Another film that Django has been the source of inspiration is Sukiyaki Western Django. This film feels unusual to say the least, but it is worth talking about because I think it is a clear example of the power that film has, the internationality of film.
Let’s try and make sense of the title of this film first. Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish, a stew of sorts, that is mainly served during winter. Sukiyaki Western is basically the Japanese version of the term ‘Spaghetti Western’, this is supposed to be a joke. If you recall the term ‘Spaghetti Western’ was initially a ‘hate’ term coined by American’s when Italian director’s started turning to the west for film ideas.
The name Django appears in the title because this film is partly a remake of the 1966 hit. But it is worth considering that it is also a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. I want to pause here for a moment and talk a little more about Akira Kurosawa. Akira is one of the best Japanese directors of all time. And this is the wonderful thing about film, the influence it has is international, film does not know borders or ethnicity, it is truly international. Akira’s Yojimbo was actually the film that inspired Sergio Leone to make A Fistful of Dollars. In fact Akira wrote a letter to Sergio Leone saying, “A Fistful of Dollars is a fine film, but it is my film.” He successfully won the legal battle and made more money from A Fistful of Dollars than when Yojimbo originally came out!
Having said this, where did Spaghetti Westerns really start? Japan? Should we be saying Sukiyaki Western every time we mean Spaghetti Western? This is why Sukiyaki Western Django is an important film, because it basically turns the table of Italian westerns, and tries to bring the genre back home, back into Japanese territory. Is it successful? Thats for you to decide.
Takashi Miike is an ambitious director. He is friends with Quentin Tarantino, who plays one of the characters, Pringo, in this film. He is always a hilarious actor, not necessarily good, but you just get the sense that Quentin Tarantino has tried to have as much to do with anything related to ‘Django’! Takashi has tried to combine so many genres here, and this is where the film fails, it doesn’t seem to have clear direction, it ends up being taken as a comedy, goofy comedy. There is even a didjeridoo sequence! It has it’s good points, though.
The visual style is impressive, and there are some great action sequences. In one scene a gunslinger is at the top of a hill, and fires his gun against the direction of the wind, so that the bullet ‘curves’ around and hits the ‘target’. Although this is comedic, the idea is clever, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood copied this idea in the film Wanted.
This film has historical value, and presents a wacky view of the combined genres that have influenced film so greatly. I would like to see this attempted again, a film that represents the major sources, that have made its specific genre what it is today. I might just keep wishing with that one! If you’re a fan of westerns, this is almost a must see, plus you might get a laugh out of it!
TRIVIA COOKIES: There are two version to this film. The original version is 121 minutes long, where as the internationally released version is cut down to 98 minutes. This kind of makes sense, considering that the long version contains scenes that seem unessential, and are just there because the director/writer wanted it.
There is a scene, that is a direct tribute to another Akira Kurosawa film, Ran, the spray of blood on the wall can be seen in the stills below.