Sky’s Spaghetti Western ends up an overcooked, tangled mess
Spaghetti, noun: Film jargon for a genre of low-budget Western, shot in italy or Spain, notable for violence and nihilism, often starring little-known actors who achieved cult status.
Django (Sky Atlantic) is a different kind of ‘spaghetti’ — a sloppy, tangled mess, overcooked till it’s flavourless, a plateful of strands that lead nowhere, so unappetising that you won’t want to finish it.
this ten-part series set in the american Deep South after the Civil War stars British actor Nicholas pinnock as a former slave ruling over New Babylon, a makeshift city of pleasure, like a prototype Las Vegas built from logs.
into this sin-pit straggles Django (Matthias Schoenaerts), a bereaved father searching for his daughter Sarah (Lisa Vicari), who is about to marry pinnock’s character, John ellis. Meanwhile, an avenging religious maniac and gunslinger (Noomi Rapace) is burning down brothels and slaughtering the clientele.
if you think that sounds like a Western plot devised by committee, you’d be right. the credits took eight full minutes to scroll by. and that wasn’t even the most boring bit.
a fortune has been spent on the cinematography, but the dialogue feels as though it has been rewritten
so many times, by so many people, that it’s completely lifeless.
‘perhaps your destiny is another, stranger,’ ellis tells Django.
‘You’re so beautiful when you’re mad,’ Django informs his wife, in a flashback.
the original Django, from 1966, was directed by Sergio Corbucci and starred Franco Nero. that was an old-school Spaghetti Western, and one of the attractions of the form was its sparse script. taciturn characters said as little as possible, usually because they didn’t speak english and would have to be dubbed.
in this remake, when actors stare silently at each other, they appear to have forgotten their lines. Big set-piece scenes, like a pointless prize fight in a saloon, are rigidly posed — the characters are motionless until the camera points in their direction, when they come mechanically alive and move or talk.
Director Francesca Comencini claims to be paying homage to the genre. But when she copies famous film techniques, such as Sergio Leone’s trademark close-ups on an actor’s eyes, it verges on plagiarism.
Unlike the hollywood Westerns of John Wayne or gary Cooper, the spaghetti offshoots were happy to dabble in highbrow philosophy. Clint eastwood’s a Fistful Of Dollars was a remake of Yojimbo by Japanese director akira Kurosawa, and the first Django was loosely based on the same movie. Some critics decried that as pretentious, but most fans loved it. the difference is that, if all the pretentiousness was stripped out of the new Django, there would be nothing left.
the real Wild West is ruled by tech entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook creator profiled in The Billionaires Who Made Our World (Ch4). ‘Mark likes to portray himself as a nerd who just wants everybody to connect,’ said journalist Julia angwin. ‘the reality is, he has more power than most world leaders.’
But how that power works, and what damage it can do, were largely overlooked. the criticisms were mostly personal and petty — Zuckerberg was ‘sometimes kinda arrogant’ and he didn’t bother washing up dishes when he was sharing a house during Silicon Valley’s early days.
Former Facebook adviser Roger McNamee warned against buying into the virtual reality ‘metaverse’ where digital data replaces the real world, which he fears is Zuckerberg’s ultimate goal.
personally, i intend to stay out of any virtual reality that includes Facebook ambassador Nick Clegg. So i think i’m safe.