selenak: (Omar by Monanotlisa)
[personal profile] selenak
I'm trying to find the right word here - probably the most nihilistic thing Tarantino has ever done? Or maybe that should be "bleakest"? (But "bleak" to me associates not the violent revelry in death this becomes.) Anyway, he's not kidding with the title. Every single character not appearing solely in a flashback, including Samuel Jackson's, is vile. (Actually, hold that thought: O.B. the coachman never does anything hateful on screen, and several of the other characters are impressed by his decency, but then, O.B. is not long for this world).

As to one of the issue I've most seen debated: whether or not the treatment of the sole main female character, Daisy (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), is misogynistic: I'm torn. On the one hand, Daisy is never sexualized. The actress is wearing exactly the same kind of bulky frontier winter gear the male characters do, her figure is never showcased, and at no point does any of the male characters either verbally or physically threaten, let alone execute, sexual violence on her. Nothing happens to her that would not happen if she were a male character. (If she were, you wouldn't get the early scene where one character asks another whether the idea of hanging a woman doesn't bother him, but otherwise, the story would remain the same.) On the other hand: the repeated hitting and punching of Daisy in the face come across to me as mostly Tarantino childishly revelling in the chance to break a taboo, same as with the endless racial epitephs. In both cases, there's other Watsonian and Doylist justification: the story is set in the barely post Civil War US, these characters would use racist lingo, Daisy is a dangerous criminal, John Ruth, the bounty hunter who originally captured Daisy, needs to do something vile to justify his inclusion in the title, etc. But I still felt it was mostly Tarantino gleefully trying to shock his audience. Be that as it may, though, the pay off, as it were, for Daisy as opposed to the male characters feels different, and that's why I'm torn on the misogyny question. All the main characters deal and receive physical violence intended to be lethal. But there's a certain equality to the give and take there. Except for Daisy. Never mind her off screen backstory (which we don't hear, but the implication certainly is that she's an experienced ruthless killer), on screen she only gets to kill one character (her captor, John Ruth, who is already dying at that point) while being on the receiving end of punching, shooting and eventually hanging for three characters. Daisy's own qualification for hatefulness is her non-stop verbal racism towards Jackson's character, Major Marquis Warren, but because she's in chains and minus a weapon for most of the movie, she's not in a position to deal out violence. I assumed early on we'd get a flashback to show her committing crimes, but while there is eventually an elaborate flashback sequence showing us several of the other characters qualifying for hatefulness by slaughtering the innocent, none such exists for Daisy. I wonder whether I would feel less disturbed about the ending if such a sequence would have existed (it wouldn't have changed the nature of the ending, after all), and whether that would have been better or worse (the sight of two people reveling in the death of a third after having gone to some length to make it extra painful instead of quick should be disturbing). I wonder whether I would feel differently if Daisy had been a male character. Probably. And maybe that says more about my social conditioning than it says about any slant of the narrative. But there it is.

Another observation: travelling the next for reviews, I've seen several mentioning laughing and cheering at two of the standout sequences, the one immediately preceding the interlude (this is a movie with a break in between), and during the final showdown near the end. Nothing like this happened in the cinema I was in. The audience just sat there in stunned silence in both cases. I'm wondering how much or little depends on cultural context here.

The context: we've established earlier that Bruce Dern's character, an old Confederate general named Sandford, has been directly responsible for the deaths of many black Union soldiers - comrades of Warren's, who participated in the same battle they were captured -, and is unrepentantly proud of it. We've also established that the reason why he's in Wyoming is because of his dead son, the exact circumstances of whose death are still a mystery to him (he just knows his son is dead). Warren starts a conversation with him which leads into a monologue in which he tells the general that he, Warren, captured and raped Sandford's son (who'd been trying to capture him), then left him freeze to death. This could be either a lie (as one of the other characters points out to the general, Warren heard him earlier mention his son and that he doesn't know how he died) or the truth, but it's definitely Warren using Sandford's worst racist fears about a black man against him in order to provoke Sandford into going for the gun, which then gives Warren the necessary justification for shooting him. It's perhaps the most Tarantino-esque sequence of the entire movie, a black character - who is utterly in control of the situation throughout - using a deeply racist cliché against a racist multiple murderer to get his revenge on him - but at the same time it's also a father hearing a detailed description of his son being tortured, raped and left to die. Both Jackson and Dern (who remains silent throughout and just conveys his reaction with his face and especially his eyes, which Tarantino shows in ever more detailed close up) are outstanding in it. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch it again; same goes for the entire film.

As it turns out, I still have a few squicks or limits left in my capacity for watching fictional violence (both physical and emotional).

Date: 14 Feb 2016 09:10 (UTC)
ratcreature: oh no! (oh no!)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
Yikes, I'll give this one a pass. I considered checking it out because of the ultra-wide gimmick, to see what that format is like, but my curiosity isn't that great.

Date: 14 Feb 2016 15:18 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
Selena watches Tarantino so I don't have to!

Seriously, it sounds like an excruciating experience.

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