I didn’t want to give money to Tarantino because I find him obnoxious, so I watched “Django Unchained” in a very bad pirated copy (sorry) and I cannot vouch for the visual quality of the film. In terms of story, however, I thought it was a pretty weak film.
Let me tell you how I feel about Tarantino: I enjoyed “Pulp Fiction” at the time it came out and had some fun with “Kill Bill” although it was way too long. I hated “From Dawn to Dusk” and was annoyed by the historical liberties of “Inglorious Basterds”. I didn’t care much for “Reservoir Dogs” but I thought “True Romance” (directed by Tony Scott) was fun. Still, I never considered him a great filmmaker, at most a talented genre filmmaker with a good knack for dialogues and violent scenes. But hey, that’s just me.
Tarantino once said that Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was one of the best-directed movies of all time. He might as well be right, it is certainly in my list of favorite movies. However, Sergio Leone was a very different director than Tarantino, and, despite “Django Unchained” being a clear homage to the so-called “Spaghetti Western” genre, it falls very short of Leone’s mark.
For one, Sergio Leone was interested in real History. He was fascinated by the Old West and did a lot of research on the subject. Also, both “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” have charismatic, human characters, something that Tarantino’s films sorely lack. Maybe that’s my main problem with Tarantino: after “Jackie Brown”, he just decided that believable human characters were a waste of time, so he went into caricature overdrive.
Leone’s “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, which takes place during the Civil War, presents the Southern Confederates as honorable soldiers, not as the total evil bastards that we see in Tarantino’s film, where pretty much all Southern whites are sadistic pricks. In fact, in Leone’s movie, it is the Yankees who are shown in worse light, badly treating the captured Confederate in prison camps. Leone knew that The Good are not always good, The Bad are not all the time bad, and the Ugly can be also funny.
A film touching the delicate historical issues of America’s dark past could be interesting, even if it was an action film, even if it was a revenge story and even if it was a “spaghetti Western”.
But subtlety is not Tarantino’s main strength. Then again, maybe it’s not what the current American public wants, anyway.