DJANGO UNCHAINED – How DP Robert Richardson Shot Masterpiece ‘Spaghetti Southern’

EOSHD covers some of the techniques used by DP Robert Richardson on Django Unchained.

A big mainstream hum around Tarantino and the endless violence debates (which are really rather silly) can often get in the way of what I consider to be a great artist at work.

He’s drawing in very broad brushstrokes again with Django but there’s a ton of intelligence, wit, depth of feeling and subtle undertones in the film. It is also a very authentic Western, steeped in the culture of cinematic glories past. Tarantino has long been a film buff and now it’s pay off time.

The cinematography by Robert Richardson often saw the DP or Tarantino himself behind just a single camera. Tarantino said of this “I don’t select, I direct”. The direct control was 100% necessary to get that John Ford Western authenticity.

The film has an Oscar winning turn by German / Austrian actor Christopher Waltz  (who along with DiCaprio’s villain is for me the best character in the film) and an Oscar winning screenplay written by Tarantino. According to the ASC magazine, cinematographer Robert Richardson didn’t try to push Tarantino to shoot digital. Although Quentin was present at screenings of the Zacuto Shootout at Skywalker Ranch last year, digital has his curiosity but not his attention.

He still prefers the photochemical process of film.

Anamorphic was also Tarantino’s choice, and he’d envisioned every shot in the wider aspect ratio. This was a superb move and it adds to the already very organic, magical look of film. Although ‘old-school’ the viewing experience immersed me in the story far more successfully than High Frame Rate 48fps did in The Hobbit. Often the more advanced technology is a backward step.

Richardson chose a more muted, cooler ‘British Technicolor’ look and Kodak film stock for first act heavily influenced by 60?s and 70?s spaghetti westerns, but moved to an intoxicating ‘spaghetti southern’ feel for the second half where a more saturated warmer film stock was used (an IB Technicolor look). Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley was used for sites representing Texas…

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12 minutes of behind the scenes B-Roll