Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike, 2007)
I kind of got off track with Takashi Miike there for a while, and I’ve been scurrying to catch up over the last year or so. Turns out that Miike’s work is just as fun over the past decade as it was during the earlier years. Why didn’t anyone tell me until 13 Assassins? Case in point: Sukiyaki Western Django, Miike’s remake/reimagining/reboot/Miike-ization of Django, a Sergio Corbucci spaghetti western from the sixties, with heavy influences from Heike Monogatari, though updated to spaghetti-western times. All of which plays second fiddle to the fact that it’s a Takashi Miike movie, and is thus, in the parlance, batshit insane.
There is a plot, though it’s secondary; a nameless gunslinger (Umizaru‘s Hideaki Itô) rides into a town divided and offers his services as a gunslinger up to the side willing to pay him the most. Yep, that’s pretty much it. There’s a framing narrative feauring Quentin Tarantino, who’s relating the story while cooking up a mess of sukiyaki, but that, like the plot, is just an excuse to get a bunch of characters into a bunch of situations where they’re trying to shoot each other.
This sort of basically-plotless silliness works or doesn’t based entirely on the director’s style. In other words, if you’re a Miike fan, this is going to be right up your alley, and if you’re not, you’re going to hate it with a burning heat of a thousand suns. And while I am (obviously, if you’ve been following my reviews since I first discovered Miike some fifteen years ago) very much of the former camp, I can understand some of the criticisms the latter camp throws at the movie. Miike isn’t really doing anything new here, and he’s not exactly going out of his way to make this film accessible to those new to Miike’s work. These are not good qualities for a director to develop; one runs the risk of becoming so solipsistic that one’s movies become meaningful only to the director and to the few who have obsessively followed that director enough to understand the director’s personal filmic language. (Hollis Frampton immediately comes to mind, as does Kenneth Anger, though neither of them started out doing commercial work. Jon Jost, perhaps?) And thus I’m not ranking it as high on the list as something like 13 Assassins or The Bird People in China, movies that exemplify the Miike craziness but are still accessible enough that casual Miike fans, or even people generally unfamiliar with his work, can latch onto and enjoy.
Not one for beginners, but a ball if you know what you’re getting into. *** ½
Trailer, trailer, who’s got the trailer?