Tarantino Unchained: Commentary on Quentin Tarantino’s rant in recent British TV interview.
Quentin Tarantino is a director known for gleeful excess. He has never shied away from violence, explosive dialogue, and the controversy that follows.
But it seems amplified with his latest movie Django Unchained.
It’s a fever dream that only he could deliver, a paean to Peckinpah shoot’em ups and Spaghetti Westerns. It’s also an unflinching look at slavery, a scar on Western society that always seems fresh, no matter the centuries past.
This seems to be taking a toll on the director. He exploded in a recent interview with a British Reporter when asked about correlations between movie violence and the real life variety.
Over the summer I reviewed Dark Knight Rises, also weighing in on the Aurora shooting when movie violence was brought up as a possible factor. I feel the need to step in again.
While I feel Tarantino is being too thin-skinned, his frustration is understandable.
Throughout the interview the journalist ( Krishnan Guru-Murthy) appears unfamiliar with the film. (He mentions a non-existent rape scene). His single focus is on the violent aspects of the movie.
Despite this, the director starts off earnestly, declaring his inspiration; “The reason that made me put pen to paper was to give black American males a western hero , giving them a cool folkloric hero that could actually be empowering, could actually be blood for blood.”
Guru-Murthy then asks; “Are you very disappointed in the reaction of this film?….As one that is trashed by more people?”
Since the movie has won 2 Golden Globes and has several Oscar Noms, that seems an overstatement.
Tarantino bristles; “It’s not trashed by more people, what you’re saying isn’t correct“. But he embraces the controversy; “It’s creating a nice debate….talking about slavery in a way they haven’t in 30 years.”
Then Murthy veers back to the violence issue, and why the director employs it so often in his movies.
Tarantino explains the violence in Django having 2 aspects : “the violence in the day, put upon the slaves…that hasn’t been dealt with in America to the extent that I’m dealing with it…we haven’t been dealing with the holocaustic aspects.” “And then the cathartic violence, Django paying back blood for blood.”
Then things get ugly; “Why are you so sure that there’s no link between enjoying movie violence and enjoying real violence?”
What follows is a tense rant, with the full transcript below (you can see full video of the interview here):
M: But why are you so sure that there’s no link between enjoying movie violence and enjoying real violence?
QT: I don’t… I’m going to tell you why I’m so sure? Don’t ask me a question like that – I’m not biting. I refuse your question.
QT: Because I refuse your question. I’m not your slave and you’re not my master. You can’t make me dance to your tune. I’m not a monkey.
KGM: I can’t make you answer anything. I’m asking you interesting questions.
QT: And I’m saying… and I’m saying I refuse.
KGM: OK. I was just asking you why. That’s fine. But you see, Jamie Foxx has said: “We can’t turn our back and say that violence in films, that anything that we do…
QT: Then you should talk to Jamie Foxx about that. And I think he’s actually here, so you can!
KGM: I’d love to, but, I mean, you know… It’s interesting that you have a different view, and I’m just trying to explore that.
QT: And I don’t want to! ‘Cause I’m here to sell my movie. This is a commercial for the movie – make no mistake.
KGM: So you don’t want to talk about anything serious?
QT: I don’t want to talk about what you want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about the implications of violence. I haven’t wanted… because… The reason I don’t want to talk about it: because I’ve said everything I have to say about it.
If anyone cares what I have to say about it, they can Google me and they can look for 20 years what I have to say. But I haven’t changed my opinion one iota.
KGM: No, but you haven’t fleshed it out.
QT: It’s not my job to flesh it out.
KGM: No, it’s my job to try and ask you to.
QT: And I’m shutting your butt down!
KGM: That’s entirely your… that’s entirely your right.
QT: This is a commercial for my movie.
KGM: No, but it’s my job to try and explore some serious themes as well.
QT: Well, I… I invite you to explore some serious themes, but not things that I haven’t already been on the record for talking about.
KGM: Well, violence is such a big part of all of your movies, and it’s, you know, it’s an enjoyable part of your movies for so many people.
And that’s why I’m talking about this, because, as you know, it’s a very sensitive time at the moment. I mean, the vice-president is talking to people in the movie industry today about violence in response to…
QT: And you know where I stand on it.
KGM: Which is that there’s no relationship.
KGM: But you haven’t said why you think there’s no relationship.
QT: It’s none of your damn business what I think about that!
KGM: Well, it’s my job to ask you why you think that because…
QT: And I’m saying no! And I’m shutting you down.
KGM: But you have a responsibility as a filmmaker, surely, to explain a little bit about…
QT: No, I don’t have any responsibility to you to explain anything I don’t want to.
KGM: Not to me but to your viewers, to your fans. You know, to people who care about what it is that you’re doing.
QT: They know, they know where I’m coming from. And I have explained it. And I have explained even what you’re talking about. I’m just not giving it to you.
QT: Because I don’t want to because I’ve done it already.
I have explained this many times in the last 20 years. I just refuse to repeat myself over and over again because you want me to for you and your show. And your ratings.
KGM: Well, no, it’s not about our ratings. It’s…
QT: No, no, it is. It’s about you want me to say it for you, for your show – this show, right here, right now.
KGM: Well, look, this is a news programme, it’s not a film programme, so we explore serious themes. That’s the difference.
QT: Exactly. But you want me to do what I’ve already done before and I am refusing.
KGM: Fine. That’s your right.
Could the director have handled this better? Certainly. The slave/master comments are bizarre and off-putting, and certainly brattish behavior. (Although for a director well versed in profanity the ‘shutting your butt down’ sounded comically restrained). He also had an odd epithet laden outburst at the Golden Globes.
But how many times does one have to answer the same question? As a director whose movies have so many dimensions, why always the superficial focus? There’s no mention that this is the most emotive of all Tarantino’s films, with vulnerable performances from Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Kerry Washington to balance all the carnage and savagery.
And what is the takeaway from this interview in a larger context? Beyond a temper tantrum from a Hollywood director? Two things come to mind when it comes to violence and race.
- That screen violence and real life violence do not equate, and all the complaints against violent entertainment would be better served by pursuing better mental health care coverage, and observing warning signs in disturbed individuals (in addition to the current debate on gun control).
- As far as we’ve come, we’re still too immature to discuss race relations as adults. In the interview Tarantino stated: “There’s a dialogue going on about slavery..it’s a subject that people are afraid to talk about, and now because of this movie, people aren’t afraid to talk about it.”
This was unfortunately an incorrect assessment; we are very afraid of talking about it.
Whether its movie violence or racial issues, when a movie is taken out of context by focusing on its most superficial aspects, their leaves little room for a greater discussion on exploring in-depth issues. Especially when a movie is condemned sight unseen, either by a self-righteous filmmaker or a right-wing pundit claiming reverse racism. And that’s a shame.
*Samuel L. Jackson has also done a recent interview offering his perspective on Django Unchained.
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DJANGO Collectible figure from Entertainment Earth: