Ritzy Picture House, Brixton
Django Unchained (18)
35mm film projection
£7.00 (very reasonable!) for a weekday matinee. £11.00 (ouch!) at peak times.
Membership discounts available.
From the moment you first see The Ritzy, you know to expect a wonderful cinema experience – a feeling that can only be overshadowed by an over-hyped mediocre film (see below).
From the outside, The Ritzy has a classic early 20th Century style having been originally built in 1911 (then known as the Electric Pavilion). Whilst the original frontage is still intact, the main entrance to the box office is now next door allowing cafe style seating out front (though there were few takers in the snow). The queuing system for the box office/kiosk is a little congested and therefore manic and the foyer a little small for a busy 5 screen cinema. Wednesdays can be busier days thanks to mobile phone 2-for-1 promotions – I dread to think of how it might be on a busy weekend evening. The systems in place are designed to deal with ticket buyers (so many of us now come with our own pre-printed tickets) as quickly as possible and we were soon ready to go to our seats.
Popcorn, packet sweets and drinks are available as well as Picturehouse’s signature range of snacks. The Ritzy has its own bar and live music venue upstairs (imaginatively titled ‘Upstairs at The Ritzy’) which is marketed to movie customers and non-cinema goers alike. Beers, spirits and wines are available to take in to the auditorium.
Free seating. (This is usual practice at Picture Houses for pre-5pm screenings)
Tickets are issued at the busy front desk and checked by a surly usher at the screen door.
Here though a little word on Screen 1 itself.
That’s quite a little word. Only 3 letters….but it says a lot….and so does the magnificent layout and decor of The Ritzy’s principal screen. The decorative arched ceiling looms over the plush red seats that slope gently towards the screen. Behind the huge stretched fabric screen, you can still make out the stage area and curtains which used to house the cinema’s organ.
Arrive in your seats early and soak up the nostalgia. The fact that the forthcoming film was actually ‘film’ added to my anticipation as the lights dimmed and the audience settled in.
Quentin Tarantino has done his Kung-Fu movie, he’s done his War film (I have no desire to see Death Proof, so have not categorized it here) and now he has done his Western. Or not.
Never shy of sharing his thoughts and ideas, when creating Django, Tarantino referenced the works of Tonino Valerii, Giolio Petroni, Duccio Tessari and the two Sergios; Leone and Corbucci. References to the films of these men and others continue throughout the film and undoubtedly, Tarantino knows his stuff. Despite his love and knowledge of the genre however, I attest this is not a Western. Rather it is the movie of the first black super-hero. The eponymous Django.
One could argue that all Westerns are essentially super-hero films. Often a single character, almost indestructible, with skills and powers beyond that of a mere mortal. Throw in a bad guy and a mysterious back story and the formula fits for Superman, Batman or Spidey.
Jamie Foxx (excellent) in the form of Django is the chosen one in this instance. With little need for explanation, we accept he is a cut above the average slave. His marksmanship is second-to-none and despite numerous scrapes and escapes he is seemingly indestructible. The opening titles make for a convincing Western feel (added to by the slightly wobbly 35mm projection) and the scenery and costumes are certainly in keeping with the genre.
But this is not a Western – at least not the kind I am familiar with. It’s too noisy and too bloody and (in places) too silly. Like it’s director, Django Unchained cannot keep its mouth shut. Where ‘Once Upon a Time in West’ thrills the audience with suspenseful silence and lingering looks, Tarantino fills almost every conceivable gap with dialogue and violence. The only real tense point in the film comes at the dinner table of Calvin Candie, some 90 minutes into the film.
Tarantino fans, of which I am/was one might crave his brilliant writing, but I’m afraid the numerous memorable lines of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are too few and far between in this outing. Instead, Tarantino seems on downhill trajectory, making formulaic films to a genre/fan-boy recipe.
1) Pick a genre
2) Cast a big name (Leo DiCaprio in this case) along with a retro has-been (Don Johnson) and the ubiquitous Samuel L Jackson
3) Write some punchy dialogue (but not as much as you used to) with lots of swearing
4) Add blood and guns and lots of death
5) ‘Cool’ soundtrack
6) A sprinkling of controversy and then talk about it A LOT!
7) Hey Presto! There’s your movie.
As you will have heard elsewhere, the movie is too long – but my problems with it began well before this became evident. And it does become evident…right about the time [spoiler alert] the director himself turns up with a ridiculous accent (is that South African….no, no, it’s Aussie….everyone starts saying ‘mate’ a lot) and then gets himself blown up.
[If you’ve not seen the film yet, you can start reading again from here]
In summary, the formula of Tarantino’s later works has become a little ‘formulaic’! Having loved his early works and found more recent efforts averagely entertaining, I had fallen for the hype again and had high expectations. I found the film average. Mark Cousins refers to Pulp Fiction as the catalyst for a slew of 90’s movies in a similar style. Tarantino influencing others. His later works are Tarantino influenced by others and they seem a little indulgent and lacking freshness. There are several nods to his own movies in certain scenes which I found a little self-aggrandising. Other scenes such as the comedic ‘hoods’ episode, though funny, seem a little clumsy (here is a bit of Blazing Saddles). The ‘cool’ soundtrack is hampered by the mis-placed hip hop track used extensively in the trailer, but awkward in the film. Leonardo DiCaprio is good but not great and certainly not menacing enough, Samuel L Jackson seems like a comedic parody of all his other Tarantino roles and Christoph Waltz has a great deal of success and fun with a part that is just an extension of Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds. The first half of the film drags a little and the ending is a little cheesy and 30 minutes too late.
On re-reading this, I seem to have found my reviewing style – and that is to point out my many issues with a film and then claim it was alright actually.
Django was alright actually – but nothing more. My apparent disappointment comes once again from raised expectations. If there are 3 more movies in Tarantino’s catalogue of ‘perfect 10’ (perhaps) sci-fi, horror and a children’s movie?) I dread to think what will happen. Perhaps it is time to free himself from the burden of his movie homage formula.
Code of Conduct: Transgressions
Mobile Phone Use
COC Score 8/10