Rules It Exemplifies:
- Genius Doesn’t Innovate, It Cultivates: At first, Tarantino wanted to be Godard, (he even named his production company A Band Apart) and they did have certain things in common: both were bold, visceral, post-modern, wildly talented bad-boy rulebreakers. But it soon became clear that Tarantino would never measure up. Where Godard was lean, Tarantino was bloated, where Godard was prolific, Tarantino dawdled. Each contrast favors Godard over his imitator: sublime vs. juvenile, poetic vs. ham-handed, visionary vs. derivative… But now, with his two latest movies, Tarantino has finally come into his own. He’ll never equal Godard, but he now stands within spitting distance of inheriting the legacy of one of Godard’s great influences: Sam Fuller. Fuller’s movies were deranged tabloid visions of America at its best and worst extremes. He sacrificed sensitivity and subtly in favor of telling the raw truth as he saw it. His movies were bracing, brutal, and bizarre, with peripatetic, episodic structures that forced you to re-set your narrative expectations. This is the legacy that Tarantino has belatedly embraced. Django lines up nicely alongside Fuller mid-period masterpieces, Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss, as a full-throated howl of unfocussed American rage.
- Plot Motivates, Character Complicates. Though this movie is once again self-indulgent and too long, I give Tarantino credit for pulling way back on the amount of plot. In the movie’s best scene, the plot has seemingly resolved…but one of our heroes just can’t resist his overwhelming urge to vent his spleen and ruin it all. Tarantino is finally learning that, in the second half, volatile character complications should drive the conflict, not an endless torrent of external plot events.
- Villains Need a Solid Motivation, Too: Yes, the gore was typically excessive, but for once it wasn’t driven by meaningless psychopathy. I was delighted to finally discover a movie in which the villains were not motivated by a love of chaos. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, give horrifically logical performances. Both characters coolly and calmly pursue their own best interests (and neither actor winks to us to let us know that he doesn’t approve). In this movie, everybody only wants what they want. Nobody wants to do good for good’s sake, and nobody want to do evil for evil’s sake.
Tomorrow, the return of Goofus and Gallant…