Django Unchained: Tarantino Takes On The Western

Every few years Quentin Tarantino drops a cult smash that revolutionises a genre. With the script for Django Unchained leaked on the internet, the speculation of who will star has reached fever pitch...
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Movie blogs lit up a few weeks ago with the emergence of a new screenplay. The origins of this 166-page document were unclear, with rumours abounding of a private mailing by the Weinstein production company had fallen into the wrong hands and subsequently gone viral, while other’s suggested that the manuscript had been stolen during a party held by its writer just a week after he had completed the finishing touches to the script.

The more cynical amongst us, felt sure it was a marketing plot to build early buzz, but what assured those lucky enough to get their hands on a copy it of its genuine nature was its front page, on which a title had been scrawled in familiar handwriting. You may not have heard of Django Unchained before, but it won’t be long before you’ll find it difficult to hear about anything else. The raggedy pages of this script will soon become the latest feature film from one Quentin Jerome Tarantino.

The writer/director had first made allusions to the movie back in 2007, telling a British newspaper that his next film would be a ‘southern’, a sop to the misleading genre catch-all for westerns set in the deep south. The backdrop is slavery-era Tennessee where Django finds himself freed from his captors by a German bounty hunter scouring the land for a trio of criminals. As the pair get closer acquainted, Django both builds his skills as a marksman and accepts the offer of help from his friend to free his wife from the clutches of a vicious plantation owner.

In each generation only a handful of filmmakers both inspire a loyal following and have the power to break out of the conventions of common-or-garden genre pictures. Quentin Tarantino is one such filmmaker.

Will Smith was initially rumoured to lead, though those who had read the script felt this was highly unlikely, and it was Jamie Foxx confirmed as Django just last week. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Christoph Waltz plays the dandy German, with fellow Tarantino alumni Samuel L. Jackson in support.

True to past form, the film is heavy on dialogue with Waltz and Foxx taking buddy roles not a million miles from Pulp Fiction’s Vince and Jules. Similarly, the director can’t resist a nod to the cult of the cinephile with a place in the film rumoured for Franco Nero, an Italian who played a series of anti-heroes in some notable Italian westerns of the 1960s and the title role in Sergio Corbucci’s original Django. Although don’t expect Tarantino’s version to be to close to the source material, the narrative owes perhaps more to the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s as it does the original, so-called, ‘spaghetti’ western.

Like him or loathe him, there are a handful of filmmakers in each generation who both inspire a loyal following and have the power to break out of the conventions of common-or-garden genre pictures. Quentin Tarantino is one such filmmaker. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction both twisted the heist picture beyond almost all recognition, Kill Bill breathed new life into kung fu flicks, and Inglourious Basterds effectively rebooted the war movie. More importantly, all opened the door for inquisitive audiences to seek out some great music, rediscover previously overlooked performers and whose many references to other cinema lead to a string of great movies. We think that’s something to be celebrated.

Django Unchained starts shooting in the Autumn.

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