Miike Takashi's "Sukiyaki Western Django" opens in New York on August 29th and L.A. on September 12th, so if you're in the area be sure to check it out. Whatever your opinion of Miike is, this is one film that should definitely be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated.
Shame about the rather non-descript poster that marginalises Django himself (Ito Hideaki) and pushes villain Iseya Yusuke to the fore - and where's the love for fellow baddie Sato Koichi?
Here's an interview with Miike culled from the production notes, courtesy of Rachael Kitchen at Deep Focus:
Interviewer: You’re more of a “dragon generation” rather than a “macaroni western generation, aren’t you?
Miike Takashi: Yes. There weren’t many macaroni westerns in the theaters when I was growing up but they used to broadcast two to three of them every week on television… I can’t tell you how many times they aired One Silver Dollar. My mother used to tell me to go to bed, but I usually stayed up and watched them with my parents. My father loved macaroni westerns and he used to buy me toy guns and pistols. My grandfather was a hunter and used to shoot birds with rifles. So the macaroni western was certainly very familiar to me. But having worked in the movie industry for a long time, I never thought that I would be making something like this as a Japanese film.
I: Neither did we (laughs). How did it come about?
MT: Toshiaki Nakazawa, a producer at Sedic International, whom I had worked with on The Happiness of Katakuris, asked me if there was any project that I wanted to do. That’s when the words ‘How about a sukiyaki western?’ fell out of my mouth. It’s what they call talking through one’s hat, I guess. But it wasn’t totally groundless. When I was a kid, I used to imagine myself growing up to be a wandering gunman. I don’t remember the specific stories but I was impressed with such things as the cool posture of the gunman, the intensity right before the shoot-out, and the dramatic effect of the music that starts after someone falls to the ground. Those kinds of things were imprinted on my mind. And I thought that anything a child can create in his imagination, surely a movie can bring to life.
I think that any other producer would have just dismissed the idea with a laugh but Mr. Nakazawa didn’t. He said it was interesting and went along with the idea. Although he may have said “No” if I had suggested a Sushi Western (laughs).
I: Was it Masaru Nakamura who linked that idea with the Tales of Heike?
MT: As we watched and studied macaroni westerns, we realized that they were rooted in Japanese movies. And then we thought that the root of all Japanese movies is the Taira-Minamoto War. We started writing the script based on that concept. Masaru writes a very literary script, which I made into more of a screenplay by incorporating my ideas on how I would shoot on set.
I: And this time you had it translated to English ….
MT: When you have so many leading men and women as in this movie, it’s a tough job just to give them satisfying answers to all their questions. So, I raised the hurdle a notch so that they’d be too busy to come up with any questions. I thought I could go ahead and quickly shoot the movie while they were struggling with their English (laughs).
But their English is not an imitation of native speakers. Their accent is unique to the Japanese people. It would be interesting if English-language speakers think their Japanese English is cool and start imitating them, then I think we might change something! Japanese actors would be able to expand the scope of their careers. And for Japanese movies, surprising possibilities might result.
I: Unexpected dividends, so to speak… Italy’s macaroni westerns and Hong Kong films were something of that sort, to start with, weren’t they? Did making Masters of Horror: Imprint in English lead you to this film?
MT: Yes, it did. If I hadn’t made Imprint, I don’t think I would have come up with this idea of a sukiyaki western. Maybe not even the idea of making a western at all. Even if I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have been able to pitch it to the producer. The fact that an American producer had said “Yes” to “Imprint” encouraged me.... Although I don’t personally understand English, it was a big thing for me to know that I have people like Nadia Venesse, the dialogue coach from Hollywood and (Masahito) Tanno the assistant director who speaks it, to make up for my inadequacy. Having Toyomichi Kurita, who has worked extensively in Hollywood, also helped a great deal. My directions were the same as usual but when I looked at the result, I was amazed. It looked totally different from any of my films. That is a wonderful thing. You can change by collaborating with other people. That’s what makes filmmaking fun.
I: I certainly felt the change. This film definitely has the same Miike vision but the quality of “blood” has changed, if you will. As a sukiyaki western, while keeping in mind the violence that is associated with director Takashi Miike (laughs), the blood ties from parent to child seem to have become thicker, which relates to you watching macaroni westerns with your father and to playing with your toy guns.
MT: (Laughs) If possible, I want to make this into a trilogy with “Sukiyaki Amazons” and “Sukiyaki Emmanuelle.” I think it would be pretty cool. Quentin said he will invest in it if I would cast him as a sex slave who’s beaten up by Chiaki Kuriyama (laughs again).