was bothered about more child related things comedies came out in response to this new wave of westerns such as City Slickers which took three men of the city and placed them on a working ranch. Each with their own problems, as they hit middle age. Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) who feels lost in life, unhappy in his job, needing to be reminded what is important in his life. Whilst his two friends are hitting different dilemma’s in their life. For Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) he is stuck in a loveless marriage to a woman who undermines him, yet is trapped by her and his father in law in a job that keeps them going. Ending up committing adultery with a checkout girl. And Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) who has just married a 20-year-old model doesn’t want to ruin what he has with children, wanting the couples life for as long as he can handle it.
What they need is to escape their everyday lives (conveniently arranged by Phil) to join a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. Not any old holiday, having to learn the ropes (no pun intended) before starting on the drive. The film is very aware of what it is, both a homage and a modern take on one of the oldest American genre’s. Setting up three men who are lost in life, having to come leave there lives to find themselves. Moving the action to a contemporary setting, the cowboy way of life lasted in reality for around 20 years, starting after the civil war before the rail road was completed and fences went up everywhere. The land was their full of the dangers open landscape, having to live by their wits alone. This drive is no different, except with a whole history that explores the myth that they helped to create.
Joined on the drive by a father and son dentists, two brothers who make ice-cream and a lone woman, all strangers to the outdoors they are put through their paces, having to adapt quickly to the cowboy life, from riding a horse to lassooing stray cattle. It’s all there. Before they begin the drive there is a reminder of the start of the drive in Red River (1948) its both fun and loving how they all howl, hee-haw before setting off that what they saw in the movies they are finally engaging with themselves, John Wayne and Montgomery Clift aren’t there to assist them, they are instead there in spirit to spur them on.
Leading the drive is an ageing cowboy Curly (Jack Palance) one of the remaining actors from the golden era of the genre, as both a nod to that era and a link to a way of life that is dying if we let it just pass us by. A tough character who is old and set in his way. You could say he’s a stereotype of the cowboy, or a link to a bygone era both on and off-screen. Passing on his knowledge to Mitch who after starting out on the wrong path they soon reach and understanding before his extended cameo comes to an end.
The streetwise cowboys are soon thrown in at the deep end, discovering what it’s like to live on a drive, not startling the cattle, the drunkenness at night (and day). It’s not what they expected. Causing them to take a hold of the drive and see it through, along with getting a new perspective on their lives. Some are stronger than others as we find out, leaving those behind to see the drive through, a real test of what it is to be a cowboy and ultimately a man when things get tough in the modern-day. Reality is what makes this film work, with a self-awareness of a genre, which is again seen in the guise of a film that pays homage to. Set against a landscape that I’ve seen countless times before filled with men on horseback. Going back again to retrace those footsteps once more. There is something magical about that which would be more so if I was there on a drive. The comedy is quick and still fresh today, we still have the same problems in our own lives, made more so by the reality of the cowboy who knew what happens to the cattle at the end of the journey. We are never far away from reality, kept back only by nostalgia.
I went into this film with the idea that Gravity (2013) was still the worthy winner of the best picture Oscar this year. That was soon thrown out of the window with 12 Years a Slave (2013) the third Steve McQueen film, which I was at first unsure about, thinking it would be of no interest to me, too brutal for my taste. I thought with all the conversations going on, it would be a crime to not see this unflinching piece of film-making.
Talk of the lingering camera style having disappeared are wrong, instead it has been worked into this more flowing narrative that begins as a series of flashback from one life as a free man for Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is stolen from him as he is kidnapped into a life of slavery, under the control of the white-man, who was once his equal.
It’s hard not to ignore and try to compare this to Django Unchained (2012) which also dealt with slavery, more so as an exploitation. It brought forward the subject into our consciousness. There is no real comparison, we see the struggle and pain of the oppressed black people, but more so the fear which drives the revenge of the film for the hero. 12 Years a Slave is a survival story above all else amongst all the pain and suffering which an educated African-American has to go through.
Beginning his 12 years on the plantation of Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) a compassionate slaver owner who can see there is more to Platt (the slave name for Northup), treating him as best he can under the circumstances. Whilst others such who have been split up from their families suffer on. However the first few months of slavery for the educated man don’t come easy, acting illiterate is one thing, not fighting back is another when it comes to one of the masters Tibeats (Paul Dano) who comes to almost enjoy delivering out the pain to the slaves under his control.
Moving onto another plantation under a new stricter owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) whose relationship with his slaves is one of owner and property, leaning to a dark pleasure in delivering out acts of cruelties to the slaves that lie in fear. More so for Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) who is the object of his desires, even with a wife who knows what is going on, having her own view on how to treat the slaves. There is a sense of what could happen in the future concerning the owner slave relationship. Which goes further in Brad Pitt‘s small role of Bass an enlightened Carpenter from Canada who freely speaks his mind which puts Epps very much on edge with these radical ideas from the North. This however appeals to Platt/Northup who is working with the carpenter. He fears opening up, by this point having been a slave for at least 10 years. Bass is the light at the end of the tunnel. Something that we discover was rare in the height of the slave trade era.
For a film of this length, every frame is warranted, every scene of brutality is rightly hard to look at, making you flinch with the sounds of pain that come out of the screen at you. It’s rightly hard to watch, it shouldn’t be any other way. The countries of the western world who have a slave history should watch and be aware. Making a modern audience who maybe unaware loose that ignorance, this account did happen.
McQueen has grown as a director combining his style with this very dark subject which for years has never really been dealt with outside a political and historical context. I was aware of slavery at primary school from images of men lined on the deck of a ship, filling it from one point to the other. It was a frightening thought, something that you cannot really process fully. The cast is all on top form, however big or small their part, such as Pitt who has a handful of scenes. Alongside Fassbender who is fast becoming McQueen’s go to actor. But it’s Ejiofor who delivers a powerful performance who stays strong throughout it all. An independent free man who is broken through the years of slavery still remains hopeful of escape. There’s a sense of dignity in how he carries on through all his character is put through. There are no stereotypes at all, just a rich southern accent, none of the slaves are mocked, instead they are intelligent people, unlike African-Americans were earlier depicted in cinema. There is however a distinction between a black man and a n***** in the first hour which does fade overtime.
That’s a small point to make when you look at the film as a whole. Which in terms of Oscars has a strong chance of at least bagging Best Picture, with all the competition from the other films and performers. There is a strong desire for DiCaprio to pick up a best actor, much over due, it’s a political game. The subject matter may push them away, or will they stand up and acknowledge the films merits individually. On its own it’s a film not to be ignored.
- 12 Years a Slave (ilikedthatfilm.wordpress.com)
- Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave (2013) (tallglassoffilm.wordpress.com)
- 12 Years a Slave – Book Review (thepoplartree.wordpress.com)
- 12 Years a Slave – Movie Review (lucasfothergill.wordpress.com)
- 12 Years a Slave – My Thoughts (cwemancipation.wordpress.com)
Mark Kermode‘s latest blog post has really struck a chord with me. not that I have a particular film in mind that I want to re-cut. I know that diehard-fans of Star Wars have taken it upon themselves to make their own edit of episodes 1-3 which has allowed them to produce a personal version of the film that retells the saga in a more satisfying way for the fan. Kermode mentions for the umpteenth time Django Unchained (2012) taking out Quentin Tarantino‘s cameo as an Australian slave owner. I agree he should have had more restraint in what he was doing, staying to the lesser known cameo with the clumsy KKK who discussed the origins of their dress, making them look stupid and unable to see. That was clever and more subtle.
Moving to my main point that if we all take it upon ourselves to edit the films we believe need some attention shows a lack of respect for the piece we have. The work of the film makers who have delivered the work. Of course there are directors cuts that allows the director to return and reshape it, which is perfectly fair, it’s their work. Immediately I think of George Lucas who has taken that agency too far, which has angered fans. Then to look at Ridley Scott who has made alterations that greatly improve Blade Runner (1982). I have produced work using film, but that has changed the form intentionally into a new piece of work.
It would be interesting to see how the opinion of a fan can reshape a film, would they view that as the definitive version? Would they share it online with others to gauge opinion? Would a redit be a group effort? Would new sequences be shot and inserted? There’s a lot to consider when you really think about. If Kermode had the time and resources would he spend time re-editing Tarantino’s work, (bar Jackie Brown (1997)). Or should we just leave it to the director and the rest of the film-makers?
- Trouble Man: ‘Django Unchained’ and the Obliteration of Identity (Feature) (popmatters.com)
- Mark Kermode’s DVD round-up (guardian.co.uk)
- Don’t Take Your Guns to Town (tgjackson93.wordpress.com)
- Quentin Tarantino stems bloodflow in Django Unchained for Chinese market (guardian.co.uk)
In preparation for going to see Django Unchained (2012) I felt it was appropriate to view Quentin Tarantino‘s last offering, Inglorious Basterds (2009). It’s hard not to keep an open mind with the mixed reviews that are floating about, most favouring the latter film release 3 years ago, which has once again blown my mind at the violence, pacing and humour that brings the Nazi revenge tale of revisionist history to life.
So onto the film I’ve just sat down and watched. A small troop of Jewish American soldiers are sent into France with one singular and powerful goal – to kill Nazi’s. A goal most soldiers would have relished to undertake, ignore the tactics of taking land, just hunt down, kill, scalp and bludgeon to death. Lead by the ruthless Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt)
Whilst on the other side of the fence we have the sadistic SS Col Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz), dubbed the Jew hunter. A man who you can never really tell what he is thinking until he says it to those around him, and at his will. A very clever man not to be messed with.
The plot drives towards the aim of taking as many of the Third Reich in one foul swoop, a dream that only cinema can do. Seen before in The Dirty Dozen (1967) taking more minor but still high ranking officers in a clever and dangerous set-up.
There’s also a strong sense of poetic justice for the a certain cinema owner Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) who ceases the chance for revenge when a premiere of a Nazi film. Making for a glorious finale that allows your imagination to run wild. Tarantino is bringing to the screen what many directors and allied forces at the time of WWII only dreamed of.
Now the violence was short and bloody sweet when it made its face. I feel it was dealt with fairly as the war was not a clean affair and so should be depicted as so, which even the film within a film demonstrated A Nations Pride that really glorifies the act of killing, a celebration of a soldiers triumph in the face of adversity. Even Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) could only see so much, for him, history and memories were repeating themselves.
Overall a satisfying film that isn’t for the faint heart, which is a given for Tarantino who never fails to keep the suspense up, with rich conversations before the bloodbath of violence. He gets away with it more this time as it’s war-time France, it’s expected to pour a little blood. Where as tomorrow the subject matter will be far darker in some respects, slavery a very sensitive issue that a nation has not really dealt with, having had repercussions throughout its history. I’ll comment no more on Django Unchained until I return from the cinema.
- Inglourious Basterds (2009) (themoviecrew.wordpress.com)
- INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009): Tarantino and his World War II Fantasy (arcticshores.blogspot.co.uk)
- Inglourious Basterds (2009)(100filmsinayear.wordpress.com)
- Inglourious Basterds (2009 (colemancornerincinema.blogspot.co.uk)