スキヤキ ウエスタン ジャンゴ

Sukiyaki Western "Django" (2007)


Sukiyaki Western “Django” was not directed by Quentin Tarantino, but it might as well have been, since it was cut from exactly the same cloth as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill. If each of its incredibly eye-catching set pieces gives you the vague sense that you have seen it before, this is because not only have you seen these same scenes or scenes very much like them in hundred of other movies, but also because you have seen these same scenes or scenes very much like them in Quentin Tarantino movies. This point is only underscored when Tarantino himself makes an extended cameo appearance.

A retelling (sort of) of the Japanese medieval epic Tale of the Heike set in a Nevada mining town circa 1870, Sukiyaki Western “Django” most closely resembles the Kill Bill duology in look and feel. Whereas Kill Bill was a mashup of 1970s Japanese action and martial arts movies, this movie is a mashup of the classic “Spaghetti Westerns” of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, and the classic samurai movies of Akira Kurosawa.

Of course, finding similarities between westerns and samurai films is certainly not a new phenomenon. Hollywood remade Kurosawa’s immortal Seven Samurai as the western The Magnificent Seven, and Kurosawa remade Clint Eastwood’s films as his Yojimbo series, starring the inimitable Toshiro Mifune. But no film ever supercollided both genres into the same film quite like this one, in which troublemakers are strung up from the nearest torii gate, the swinging-door saloons look like Buddhist temples, and the all-Japanese cast heroically tackles the entirely English script.

Although I'm not even going to bother to ask where the local Anasazi tribe got that didgeridoo from.

And yet, somehow, renowned Japanese director Takashi Miike and an all-star Japanese cast prove able to make you believe in the whole ridiculous contraption, even if only in short spurts of a few minutes at a time. Much like former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and Richard Gere, Hideaki Ito, who stars the unnamed lone gunslinger, is clearly the living Japanese male who most closely resembles Clint Eastwood circa 1967, right down to the sunken cheeks and steely glare. He even seems to have snuck into Eastwood’s home at some point and stolen his trademark black Stetson. Yusuke Iseya is deliciously vicious yet philosophical as the ruthless bandit lord Yoshitsune, and Kaori Momoi is enthralling as a hard-drinking, gunslinging grandma.

Basically, if you imagine that the characters from Kill Bill changed their names and escaped to the Wild West, but otherwise act the same (and still write in kanji), you will have a pretty good idea of precisely what this movie is all about. Or if you’ve seen any of the classic Eastwood spaghetti westerns or any Yojimbo films. But in case you haven’t seen those films or just have a bad memory, I’ll lay it out for you: revenge, love tragically lost, revenge, a turf war between rival gangs of bandits, revenge, a lone gunslinger, and oh yeah, revenge.

Saying this movie is “derivative” is like saying the sun is hot. There are so many levels of derivative-ness, that the head begins to spin: this film is copying Tarantino who was copying Japanese movies who were copying earlier Japanese movies who were copying Hollywood movies who were copying Kurosawa, etc. etc.

But that is not to say that there isn’t something oddly comforting in knowing what is going to happen next, and maybe even which camera angles are going to be used. And in the end, like all of Tarantino’s other films, who really cares if we might have seen this all before when each scene is so brilliantly realized, so artfully distilled down to its essence, that this is probably the best version ever of that scene ever filmed out of the hundreds of times it has been filmed before?

This isn’t exactly a film to look for deeper meaning in, but it sure is a lot of fun to watch, with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments at the odd and unexpected juxtapositions of samurai and Wild West. I mean, I’m pretty much ready to declare this the best movie ever made which contains both katanas and gatling guns. Even if only because that Tom Cruise movie sucked so hard.


Credits:

Director: Takashi Miike
Screenplay: Takashi Miike, Masa Nakamura
Original Score: Koji Endo
Cinematography: Toyomichi Kurita

Cast:

Hideaki Ito - The Gunman
Koichi Sato - Taira no Kiyomori
Yusuke Iseya - Minamoto no Yoshitsune
Kaori Momoi - Ruriko
Teruyuki Kagawa - The Sheriff
Takaaki Ishibashi - Benkei
Yoshino Kimura - Shizuka

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