Still chewing this one over, and I suspect it’ll take a second viewing before it starts to come into focus. It obviously plays as a variant on Inglourious Basterds, but I miss that film’s ferocious set pieces and, especially, its strong central female character. But what Django Unchained does even better than Basterds is show up the essential timidity of contemporary Hollywood filmmaking. Django is singular in large part because nobody else is making bigtime narratives that deal with the history of race relations in America. I like Lincoln a lot, but it’s telling that when Spielberg turns his attention to roughly the same period in history, he comes up with Congress: The Motion Picture. And I’d love to see Spike Lee make a Django answer film, but I doubt he could get the funding.
Hey, peoples of the world: white guys are awesome! Suppose a white guy–a pasty English lord, let’s say–were kidnapped by a bunch of Lakota Sioux. Sure, he might try to escape from captivity once or twice, but after a while he’d be totally cool with it. Instead of whining like a paleface, he’d go out and kill some other Native American people, maybe grab him a scalp or two, and then finally prove himself to his tribe by undergoing a bizarre physical ritual and fucking the chief’s sister. Eventually, he’ll be the leader of the tribe, rocking a tomahawk and a headband and showing them how to skirmish, English-style.
Director Terrence Malick’s return to the multiplex in 1998 with The Thin Red Line was one of the more remarkable comebacks in the 100-year history of the movie industry. Malick, a Texas native who made two of the most celebrated and influential American dramas of the 1970s, Badlands and Days of Heaven, promptly vanished for a good 20 years before returning with, of all things, a meditation on nature and humanity on the front lines of the Second World War. That his comeback film saw only modest box-office returns but earned seven Oscar nominations is an indicator of the esteem in which Malick is held by his peers.