What do you make of Tarantino's current fixation on revisionist approach to history? Is it trivial?
CR: I don't think it's trivial. He didn't know what he wanted to do. It's tough stuff, and his default is to make it comic or violent, but it's very hard. I saw "Mandingo" when it came out, with James Mason yelling about winning a Mandingo warrior, that was so over-the-top --
AT: And sensationalized. That movie is on a totally different planet.
CR: But part of "Django" is on this planet. I think maybe he was having a conversation with movie geeks rather than the real culture, which made me uncomfortable.
AT: But all the actors are really good. I really like this movie. It's a question of whether it could've been better if he had had more time and trimmed some stuff that didn't work. Maybe the music could've been less intrusive. But I have to say that there was an Academy screening recently where it reportedly played really well. At this stage of the Oscar season, apparently, people are so tired of all these grim movies. They found the movie really enjoyable. What we've seen so far are the online fan reviews. This is a pattern now where you read the early online stuff and in the trades first; then the longer and often more thought-out reviews come out closer to the release.
It's difficult to determine the movie's audience since Tarantino seemingly makes movies first and foremost for himself. Is that a valuable motive?
AT: Absolutely. The industry values and envies Tarantino for having the freedom that he has. He has maintained a consistent output that any filmmaker would envy.
CR: I value auteurs and directorial vision, but there's a point where it gets too meta for me where it's like having a conversation with the past for the initiated. I don't think that's a good strategy for inviting people in. I saw "Django" with critics and tastemakers in Philadelphia. It was about 50-50 black-white, racially. There were probably people there who had never seen a Tarantino movie before who didn't get a lot of the references. I was asked when I was walking out, "What did this mean? What did that mean?" This wasn't a Hollywood screening. These were civilians and they weren't getting the references. That's not something I'd write about because I don't review audiences, but it's a potential barrier.
Quentin Tarantino at the Austin Studios for the 10th Texas Film Hall of Fame gala this past March.
AT: On the other hand, black audiences will be thrilled by Jamie Foxx's empowerment and how he comes into his own as an action hero, which is very gratifying as a story trope in this movie.
They might be just as frustrated by white English-language actors playing French people in "Les Miz."
AT: And they're mostly Australians. (laughs) That's where the real men are. By the way, that's going to be a big hit. I have questioned from the beginning the idea of opening "Django" during the holidays. It just doesn't feel right to me at all.
CR: Well, as you say, they're both feel-bad movies.
AT: "Les Miz" is cathartic in that it's beautiful.
CR: I suppose "Django" is, too, in that it wipes the races off the screen so that the character and his wife can be a couple in a post-Lincoln world. In fact, I think the more apt comparison to "Django" is "Lincoln." Yes, it's Christmas and these are the two Christmas movies, but most people aren't current on what just opened. "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are further up my readers' lists. I'm in the fourth-largest city in America and there aren't as many movie geeks per capita here.