To be honest, I don't read a lot of contemporary film critics. Every now and then I'll check out a blog, but for the most part my critical reading comes via dead tree magazines like Film Comment or, um, Entertainment Weekly. Other film critics offer a foil to bounce my own ideas off of, but occasionally they do offer some inspiration or insight. Crosscuts, a local film blog hosted by Walker Art Center, posted something of note in its discussion of Django Unchained. Jeremy Meckler offers this observation: "Like all of Tarantino’s films, this one is about film, existing entirely within the universe set forth by the pulpy B movies, Blaxploitation pictures, and spaghetti westerns that Tarantino grew up loving."
This is a wonderfully concise description of what Quentin Tarantino's movies are and do. From the very beginning, it's been clear that Tarantino's work is closer to what you may see in graphic novel than most films. His stories exist in worlds completely of his creation and his reference. This is a peculiar kind of fantasy film, closer to George Lucas' hotrod-fueled imagination than might be obvious. His well-drawn characters are not pulled from reality, but by their own world and the world of the films he cites, or doesn't bother to cite, as inspiration.
In the new film by Tarantino, Django, a freed slave, studies under an accomplished and enlightened bounty hunter as a means to secure his freedom. Along the way, the two of them agree to join forces to find and rescue his wife from slavery.
Tarantino films are a sort of alternate history, history as expressed through his memory of genre. History expressed as genre. This seems to be the only way to see Django: Unchained in its intended perspective. You certainly can't take this as reality. Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a wonderful character which brings an epic scope to Django's (Jamie Foxx) heroic crusade to save Broomhilda von Schaft (Kerry Washington). However, he brings a different kind of mythic too. In many ways, he acts as a divine guide might in other mythologies, arriving when he needs to and leaving when he must. Not quite omnipotent, but close enough.
Dr. King Schultz is a creature of the past and the future, but not credibly of the time of the story. He is somehow immune to the invisible racism which Western culture is still struggling to shrug off.
Dr. King Schultz, bounty hunter. (Christoph Waltz)