I became the last person in the universe to watch DJANGO UNCHAINED yesterday, and I really liked it. In fact it's growing on me the more I think about it: underneath all of the crash-zooms and splatter and incongrous music cues (aside from the use of some classic Morricone and the brilliant DJANGO and DAY OF ANGER themes, this is Tarantino's worst soundtrack by some distance - previously a master of picking exactly the right piece of music to accompany a scene, he's now definitely just giving the impression he's idly cycling through his iPod) there's a really thoughtful and interesting piece of film-making here. The setpieces, action and performances are so immediately exhilirating that the ambiguity of the decisions made by the likes of Django, Schulz, Stephen and Candie only begin to reveal themselves after you have a bit of distance from the film.
For all his silliness, QT proves himself able explore his social conscience using the anger of exploitation as well as anyone has managed to since the days when the term 'B-movie' actually meant something. I've seen him be derided in some quarters for his supposed pomposity in taking credit for opening up a new chapter of the depiction of slavery in America cinema, but that seems entirely fair enough to me - if the best we have to show on the topic from 100 years of cinema are MANDINGO, THE LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY, and AMISTAD, then he's right when he says it needed to happen. As others have pointed out, those three films don't exactly have the same level of cultural cachet as GONE WITH THE WIND and BIRTH OF A NATION, two films with an at best apologetic attitude to the worst excesses of the Confederate States, and two films that are firmly in the pantheon of classic American cinema.
Racial politics aside, my god does Tarantino know how to build a scene. UNCHAINED's nigh on three-hour running time zips by, and after recently revisiting the Dollars trilogy it's clear that, while UNCHAINED's subject matter may be far removed from the world of The Man With No Name, in terms of scope, pacing and a structure that emphasises the setpiece, his big directorial influence on this and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is clearly Leone. I actually really hope Tarantino does make this a 'trilogy', as his whole re-appropriation of history through specific strands of genre cinema (as directed by a Leone with verbal diarrhea) is, in all sincerity, one of the singularly most interesting things anyone is doing in movies at the moment.
Everyone and their mother has chimed in with their thoughts on DJANGO UNCHAINED at this point, so instead of doing a full review here's a few articles and bits and pieces that may be of interest if you saw the film and enjoyed it this weekend.
Here's my lookback at Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy over at Den of Geek, including Tarantino's favourite film THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.
Also by me is this examination of the machinations of the Tarantino multi-verse, from Digital Spy.
The Spaghetti Western Database has a list of Tarantino's favourite spaghetti westerns here, and it's a decent list apart from maybe the laughably crappy NAVAJO JOE , although Burt Reynolds as a Native American does kind of need to be seen to be believed.
Plenty of sites have done DJANGO UNCHAINED primer kits in an attempt to catalogue all of QT's many references: Furious Cinema provides an excellent list complete with links and trailers, and the HeyUGuys breakdown is also well worth a read.
If you're a subscriber to LoveFilm, they currently have a number of the films mentioned in the articles above available to stream, including the original DJANGO, DJANGO SHOOTS FIRST, DEATH RIDES A HORSE and MINNESOTA CLAY, along with Takashi Miike's SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO, which features Tarantino popping up in a cameo.