Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Long Answer

My younger brother, who went with me to the theater, asked me this question on the way out: "What would your twenty-five-year-old self think?" He was asking me about my reaction to "Django Unchained," the latest offering from former video store employee, Quentin Tarantino. What my brother was trying to elicit was a response from a guy who, himself, had once worked in a video store and had taken great joy in the gory excess that director Tarantino has made his stock and trade. All that screaming, bleeding, cursing and bleeding some more is now his trademark. And I had to admit, that would have been just fine with my younger self.
I would have reveled in all the clever homage to film, past and present. I would have squirmed pleasantly as I watched Quentin's variations on a theme: killing people. Good guys, bad guys, innocent bystanders. Splat, splat, splat, all to the tune of a highly eclectic and evocative soundtrack. I shared with my little brother the revelatory feeling I had on my first viewing of "Pulp Fiction." The red titles hurtling into the distance as "Miserlou" pounded through the speakers was a vision that we both agreed was a touchstone for us in our family cinematic history.
But something happened since 1994. I grew older. I lived another half a life. I got married. I had a son. That son is now pestering me to go and see "Jack Reacher" and "The Last Stand." Just a few years ago, these were guilty pleasures that I had to negotiate with my wife to go see myself, but now I can't understand the appeal of the former Mister Katie Holmes and the ex-governor of Caleefoeneeyah. It might also have something to do with the fact that, while my son was off doing what fifteen-year-olds might do with their friends on a Sunday afternoon, the family in front of us saw fit to bring their three-year-old daughter. I did my best to let that be their choice and immerse myself in Quentin Tarantino's vision of the antebellum south. But every scream and every splat and each additional human cruelty made a pile that was impossible to ignore. I was at an age when I could comprehend the intent of the filmmaker, but I was also old enough to comprehend what that three-year-old was seeing without context.
Since I turned twenty-five, I have attended the weddings of friends and family. I have witnessed the birth of my son. I have been to my share of funerals. I can't see Quentin Tarantino's movies the same way that I used to. I can't see life the same way I used to.

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