Monday, July 13, 2009

Well, That Was ... uh ... What? .....

Watched Sukiyaki Western Django over the weekend, and I enjoyed it. Now, will someone please tell me what the heck I was watching?

The film takes place sometime in Japanese medieval history, with the bloody rivalry between clans (the Gempei Wars that led the era of samurai dominance in that country's history) as its backdrop. The film contains numerous references to the Gempei Wars ... but also to England's Wars of the Roses. The film is set in a Japanese town named Yuta, with plenty of embellishments from Dodge City, in America's 'Old West.' From time to time, we cut away from the film for some narration by a western gunfighter, telling us how this story came to pass, demonstrating his prowess with a six-gun ... then discussing how to properly prepare sukiyaki.

In the course of the film we get plenty of insight into what might have happened if 12th-century Japanese samurai mixed-it-up with 19th-century American gunslingers and 20th/21st-century film directors from ... well ... everywhere.

That was part of the fun ... and part of my confusion. SWD is by Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, and tips its Stetson to the films of America's Quentin Tarentino (who appears in this film, by the way) as well as those of Italy's Sergio Corbucci ("Django") ... all of which owe more than a casual nod to the films (the famous "spaghetti westerns) of Italy's Sergio Leone ... which included an unofficial remake ("Fistful of of Dollars" of one of the landmark samurai films ("Yojimbo") of Japan's Akira Kurosawa ... whose favorite film directors included that master of the American western, John Ford.

It's a hard film to look away from, even for a moment ... among other things, missing some of the sub-titles might leave you saying, "Whoa, there! What's THAT all about?" If there was anything about the film I didn't like, it was Tarentino's segments ... what they contributed to the film, I'm not entirely certain. The film, itself, is a wild ride, to say the least. I recommend it, though only to those who prefer action films.

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