Film Fetish Friday: Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty

Film Fetish Friday: Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty

Feb 1, 2013 |  by  |  Art, Event
About the author
Born and raised in this amazing city, Steven (25) remembers quite vividly the first film that as a young boy got him addicted to cinema: The Neverending Story. And it really is a never-ending story, his grand film study has gone on ever since. Since then his taste has extended beyond such a fantasy coming-of-age film and will now guide you to what to see and what to skip.

How do you fill the void that our beloved film-critic Anouk Kemper left behind? Obviously, it’s sheer impossible to try and do the same, but I’ll do my best to revive her initiative in my own unique manner. For now, Film Fetish Friday will return and tell you what films are great to watch and which are a waste of time.

If there ever was a time to hit the cinemas, next week would be it! Not only is it overwhelmingly cold outside, but even more so many great films are set to be released. Not to mention the fact that even greater ones are already hitting the screens across Amsterdam. With Quentin Tarantino’s latest installment Django Unchained as the top dog and other great films trailing, you won’t have any trouble surviving this winter. Since there is so much to say about Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty I’ll limit myself to these two films this week. But next week I’ll return with Flight, The Master and No.

Django Unchained – 4/5

In writing this review I was stuck with a moral conflict; do I try and mindlessly enjoy the film? Or do I listen to my moral compass and take it all very seriously. For one, QT’s newest film is overly violent, sadistic and lacks any form of real historical engagement. And with his pulpy, racially tensed, supercilious cinema, QT could be described as having bad taste, as acclaimed Afro-American director Spike Lee recently did. On the other hand, it’s Tarantino, so one can expect blood-soaked cartoonesque revisionary cinema. And with his sharp edged dialogues, unique style and immense wit, he is arguable one of the greatest directors of our time. Nobody quite seems to do it like Quentin.

Making a mark for himself in QT’s last film, Austrian actor Christoph Waltz returns in another terrific role: as German dentist Dr King Schultz. In a very entertaining opening scene Dr Schultz frees Django (Jamie Foxx) – the D is silent – from his terrible predicament. After which Django becomes our hero as a slave-turned-bounty-hunter seeking revenge. This odd couple goes up against another interracial duo: plantation-owner Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his loyal butler Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).

Simply put: Django Unchained is good fun! Great about this lengthy film; first and foremost the hugely entertaining dialogue. Like film-critic Jonathan Crocker put it: ‘you could watch Waltz read the phone book and still be captivated.’ What also stands out is the great acting by all four protagonists – except perhaps for Foxx. Less great about this film is its tendency to repeat itself. A general lack of pacing seems to be the problem, one that perhaps can be explained by the fact that QT’s life-long editor Sally Menke died in 2010. Nonetheless, if you ignore your moral compass and bring enough refreshments, you will get a kick out of this 165 minute long balls-to-the-wall film.

Watch this film in Cineville’s Kriterion and Eye. Also in Pathe cinemas (Arena, City, De Munt and Tuschinski).

Zero Dark Thirty – 3/5

ZDT arrives only 18 months after the story of Bin Laden’ imminent demise broke. Any film about the manhunt on Bin Laden can be expected to be controversial but when testosterone-driven director Kathryn Bigelow – yes, female! – makes it her task to do it, expect quite a debate. 2008’s The Hurt Locker sparked a lot of commotion, and Bigelow returns even more strong-headed with ZDT. Bigelow tells us the story of iron-willed Maya (Jessica Chastain), a female CIA agent, whose sole task it was for over a decade – supposedly – to try and find Bin Laden.

Immediately after the first screening of ZDT shit hit the fan. In the following months many prominent Americans joined in on the outrage the film had spawned. In particular US senator John McCain criticized ZDT, for its depiction of torture (link). Bigelow’s message could be interpreted as: torture and persuasive interrogation were instrumental in gathering information on Bin Laden’s whereabouts. Debate notwithstanding, Zero Dark Thirty is up for 5 Academy Awards this February.

Much like QT’s new film, if you want to enjoy ZDT you have to decide in what light you are going to watch it. Seeing that the message Bigelow is leaving us with is largely a right-winged pro-American one, the question has to be: is it the message or the form we should judge this work on? However, aside from the fact that this film has a dubious message, Zero Dark Thirty is a great film. It’s technically awe-inspiring, crisply shot and very well structured. Basically, this film is another must-see, if only to join in on the debate.

Watch this film in Cineville’s Studio K. Also in Pathe cinemas (Arena, City and De Munt).

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