Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sukiyaki Western Django

Visceral and stylish, Sukiyaki Western Django is another harvest of red making use of that well-worn Dashiell Hammett plot. This loopy Japanese tribute to spaghetti westerns—all the actors speaking in stilted English—showcases director Takashi Miike’s ability to stage aesthetically pleasing gore and mayhem, but that’s about all there is to be found here. The main conceptual twist is combining the samurai-era Yojimbo with the gunplay of its western remake, Fistful of Dollars. But beyond the initial shock of the strange, the film never provokes much beyond dude-this-is-messed-up reactions, which can only carry you so far. All of the mythic posturing never really connects to the outrageous emotion necessary for this story to work (a concluding speech about choosing between love and hate is particularly ridiculous, feeling like tacked-on thematic substance after Miike realized all of these films he’s paying tribute to were actually about things other than their own coolness). However, there is one powerful scene: the wife of a murdered man relives his death through an erotic dance for a room full of killers, concluding by throwing herself on the stage and pulling from her throat a string of bells. Blurring the lines between violence and sex, hate and love, it’s the only moment of potent emotion in the entire film. The rest is self-regarding movie trivia. Quentin Tarantino, unsurprisingly, has a cameo.

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