BL&F 4: THINGY 2014 REVIEW OF DJANGO AWAY!
From an Acorn Auteur, comes a cheap, fresh, funny and fun film about an aspiring entertainer aspiring to entertain and the lonesome journey he goes on to attempt to get his first feature film made: his Tarantino inspired Django Away. The j is silent so re-read the films name. Get it yet? The film’s title hints at it’s reality-to-fantasy-and-back-again dynamic. The film begins, like the Orson Welles adage, with Hutchings starting at the top, as he tours the Hollywood studio offices in London to pitch his idea, and spends the remainder of the film working his way down in what appears to be a string of unsuccessful pitches as Hutchings gets closer to understanding his ideas and what he’s trying to achieve.
Those of you expecting a Mel Brook-ian romp with plenty of lampooning of Tarantino and Co will be sorely disappointed. The film makes only a few passing overt references to Django Unchained electing instead to explore the misadventures of one of the many wannabie-filmmakers who, unlike Tarantino, haven’t made it out the Film Geek gutter.
With inventive casting and costumes, along with effective locations and well-executed compositions, Hutchings, the film’s writer-producer-director-composer-and-star, gives a performance difficult to define opposite a very strong and varied cast. TV supporting-actors like Shaun McGowan, Andy Burke, Craig Cunningham and Alex Flitcroft get to show us what they can do when they lead a big screen scene, bubbling under stand-ups Steve Titley, Nina Gilligan, Sophia White and Ryan Brown get to show their acting chops and theatre players Ellie Murphy and Paul Ryan show how they can play to camera rather than the cheap seats.
But the most interesting elements of Django Away! are the implied interpretations Hutchings’ comedy character has of the people he meets on his travels. When, for example, Paul Ryan’s patronising producer, who apparently operates over Hutchings' head, reappears in Hutchings’ fantasies as an overly smirking Westernesque villain who actually scoffs at Django, who is Hutchings’ comedy character’s alter-ego, it suggests that Hutchings on some level understood the producer’s condescension all along. Confused yet?
The film is often experimental and has a unique construction which is one of it’s strengths but also it’s greatest weakness. You may find the jump-cuts in the episodic narrative confusing but the flip side of this is the feeling that you don’t really know where the film is going. The length of each scene runs at a Tarantinoesque pace, which is a euphemism for them risking outstaying thier welcome. But as each scene has this quality, I’ll credit Hutchings with this being an intentional break with conventional screen comedy as the film, as a whole, is too consistent for them to be simply ill executed.
For this viewer, the film works best when the dialogue is secondary to the visuals or when it’s dispensed with all together. A very funny scene involving the fetching of water and a very dynamic dream-sequence-flashback-training-montage-within-a-fantasy are some of the most dynamic parts of the film.
By its end you are not left with the feeling that for every Tarantino there are a thousand Hutchings', but that for every Hollywood Household Name, there are people inspired by their star quality enough to attempt to express themselves in their own manner. I find this a more inspiring notion than a straight on spoof of Django Unchained. But then, I'm not a huge fan of spoofs.
If you’re lucky enough to see it in public at one of Hutchings’ pop-up screenings, you’re in for a treat because it’s in company that the film really comes alive. The absurdities and slapstick elements play well to a crowd and the photography suits a large screen as does the aforementioned Tarantinoesque pace of each scene.
So, if you’re not interested in a personal art-comedy Django Away! will do little to change your mind, but if you are a fan of the Monty Python films or think David Lynch has a fine sense of humour, Django Away! will surely bare repeated viewing....and why not?
Norman Barry is a noted film critic, journalist and presenter. Best know for his quasi-regular review column in The Evening Substandard and work on his TV review programme, Norman is currently working on '1000 Thingys to See Before You Die" which is set to be published in 2021 by Fibber&Fibber.