Ever since the new Quentin Tarantino film have been announced, movie buffs from around the world started to get pumped up mainly because every new Tarantino is worth the wait and also because of the subject of the story. Borrowing the cult character of the violent spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Corbucci with Franco Nero as the title role of Django, Tarantino once again digs into his knowledge of obscure films. For those who are interested about Quentin Tarantino they know his visceral knowledge about movies and especially sub genres, B and Z movies, obscure films, etc. It is no surprise that Tarantino decided to direct a Western. The only surprise is the fact that he never directed one before.
Tarantino and the Western genre
The auteur’s love story with the gunslinger genre is deeply anchored in his visual style, see the first scene of Inglourious Basterds, but also in his storytelling. In his list submitted to Sight and Sound in 2002 of the ten greatest films of all time, Tarantino crowned Sergio Leone’s masterpiece The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The Leone influence is so palpable that QT seemed to have borrowed every trick that made him love the master’s films. The reference to Spaghetti Westerns is bold and mostly explored in the epicness of Kill Bill’s two volumes and the cinematic grandeur of Inglourious Basterds. Many fighting scenes and even the mise en scène of Kill Bill with the tension and climaxes might be the film that most transcended the Leone complex.
Nevertheless, a thing that most people tend to forget about Tarantino is his constant admiration for legendary multi-talented producer/director Howard Hawks who made his mark into genre films more than any other filmmaker. With his superb mastery of Film Noir, Comedy, Slap Stick, Adventure, Period, and most importantly Westerns. In 1959, Howard Hawks was almost considered as a worned out director who gave everything he ever had to give. Except, the young future filmmakers of the French New Wave at Les Cahiers du Cinema gave him the recognition he deserved naming him the perfect auteur. Well, in 1959 Hawks with long time collaborator and friend John Wayne responded to Fred Zinneman’s High Noon starring Gary Cooper with a virulent action packed and Hawksian dialogues-filled Western that will raise the bar of the genre effecting the way we make and see films forever. This film is Rio Bravo. A funny fact is that every time Quentin Tarantino meets a potential girlfriend he shows her Rio Bravo and if she doesn’t like the film she won’t be a future girlfriend. When a man has such a selecting criteria in his search for a life partner we understand that Cinema is central in his life but also that he vows a cult to the Western and Howard Hawks. Tarantino’s writing is quite unique, however bits and turns, especially jokes and funny moments have something Hawksian in their keen manners and how we easily accept that it is a film we are watching and how the characters have a sense of knowing they are in a film and how they react to the realism of their fiction. Let’s not get lost but it is also interesting to observe that the Tarantino style has been hugely influenced by the many characters story of Rio Bravo where a sheriff and professionals unite to get rid of bandits in their village.
Another influence in Quentin Tarantino’s movies is the films of John Ford. Every time I watch the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds I can’t get out of my head the opening scene of Ford’s The Searchers. Here the master has a more subtle influence and his simple but so efficient mise en scène of wonderful Westerns set in Monument Valley staring John Wayne. One can respond to this declaration that Ford is one of the forefathers of Cinema and Tarantino may have been influenced by his followers like Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, etc. It is quite clear that Tarantino highlights the filmmakers he wants and that even if he never cited Ford as an influence it is more than sure that he have seen some of his films.
Well, Tarantino’s relationship with Westerns is more than obvious and it was about time that he directed one himself. Since, he can do anything he wants he is one of the few directors working today to do it his way.
Musical mastery - as always
With Quentin Tarantino one of the most central aspects of his filmmaking is the almost perfect use of music and most of the time song selection. He used some Ennio Morriconne in Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds and we should expect some 1960's and 1970's music. But I would love to hear an Original Score maybe from Morriconne or a contemporary composer that could fit with him and his style for Django Unchained.
A revenge story - again
With the updates of the shooting and plot infos coming out since the announcement of Django Unchained, one of the major plot issues was the quest for vengeance of the main character. A black man who delivers himself from his chains from a white slave master seeks for revenge on the killing of his black wife. Does it ring a bell to anyone? Think of Shoshanna Dreyfus' motivation to revenge the lost of her family by the hands of the Nazis and especially against Hans Landa. The culmination of Inglourious Basterds is the final act of the beautiful blond woman against the people who took her family from her. Well, it is almost ditto to Kill Bill's main character portrayed by Uma Thurman who has made a triptych to one by one kill the people who came on her wedding day and try to kill her, her husband, and her unborn child. It is almost, with Death Proof aside, Tarantino's third time in a row that the central story of his film invoking vengeance of the main character.
It is almost too obvious to cite as a direct influence Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in the West that Tarantino takes the vengeance of Harmonica as one of the major hook and issue of his scripts. It is, indeed, a great motivation for his characters but also a great hook for the viewer. However, it is quite clear that he'll have made the point that it is a very good sandbox or if you prefer terrain to exploit. It also lets the director include more gory violences that he loves to spread in all his films. We are more inclined to watch difficult scenes when the character who does it has a good reason like revenging his family.
Let's all hope that with Django Unchained Tarantino won't repeat himself and crank himself with his unique style. Well, even if it's another story of vengeance, we should expect something entertaining and worth the wait since it's from QT. Let's have a countdown until Christmas...