Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) R 121min
December 9th, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 6,453 Views
Director Quentin Tarantino is a guest star in this Japanese spaghetti Western from cult film director Takashi Miike (who speaks no English, but learned a few phrases for his episodic role in Hostel).
The plot: Two rival gangs are fighting each other over a hidden treasure in a strange town called Nevada, where East meets West. A lone hero (Hideaki Ito) comes to town and tries to restore order and save the innocent victims of the gangsters.
Let’s just say the plot is standard: you’ve got your villains (gangsters), there’s a corrupt sheriff in town, there’s a victimized girl, a fortune, and finally – a hero. Combine these elements together and you end up with inevitable ending – a Mexican stand-off.
There’s little resemblance with Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 classic spaghetti Western “Django”. It’s more of a remake of Sergio Leone’s classic Per un pugno di dollari (”For a Fist Full of Dollars”) starring Clint Eastwood. Which, in turn, is a remake of legendary director Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. The latter has been copied by other directors and movies, including Last Man Standing starring Bruce Willis.
The good: Visually stunning movie. Great sets – a whole village was built for the movie. The scenes with Tarantino-the-gun-slinger are so obviously shot in a pavilion, which reminded me of really old movies that were mostly shot on the studio lot. But that’s just a little detail in overall surreal spirit of the movie, emphasised by the fact that it’s a Western set in Japan. Even dialogs are Engrish, but also with subtitles. The costumes also mix styles of entire 20th century, though the events in the movie are supposedly 12th century, per narration. Though there is a lot of gore, it’s not hard to watch and I never wanted to look away. Great performances by the actors playing leaders of he two gangs, Masanobu Ando and Koichi Sato, and the hero, Hidaki Ito. But the most memorable performances were by the actresses who played Ruriko - Kaori Momoi (The Memoirs of Geisha) and Yoshino Kimura (Blindness). The dance scene in a cabaret where the vengeful prostitute mourns her loss was absolutely stunning and I’ll never forget it. The actress improvised this dance, and it goes to show how talented she is, how high the level of Japanese actor schools is, and also tells us about Miike’s directing style - he often lets actors improvise and he will listen to actors’ opinions and advice. Great sound track by Koji Endo – it blends together Japanese music and classic Western music in Morricone’s style. The final battle was awesome and symbolized the collision of the two worlds and two different times – a gun against a sword.
The bad: The characters were sometimes hard to follow. Traditional acting that’s so typical for old Japanese movies and Japanese theatre seems over-the-top and almost grotesque to an unprepared European. Uneven blend of styles makes the film go from drama to satire to action movie, which left me in the state of uncertainty about whether I should laugh or be scared or worried or upset.
The summary: This movie was fun to watch, despite the bloodbath. Great visuals. It’s not Miike’s best film, but it’s hard to make an awesome western… Highly recommended for cult cinema lovers.
The cast: Gunman – Hideaki Ito | Yoichi – Masanobu Ando | Taira no Kiyomori – Koichi Sato | Ruriko – Kaori Momoi | Minamoto no Yoshitsune – Yusuke Iseya | Benkei – Renji Ishibashi | Shizuka – Yoshino Kimura | Sheriff – Teruyuki Kagawa | Akira – Shun Oguri | Ringo - Quentin Tarantino
The crew: Director – Takashi Miike | Script – Takashi Miike, Masa Nakamura | Producers – Toshiaki Nakazawa, Masato Ôsaki, Nobuyuki Tohya | Original Music – Kôji Endô | Cinematography – Toyomichi Kurita | Sony Pictures Entertainment
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