Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Django Kill...If You Live, Shoot! (1967)

A guy nobody ever calls Django (Tomas Milian), takes part in the attack on a gold transport. Afterwards, his partners realize that not-Django and his Mexican friends aren't part of their beloved Aryan Brotherhood and so decide to keep all the gold in their own evil white hands.

Turns out that it wasn't a good idea to sloppily shoot their old partners and let them rot in a self-made grave in the desert, because not-Django claws himself out of the grave to be rescued by two very Italian looking Indians. These Indians are really nice guys. If The Artist Never Known As Django tells them what awaits after death, they'll be his obedient servants. To prove their enthusiasm, they have already made him bullets from the gold that really shouldn't be lying around there, seeing that not giving him and his friends any gold was the point of killing them.

While our hero recuperates, the bandits arrive in a nameless desert town I like to call Bucket O'Doom, while the Indians call it just The Unhappy Place.

Too bad the bandits didn't have these subtle hints to guide them, and so fall victim to the gold-greedy lynchmob that makes up the population of Bucket O'Doom.

When TANKAD arrives, he just barely has the opportunity to kill the bandit leader quite dead. For no reason I could fathom, and despite the obvious bloodthirsty madness of everyone around him, he decides to stay in town for a while afterwards.

Very soon, the place's various factions kill and betray each other to get the gold. Somehow, everyone still finds time to kidnap and torture Mister Passive, who really seems quite thankful for the attention.

Wow, did you know that people are mean and greedy? If not, If You Live, Shoot will tell you as often as anyone could wish for. It's just too bad that freeform misanthropy is the only thing of interest the film has going for it. While director Giulio Questi (perhaps best known for his brilliantly titled bizarre giallo Death Laid An Egg) has a certain sense for arresting images, I'm less than enamored of what he decides to use it on. There's really just this much you can do with basic misanthropy until it becomes not deep and profound as the film takes itself to be, but monotonous and a little ridiculous. I already understood that people ain't no good after the first thirty minutes of film, giving me 90 minutes more of the stuff is mostly just numbing and more than a little boring.

It's interesting to compare this to Sergio Corbucci's also incredibly dark and pessimistic The Great Silence, a film that works much better than Questi's thanks to Corbucci's interest in people as actual people and not just as robots that commit the atrocities we see to make a point about the director's philosophy. Which of course doesn't make the things happening in The Great Silence that much more pleasant, but the film is as interested in the (social and psychological) reasons for cruelty as in the cruelty itself, something that would go right over Questi's head, it seems.

If You Kill, Shoot mostly wallows in its own unpleasantness and earnestness, never realizing that it has long passed the point where it will be able to affect its audience emotionally.

It really doesn't help that Milian's character is a complete cipher without a past or much humanity himself - he's just there to be a stand-in for the film's viewer's, never more than superficially trying to influence anything that happens.

Even as a shock picture the film falls rather flat for me. At no point does Questi bother to show his characters as actual people with thoughts, hopes and idiosyncrasies, making it impossible to get any emotional reaction for their bloody demises from me. They are just very flat pictures on celluloid, after all, never meant for anything else than dying with a lot of red paint thrown over them, never giving me a reason to care about them (they aren't even archetypes, much less people, after all).

To put it in a different way, Django Kill...If You Live, Shoot! just lacks soul.



Todd said...

I was disappointed by this movie when I saw it. It has quite a reputation for being one of the weirder Spaghetti Westerns, but even at that superficial level it didn't measure up.

houseinrlyeh said...

Yeah, it's not exactly Jodorowsky, but would probably like to be.