No sooner do I praise Quentin Tarantino for his civil approach to debating the plot of “Django Unchained” with film critics than I find this on The Root: a full-scale assault on master Western director John Ford by none other than Quentin Tarantino. He’s a regular Dr. Jekyll and Mister Wolf!
Here’s what happened: in the first part of what will ultimately be an epic interview with Henry Louis Gates Jr., Tarantino explains how D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” inspired “Django Unchained.” Tarantino cites the hilarious scene — maybe the best in the film — where an early version of the Klu Klux Klan assemble a posse and ride against Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to get revenge for their killing of two white men on a slave owner’s land. Their plan for a terrifying raid hits a snag when their makeshift Klan hoods are poorly made and impossible to see out of.
Tarantino says the scene was inspired by the story — which you can read on Wikipedia, IMDb, and even the Central Intelligence Agency’s website — told by Ford himself, that he played one of the Klansmen in “The Birth of a Nation,” specifically one seen holding his hood so he can see more clearly out of its eyeholes. Tarantino went on:
“Yeah, it’s actually funny. One of my American Western heroes is not John Ford, obviously. To say the least, I hate him. Forget about faceless Indians he killed like zombies. It really is people like that that kept alive this idea of Anglo-Saxon humanity compared to everybody else’s humanity — and the idea that that’s hogwash is a very new idea in relative terms. And you can see it in the cinema in the ’30s and ’40s — it’s still there. And even in the ’50s.”
Essaying the full depiction of race in John Ford’s filmography is not something that can be fairly or adequately covered in a brief blog post — maybe not even in a whole series of lengthy blog posts. Are there troubling depictions of Native Americans in some early John Ford films? Yes. Do later John Ford films reconsider and recontextualize those depictions? Absolutely. And I imagine some people might say similar things about the films of Quentin Tarantino. There are an awful lot of n-words in “Pulp Fiction.”
I’m sure I speak for a lot of film nerds when I say: why are mommy and daddy fighting? Can’t I love John Ford and Quentin Tarantino? Is that so wrong?
(And now you’ll leave me a comment explaining why that’s so wrong.)
Read more of “Tarantino Unchained.”
[H/T Movie City News]