Sony Pictures

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007, Miike Takashi)

This film reminds me of one of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures presentations from the nineties. Sometimes they were good films. Sometimes Tarantino was just friends with the filmmakers.

He has a small role in Sukiyaki Western Django.

It’s a joke as a concept picture–what if you made a Western, set in Nevada, starring Japanese actors speaking English, some of them knowing how to speak it, some of them doing it phonetically, but played it straight. It’s not going for a funny script, it’s going for being funny through its absurdity, which makes it incredibly pointless, but probably very popular with people who dislike quality cinema and literature or like seeming contrarian on internet message boards.

There’s nothing to recommend it. Tarantino’s cameo’s awful. He’s getting to be a worse actor as he gets older.

Kurita Toyomichi’s photography is fantastic, but there’s only so much good lighting and good composition can do with a long, boring, lame joke.

It should be okay for Japanese filmmakers to make Westerns, set in Nevada, with Japanese actors playing Americans. Americans do it all the time. Or did it all the time (or made films with Chinese actors playing Japanese people). But Sukiyaki isn’t interested in presenting a real film. It mocks the idea of itself even having any quality.

Are there worse movies than Sukiyaki?

Yes.

Are there more useless movies, made with less artistic intent?

Maybe not.

But it has its fans, which means Tarantino needs to bring back Rolling Thunder.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Miike Takashi; written by Nakamura Masa and Miike; director of photography, Kurita Toyomichi; edited by Shimamura Yasushi; music by Endô Kôji; production designer, Sasaki Takashi; produced by Ôsaki Masato and Tohya Nobuyuki; released by Sony Pictures.

Starring Ito Hideaki (Gunman), Ando Masanobu (Yoichi), Satô Kôichi (Taira no Kiyomori), Momoi Kaori (Ruriko), Iseya Yûsuke (Minamoto no Yoshitsune), Ishibashi Renji (Village Mayor), Kimura Yoshino (Shizuka) and Quentin Tarantino (Piringo).


The Proposition (2005, John Hillcoat)

I was expecting something more eclectic from The Proposition, an Australian Western written by Nick Cave. I’m not sure if Australia has their own variation on the Western–I suppose something like Ned Kelly might qualify. The Proposition is an American Western set in Australia, with the Aborigines standing in for the Indians. It might be historically accurate–probably is–but it’s still a Western. Cave’s seen some Westerns too, but the most visible influence for the Western part of The Proposition are Monte Hellman’s Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting. The Proposition is an improvement on either of those films, because Cave’s got something going on I’ve never seen in a Western before… the bad guys are really the bad guys.

It’s not a situation where there are no good guys (like Unforgiven, though, arguably Ned is a good guy in Unforgiven)–the sheriff character is actually a good guy in The Proposition. I haven’t seen Ray Winstone in anything but Last Orders and I don’t remember him, but he’s amazing in The Proposition. His relationship with his wife, played by Emily Watson (who’s rather good, but not as good as I expected her to be), is Cave’s masterwork in this film. It’s a beautiful, complicated relationship in the middle of a hard, violent Western. It’s a touching and romantic and it’s a rare thing–not just in a Western–to have a marriage start and end a film with the couple caring for each other. There aren’t even any hiccups in it… It’s wonderful.

Unfortunately, the Western is not. The film follows around Guy Pearce, whose performance consists of being really, really skinny and maybe having a broken nose. It’s the worst work I’ve seen from him, though the film doesn’t give him much to do. The film, however, gives Danny Huston even less to do and makes him out as an outback Charles Manson, but he’s still quite good. John Hurt’s cameo is bad and the film wastes David Wenham (who would have been great in Pearce’s role) as a fop.

The director, Hillcoat, is fantastic. While he frames the shots like any good Western, the Australian Outback provides some surreal scenery. The film doesn’t take full advantage of that surrealism, which is occasionally amplified by Cave’s score, and the third act loses the directorial imagination. The style of that act doesn’t match the rest of the film and the writing fails to convince… for the first time, The Proposition becomes predictable. Still, it’s got that excellent marriage between Winstone and Watson going for it. Hopefully Cave will write his next film sooner than he did this one (there are seventeen years between his first script and The Proposition).

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Hillcoat; written by Nick Cave; director of photography, Benoît Delhomme; edited by Jon Gregory; music by Cave and Warren Ellis; production designer, Chris Kennedy; produced by Chiara Menage, Cat Villiers, Chris Brown and Jackie O’Sullivan; released by Sony Pictures.

Starring Guy Pearce (Charlie Burns), Ray Winstone (Captain Stanley), Danny Huston (Arthur Burns), John Hurt (Jellon Lamb), David Wenham (Eden Fletcher) and Emily Watson (Martha Stanley).


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