Director Spotlight: Sukiyaki Western Django
The proud do not endure, like a passing dream on a night in spring; the mighty fall at last, to be no more than dust before the wind.
Sukiyaki Western Django is the tale of a mysterious gunman (Hideoki Ito) who rides into a nearly deserted town which has found itself controlled by two rival gangs. After a flashy display of skill, and some attempts from the two clans to persuade him to join them, the Gunman is persuaded by Ruriko, one of the few residents who remain, to help the townspeople fight back against the rival groups.
Inspired by the historical rivalry between the Genji and Heike clans, SWD is the Spaghetti Western genre going back to its roots, for it is no secret that Sergi Leone was greatly inspired by the works of Akira Kurosawa, with Yojimbo serving as the blueprint for A Fistful of Dollars. Corbucci’s Django used the same basic premise, and now Miike follows, adding his own unique cinematic flair and style to the proceedings.
And flair and style is something SWD has plenty of. Though a tribute to the Spaghetti Western genre, this film is pure Miike. The same offbeat humor, frantic action, and use of cruel sexual acts (though the latter is much tamer compared to some other Miike films) that permeates his film making is present, as is his excellent eye and ear for creating cinematic art.
The film is beautifully crafted, with impressive set design, breathtaking costumes and excellent camera framing all allowing the viewer to be sucked easily into SWD‘s often hyper realistic world.
What might be my only gripe with Sukiayki is the choice of language. I don’t mean having the Japanese cast speak in broken English, I rather enjoyed that particular choice. No, I mean the decision to have the film subtitled as well. I found it rather pointless and distracting at times. Though some might appreciate the visual aide, I found having it there pulled me out of the film. It felt right to have the cast speak in such a usual manner whilst watching a film in which a man arcs bullets from a ridge with pinpoint accuracy, and legendary gunfighters possess almost supernatural skills. SWD is not meant to be realistic or sensible in any way, and I felt the subtitles brought a rather unneeded reality along with them. I ended up blocking the bottom of the screen to hide them!
Sukiyaki Western Django is a real gem, the mixture of comedy, gun play, outlandish behavior and sublime film making paying respect to the genre which it is emulating while also pumping all the cliches and tropes up to eleven. If you give it a go, you won’t regret it. One of the best and most original modern westerns I’ve seen.