Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino, but that man knows how to hold an audience. Last night at the Ziegfeld Theatre, where Andrew Saffir’s Cinema Society premiered Django Unchained, Mr. Tarantino bounded on stage like a crazed carnival barker and yelled, “Who is ready to see Django? Who is ready to see Django off his CHAIN?! Who is ready to see motherfucking Django off his motherfucking CHAIN?”
As polarizing as his previous works have been, it’s probably safe to say that this film, starring Jamie Foxx as the titular freed slave/white man bounty hunter Django, will be his most controversial work yet, and this is not helped by his gleeful carnival barker’s act while promoting it.
But last night everyone was still all smiles during the after-party, held at The Standard Biergarten. Jamie Foxx took a turn on the dance floor with anyone who happened to be in his path, while Samuel L. Jackson (who will almost definitely be getting a Best Supporting nod for the movie) posed for photo after photo with fans. At around 1 a.m., Mr. Foxx took over the deejay booth with the writer/director.
“Hopefully in the next few months, we’ll be able to say this, in this song,” Mr. Foxx said into the mic. “Come on Quentin, let’s go!” he added, before launching into Trinidad James’s “All Gold Everything.”
(Video via Barrett Jones)
After all the talent (and most of the guests) had left, we found Mr. Tarantino holding court in the VIP room of Bungalow 8. Did we need to say something to him about Django? And what was there to say? “We are not sure how to feel about the racial elements of this film?” No, it was 3 a.m., and at a certain point, even the hardest-nosed reporter feels for the guy just trying to relax and have a good time. Instead we asked him about a particular scene, a brief moment when Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Stephen, demands that comfort girl Sheba (Nichole Galicia) help make a cup of coffee. It was just half a second of screen time; a subtle, hateful flick of the eyes in an otherwise non-subtle film.
“Wow, yes, we actually had to cut a line of dialogue from that scene!” Mr. Tarantino said. “It was Sheba yelling at Stephen, ‘WHO DAT MAKING DAT COFFEE?'” The last line was delivered in a creepily accurate Madea-esque impression at sonic boom levels by Mr. Tarantino. Either the sound or the subject made us half-flinch away.
“They cut it, because they said it was too much,” he added sadly.
“Yes, it was, um, more subtle this way,” we said, holding our tongue while our tired brain tried to process a response other than, “Who the hell do you think you are?”
Because the answer is that he is Quentin Tarantino, that’s who he is, and he responded with the fan-boy approval: “You must be really kinda smart to catch all that in just a look.” Forget our grievances with the film, our apprehension about the blaxploitation-meets-Sergio Leone buddy comedy tone of it all, our feeling that this seemed racist on so many levels that maybe it wasn’t even racist anymore but something else, we don’t know: when Quentin Tarantino talks to you about movies, you have no choice but to listen.
Listen and be grateful, because for all his faults, there is no one in the world better to talk about movies with.