Sukiyaki Western Django is the marriage of two of my favorite things, samurai films and westerns. Well, I suppose I love good westerns, I’ve seen some pretty awesome ones, but I’ve also seen some really terrible ones. Anyway, the two have always been close cousins from different continents, with the most iconic spaghetti westerns: The Dollar Trilogy, featuring The Man with No Name (whose giant poster sits watching over my right shoulder as I write this), based on the most iconic samurai film, Yojimbo (whose smaller image also looks over my right shoulder as I write this).
Well, in a twist that would make George Michael Bluth swoon, Takashi Miike brought the cousin genres together, merging them into one entity. Conventional wisdom says that the spawn of two cousins is a really bad idea, but in this case it was a great idea.
Weird scenes featuring Quentin Tarantino aside, this movie was a frenetic, weird, quickly paced joy-ride. Beautifully shot, the film is full of a colorful and engaging marriage of popular samurai and western imagery.
I mean, seriously, I think I might redo my entire house to mirror the decor of the small western samurai town in the movie. If you see me tomorrow walking around wearing a samurai sword and a six-shooter, don’t be surprised.
The primary narrative for the story is set against the backdrop of a faux mix of The War of the Roses (just like Game of Thrones) and the “the historical rivalry between the Genji and Heike clans.” Like Tarantino’s own films, this film has no desire to hide the huge mash-up of homages and influences that make up the whole. This means critics either love it or hate it. I love it. I love watching homages to my favorite scenes unfold, seeing the way Miike crafted scenes mirroring his favorite moments from films like Django, Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, Pale Rider, Shane and especially Yojimbo, lots of Yojimbo, all the way down to the duel between one guy with a gun while another only has a samurai sword. Sheesh, just writing that sentence makes me want to watch every one of those movies again. Except Django, I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Django.
The only downside (aside from the ill-advised Tarantino-as-actor scenes) was that the actors all spoke english, with affected ‘western’ accents. The result was that much of the time I didn’t understand what they were saying, but this was easily solved by throwing on the sub-titles, which I’d expected to do before realizing the dialogue was in english anyway.
As far as Eastern Westerns from the last few years go, it wasn’t as unique, beautiful, and awe-inspiring as Jee-woon Kim’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird, but it was still a really fun way to spend two hours.
And, in other Django related news. I was pretty fricking excited last week when my friend Josué sent me the link to the first images, via Entertainment Weekly, from Tarantino’s Django Unchained. So many exciting movies coming later this year!