Friday, December 2, 2016

A Spaghetti Western Con Salsa Rossa, or Thoughts On Franco Nero In Django

 Not to be confused with Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) or Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django (2007, with a cameo by Quentin Tarantino), the original Django (1966) opens with Franco Nero dragging a coffin through the mud.  He’s a gunslinger without a horse, struggling with a task that seems metaphorical or at the very least Sisyphean, and it begs so many questions.  How did he get to this point?  What happened to his horse?  And most important, who’s in that coffin?  None of those questions are answered (except for the coffin) in this beautifully composed film, shot like a modern Renaissance painting complete with crucifixion allegories.
Inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), Django is a post Civil War western set in an anonymous border town.  Filmed in Italy and Spain, the landscape, while desolate and wild looks nothing like the American west.  This lends a surreal texture to the movie where writer and director Sergio Corbucci creates a vision of the Old West based on the American movies he’s seen, a copy of a copy.  His version of the American west is full of dirty, crude frontier towns, barely civilized, and populated by lawless men and whores.  Django drags his coffin into town and immediately gets involved with the local warlord, a Major Jackson, who when he isn’t have his men whip runaway prostitutes is hunting live Mexicans for sport, in case it isn't clear who's the bad guy here.
Fortunately, Django is an almost mythically accurate gunslinger that never misses.  Franco Nero, ridiculously handsome at the time with piercing movie star blue eyes, plays Django with a penitent mystery and quiet, masochistic suffering.  Django has a past, and he’s not going to talk about it.  The audience is left to wonder, though you absolutely will get to see the contents of his coffin.
Both criticized and celebrated at the time as the most violent western, it has none of the realism of The Wild Bunch (1969), or the gore of a giallo film, though there’s the ear-slicing scene that inspired Reservoir Dogs (1992).  Come for the gunfights, stay for the sassy bar wench mud wrestling.
Franco Nero would go on to star in Camelot (1967), Force 10 From Navarone (1978), and play General Ramon Esperanza in Die Hard 2 (1990).  He also had a cameo in Django Unchained (2012) as Amerigo Vessepi. 

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).