6:55 PM 4/5/09 · The basic concept of an Asian Western really kinda worked for me at first. I still haven't watched it yet but I was entertaining a guest earlier, wanted to show the special features I discussed for 18 Year Old Virgin to Stuberyl and just a bit after that I read the bio for Sukiyaki Western Django...
...and it sounds suspiciously like a Bruce Willis film I saw once. Set in the 1920's, or thereabouts, Willis goes to town and works for one gang family but then brings about a full fledged gangwar with the other major gang in town. Can't remember the name offhand but it also starred Christopher Walken.
The description for Sukiyaki Western Django is this: 2 clans battle for a legendary treasure hidden in a desolate mountain town. One day, a lone gunman with incredible shooting skills drifts into town. The 2 clans try to woo the lone gunman to their side, but he has ulterior motives. Dirty tricks, betrayal, desire, and love collide as the situation erupts into a final explosive showdown...
...which minus the location switch and the combatants, is idental to that film I can't remember the name of.
Makes me wonder if this is a remake of that film or if they both are remakes of something else.
10:26 PM 4/5/09 · I was very surprised to learn they spoke English all the way through this film. This is my first spaghetti western so I'm not sure if that's normal for this kind of movie. Usually when I watch a foreign film I like to hear it in the original language, cuz dubbing tends to sound horrible, with English subtitles. Wasn't dubbed over in English either. Watching it I didn't get the sense the actors actually were familiar with the language as their inflections were just a tad off, emphasis was placed on the wrong part of some of the sentences. There are a lot of cliched and time honored Western saying in this movie and while I recognized pretty much all of them, grew up on Westerns, they didn't come across exactly as I'm accustomed to.
That said, damned impressive. Having seen the Shogun series before I was 10 years old I was later surprised to learn the actor playing the lead female role didn't speak a word of English. Same kind of thing here, only one of them was bilinguil. This was all covered in the "making of" portion of the DVD extras...
...which is really worth watching! Only in Asian films do I find this satisfactory as American "making of" sections are usually broken up into categories and they never cover everything like I think they should. The one for Sukiyaki Western Django is easily over ½ the length of the actual film and it covers everything!
DVD options allow for English or Spanish subtitles but I didn't go with either. While it didn't sound entirely as I'm used to it, the spoken English in this movie is very easy to understand. Actually, the only time I had a problem understanding anyone was a part near the beginning where Quentin Tarantino switches to a thick Japanese accent. He's also the only other actor, besides one guy near the end, that speaks anything in actual Japanese.
Even though he appears in it, this is not a Quentin Tarantino film. Actually kind of sorry about that because there's nothing I like more in film than seeing him get killed in any number of ways but that tends to only happen in his own movies.
Costuming was interesting. The two rival clans wear primarily white or red but their outfits kinda struck me like an atypical cowboys vs indians dealio. Red wore a sort of old West style cowboy combined with modern Japanese leathers; I'm not an expert in Japanese fashion but that's what it looked like. Whites primarily wore a similar Japanese style mixed with old West indian and cowboy...which kinda makes sense as Native Americans did take on a lot of cowboy type outfits in actual American history. The townsfolk near the beginning wore old West styled clothes, primarily in either blue or yellow or one other color I'm blanking on now. The remaining townsfolk later wear a more traditional ancient Japan style.
The only person that actually looks like a real cowboy is Hideaki Ito who plays the Lone Gunman. Turns out this actor is a major American Western geek and has tons of actual clothes stylized on this look. He provided his own costuming for this movie...
...of the whites, their leader dresses mostly as they do but he's much more samurai. When you come down to it only he and the gunman are significantly different than the other characters in appearance, which is very appropriate the way things turn out.
My initial impressions that this reminded me of a Bruce Willis film hold up until right about the middle where things get interesting, though it does kind of come back to it again later. There's a whole bunch of other layers involved that're interesting. There's also a number of other quirky little things.
The town sheriff comes across as a slap happy version of Smeagol/Gollum.
The leader of the reds really reminded me of a demented take on Captain Jack Sparrow. Or maybe Captain Jack Swallows would be more appropriate.
At various points there are a number of cartoon styled sound effects mixed in both when certain things are revealed or the characters are surprised by something.
There are a bizarre number of crotch shots in this movie. By "shots" I mean by bullets.
One of the actors in this was also featured in the Major League series.
The director of this is Takashi Miike and I'm going to be doing some definite searching for his other films sometime soon. Sadly nothing like this exactly. While he says he tends to do the same kinds of themes over and over...this was his first Western.
While filmed entirely in Japan, Yamagata I believe, it's supposedly set in Nevada. The town is referred to as "Utah" by the director which just seems odd to me as that's a different state. Well, actually not all of it was filmed there. They made an actual little town just for this movie but there are some bits, the Tarantino parts, that're on a soundstage. It's clearly evident, there's no attempt to make it look like a real place which may have as much to do with the content covered there than anything else.
All told, this was beautiful!
I usually don't start to write these posts up before I actually watch them but these were unusual circumstances. Definitely recommend that anyone reading this goes and sees this movie if they haven't already.
Hell, I may have to buy it!
- wonkiest case of curving a bullet I've ever seen