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2D - Tuesday, September 3, 2013

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2D - Tuesday, September 3, 2013 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
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Film students develop their craft

"We're here for the Bear Jew ... and the Little Man."
'Unchained'thil

Tarantino brings
blood, style to
spaghetti western
By AKSHAY SETH
Daily B-Side Editor
JAN. 9, 2013 - A tableful of
professional criminals discussing
Madonna's "Like a Virgin." Two
jaded hitmen
enthusiastically
debating the
sexual insinua- Django
tions associated ag
with a casual Unchained
foot massage. A At Quality16
ruthlessly cun- and Rave
ning SS offi-
cer comparing Weinstein
the survival
instincts of the
Jewish people to those of a rat -
all the while puffing away on an
oversized tobacco pipe. It really is
the little things that make a Quen-
tin Tarantino movie special.
Little things and violence -
pulpy, whimsical, hilarious vio-
lence.
And if you've seen Taranti-
no's latest masterpiece "Django
Unchained," you'll know there's
just something inexpressibly spe-
cial about watching a woman fly
10 feet in the wrong direction after
taking a single bullet from an old-
fashioned six-shooter. Over the

last two decades, it's this quirky
take on violence, almost comic
book-like in its exaggeration,
that has allowed the world's most
knowledgeable director to use
buckets ofpastyfauxbloodtomold
a genre of his own.
A genre in which the extrava-
gant displays of ferocity are
skillfully framed by beautiful, self-
referential lines of dialogue and
light-hearted contexts to pay hom-
age to the most forgotten corners
of B-movie history. "Django" is an
undeniable product of this genre.
In so many words, it is Tarantino's
love letter to the classic Sergio Cor-
bucci spaghetti western, featuring
the same recognizable Southern
setting and the same stereotypi-
cal N-word-spewing, gun-slinging
Southernfolk.
But there's a catch.
The two main characters, as
can be expected of any Tarantino
production, are written specifi-
cally to stick out of this ostensibly
well-trodden background. The
first is Dr. King Schultz (Christoph
Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"), a
bounty hunter hired by the nation-
al government to dispatch known
criminals and sell their corpses
for sizable rewards. Naturally, he's
also a German ex-dentist with per-
fectly manicured fingernails and a
soft spot for slaves.
On a routine mission to locate
and execute three ex-cons, our
smooth-talking European friend

needs the help of a recently sold
slave to identify his three targets.
Enter "D-J-A-N-G-O ... the D is
silent" (Jamie Foxx, "Collateral"),
Tarantino's take on those 19th-
century cowboys found in early
Clint Eastwood westerns. Except,
of course, this cowboy is black,
and represents the hand of bloody
African-American revenge, much
in the same waythe Basterds sym-
bolized a collective Jewish ven-
geance in "Inglourious Basterds."
Django is later freed by Schultz,
who helps transform him into the
"fastest gun in the south," finally
agreeing to assist in locating and
freeing his enslaved wife, Broom-
hilda (Kerry Washington, "The
Last King of Scotland").
Unlike -most other Tarantino
films, "Django" does not feature
many strong female characters.
Disappointingly, Broomhilda is
really nothing more than a dam-
sel in distress, visions of her
pretty face and simple demeanor
frequently appearing on screen to
beckon our hero forward, towards
old Mississippi's version of hell on
earth.
In this hell, the devil's throne is
occupied by Calvin Candie, played
by Leonardo DiCaprio ("Incep-
tion") as a perfect representation
of vicious white bigotry, served
with a side of loquacious southern
hospitality. The right-hand man is
the head house slave, brought to
life in scene-stealing fashion by

By JOHN LYNCH resembles a more charming, less
Senior Arts Editor obscene, college-inspired version
of the HBO series "Girls." The film
FEB.21,2013- It'sfinallyOscar takes place here on campus and
week - that amusing time of the centers on the sexual escapades of
year where we prepare to be disap- four senior girls, two of whom -
pointed by the Best Picture winner, including the protagonist, Laura,
reflect on the true winners that the played by Music, Theatre & Dance
Academy opted to snub (moment senior Allison Brown - make a
of silence for Leo DiCaprio) and, pact to lose their virginity in one
of course, deliberate over the art of week after learning that they're
film and the institution of cinema. the remaining virgins of their
Here in Ann Arbor, cinema is friend group.
the bastion of entertainment (seri- "Laura, my character, is super
ously, which other city has two type-A. She's a planner," Brown
movie theaters within 300 feet of said. "And it's funny because I
each other?), and the University's think she's super similar to the
Screen Arts and Cultures program average girl, even at Michigan, if I
burgeons with talent and innova- may be so bold to make thatgener-
tive vision. alization."
The University's SAC 423, The script, penned by Pesquei-
"Practicum for the Screenwriter," ra, is genuine and witty (at one
class, taught by Robert Rayher and point equating the friend group's
Jim Burnstein, is the culminat- remaining two virgins to "shoot-
ing course for the program's most ing an Olsen twin"), and it's loosely
driven and gifted students. Each based on the writer's real-life
semester, the class produces two experiences.
professional-quality short films. "I guess I had a lot of virgin
Last year's most notable short, friends one year, and then in like
"The V Card," written by 2012 six months, they all were not vir-
University graduate Rebekka gins," Pesqueira said. "As soon as
Pesqueira, received several awards someone lost their virginity, it was
at the University's Lightworks like a snowball effect and they all
Film Festival in the spring (includ- lost it, so I thought it made for a
ing Best Director for its duo of 2012 funny story."
graduate Brandon Verdi and LSA "The V Card" is an ode to Ann
senior Jake Burnstein, son of Jim Arbor and to college life at the Uni-
Burnstein) and also secured a spot versity, and was filmed at many
at the Traverse City Film Festival notable locations on campus,
last August. including - as co-director Verdi
Available for viewing on You- recounted - the Big House.
Tube, "The V Card" is a 30-min- "We had one hour to get that
ute-long comedy/drama that entire sequence (at the Big House)

filmed before they kicked us out,"
Verdi said. "And it was one of
the weirdest, most intense, most
amazingexperiences ofmycollege
career, and I imagine everybody
else's too."
Verdi and Burnstein conducted
a cast and crew of more than 30
University students to create the
film and were afforded a number
of resources by the University for
the filming process, including the
use of the Red One MX camera
- the same model, according to
Verdi, that "The Social Network"
was shot on.
As Burnstein recalled, the
potential trials of co-directing a
film were greatly alleviated by the
fact that he and Verdi are close
friends.
"We were completely and
utterly on the same page the entire
time," Burnstein said. "It was
almost like osmosis. We always
knew what each other was think-
ing, and we did everything togeth-
er and didn't divide any jobs up."
Upon graduating, Burnstein
plans to join Verdi, who is now
working as a production coor-
dinator in Los Angeles, and the
two aspire to work together and
develop film projects in the future.
Brown, who has a background
in theater, hopes to move to New
York after graduating to pursue an
entertainment career. Pesqueira
is currently working with Jim
Burnstein, her former professor,
to refine and expand "The V Card"
script into a marketable, feature-
length work.

a

,.

Samuel L. Jackson ("Pulp Fiction"),
who quickly comes to represent the
mental manacles of slavery that
Django has to overcome on his path
to liberation.
Like in any good western, when
the good meets the bad, things go
boom. But it's clear Tarantino is
going for something a lot more
ambitious with this film. Yes, he's
still that kid working at the video
store, waxing lyrical about the
movies he finds genuinely enter-

taining, but he's no longer just
concerned about making obscure
pop references and getting that
occasional knowing chuckle out of
audience members.
Tarantino, now having made
eight feature-length films, has
grown as a writer and director.
In "Django," the scenes of vehe-
ment retribution are aplenty and
all wholly satisfying. But the truly
memorable ones feature a form
of writing that puts on full, ugly

display the saddening excuses
ignorant men hid behind to justify
slavery.
The scenes of Django riding
desperately towards his wife, his
last chance at something normal
dwindling in front of him as flecks
of dust ripple off the tattered rags
around his shoulders, make you
want to stand up and applaud. And
when the credits roll, the applause
comes. Finally, for once, it's not just
for the little things.

.4

F
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