directed by Takashi Miike
Japan 2007

 

A lone man in the middle of the street, on his left, a gang, on his right another gang. Caught in the middle, he has no allegiances. This is a typical of a western movie, but this is where the regular finishes, and the unusual takes over.

How can this movie be described? I can tell you its setup. The movie takes place a 'few hundred years' after the Naval Battle of Dannoura (1185). It takes place in Nevada, but in Japan, not in the US. It's populated by Japanese people with six-shooters (and swords), dressed in full cowboy regalia. Oh, and everybody speaks English. The movie contains overtones of samurai movies, elements of spaghetti westerns, passages from Shakespeare's 'Henry V' and includes a didgeridoo in the score. This can only be a Takashi Miike movie.

How he manages to create an homage better than the original movies is beyond me. There are incredibly strong elements of Japanese culture – the plot is a somewhat twisted take on 'Yojimbo' – and the tone is perfectly spaghetti western (look at 'A Fistful of Dollars'). It's insane how good Mr. Miike is. In spoofing the genre, by having all his actors speak English, he makes fun of the fact that most of the actors in spaghetti westerns had to be looped, due to the fact that they didn't speak English. Not only that, but he wears his influences on his sleeve. The coffin from 'Django', Quentin Tarantino's name being Ringo, the snow in the climax (taken from 'The Great Silence') are all references to the movies Mr. Miike admires.

The plot is simple enough: a man with no name walks into a town, and discovers no one is there, save for two rival gangs and a few village stragglers. The village it seems (strangely reminiscent of 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly') has a secret stash of treasure somewhere. This is why the two gangs are here and presumably why the man with no name has come to town. However, nothing is as it seems in Mr. Miike's take on the western genre. This is not a spaghetti western, remember, it's a sukiyaki western.

However, behind these awful accents and wacky situations is a real story with a real heart. No matter how unrealistic or absurd things get, Takashi Miike always treats his characters like human beings, which is something that never happens in movies with skewed situations and characters. This is extremely refreshing and makes every Takashi Miike movie strictly his own.

This is a wacky, weird movie; like dropping a microdot while you're tripping on LSD. It's skewed and strange but not quite real, though not quite out of reach. The movie has real situations with semi-real characters, but as the movie goes on everything gets sucked into a vortex of the bizarre. The humour gets blacker and blacker and the situations get crazier and crazier. It all culminates into a crazy, whirlwind action sequence, tremendous in its directing and editing.

The movie features a dance, the only instruments in which are a drum and a didgeridoo. Yoshino Kimura dances exotically, telling a story. As she moves to the music, being engulfed by it, the men in the saloon are taken and glued by her sensuality. There's nothing else to look at, but even if there were, there would only be one thing worth looking at. It's both captivating and sexy. 'Sukiyaki Western Django' captures the creativity, life and energy into Takashi Miike's filmmaking style. Nothing is more unexpected, but nothing is more of a joy to watch.

Like the dance, when the movie starts, you know you're going to see something good, but you don't know what it's going to be or how it's going to play out. Such is the vitality and pure cinematic joie-de-vivre that is unleashed when watching a Takashi Miike movie, whatever the genre, whatever the subject. He combines the surreal with the rules of cinema that fit his vision, and throws in everything imaginable. This movie starts out as being an homage, but finishes by much more, thanks to his own vision. Mr. Miike is an auteur in the truest sense of the word, and as long as keeps making movies, whatever the genre, they will always be a unique experience.

Pat Pilon

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 31st, 2008

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Geneon (3-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 2 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Geneon

Region 2 - NTSC

Runtime 2:00:27
Video

2.05:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.91 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English DTS-ES 6.1 (1536 kbps), English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (384 kbps), English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (192 kbps), Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (3
Subtitles Japanese, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Geneon

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.05:1

Edition Details:
• disc 1:
• - Commentary by director/co-writer Takashi Miike and actor Christopher Storms
• - Trailers (1:10 and 1:17)
• - Teasers (0:30 and 1:50)
• - TV Spots (0:15 and 0:30)
• - Devil May Cry 4 trailer (3:40)
• disc 2:
• - Making-of (52:31)
• - SWD-VFX Ver. 1.8 (11:28)
• - Sukiyaki Gun Guide (22:07)
• - Sukiyaki Western of Art (33:54)
• disc 3:
• - Series of 5 Press Conferences/Screenings (59:18 total)
• - Deleted Scenes/Alternate Scene (6 scenes, 15:35)
• - Western movie trailers (11 trailers, 30:12)

DVD Release Date: February 6th, 2008
deluxe box with 3-disc amaray case

Chapters 42

 

Comments:

Though most people will disagree with me, this is one of the best movies Takashi Miike has made. It's wacky, but heartfelt and esoteric while still being accessible.

Much has been made of Quentin Tarantino's appearance in this movie, but his role is nothing special. It's no more than a cameo, with Mr. Tarantino only appearing in three scenes. People have written that he steals the show, but I feel this is only because he's so high-profile and so recognizable. In fact, I find Koichi Sato much more of a scene stealer in this movie.

As for the package, it's very well done. The picture is terrific and has a tremendous film-like quality to it. Grain is very slight, though wanted. The colors are bright, rich an accurate, lending a nice feel to the movie. It does suffer, however, from edge enhancement, which should be noticeable on bigger displays. This is probably accentuated by the strong backlighting throughout the movie. Barring that, this is one of the better transfers I've seen in a while.

The audio is no less impressive, with a very rich full-bitrate DTS-ES track. It's very dynamic and offers natural use of surrounds during gun fights and horse chases. The dialogue is clear (for better or for worse). There's really nothing to complain about with the audio portion of the disc.

As with the Japanese releases of 'The Great Yokai War' and 'Zebraman', this release is jam-packed with extra features. Just about all of them will be a disappointment for non-Japanese speakers, especially the third disc, which I'm sure has tons of great information being given. There's plenty of the stars standing around, giving information. Other than that, the featurettes on the second disc are a bit more interesting, if only because they show some behind the scenes footage and are not simply interviews. Hopefully these will be translated into English for an eventual release in the US and/or the UK.

For those with a Blu-ray player, a similarly technically impressive Region A Blu-ray DVD is out from Geneon (HERE), with a Dolby TrueHD 6.1 track and AVC/MPEG-4 encode, though without any extras.

 - Pat Pilon

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

Distribution

Geneon

Region 2 - NTSC




 

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