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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #545  (Vol. 11, No. 36)  This edition is for the week of August 30--September 5, 2010.

"Machete"  by Mike Smith
She Flies!  by William Moriaty
Forgotten Films: Little Fugitive  by ED Tucker
Album of the Month, August- The Arcade Fire: The Suburbs  by Terence Nuzum
Sukiyaki Western Django  by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Sukiyaki Western Django

Beautiful cinematography and a rich visual style with some interesting action sequences are found throughout this Japanese take on American Westerns. Directed by Miike Takashi and including an extended cameo with Quentin Tarantino, Sukiyaki Western Django has a good solid start.

If you know your Japanese history, the rival clans that appear make sense. The Genji and Heike clans fought each other viciously. In Sukiyaki Western Django the Heike clan wears red and the Genji wear white. Simple enough. In one part of the movie a character is seen with a copy of "The Tales of the Heike", a work of Classical Japanese Literature that depicts the wars between the Heike and the Genji. In a small town called Yuta in the Nevata Village, a gunman arrives to help a woman who is forced into prostitution, get her revenge. Soon both the Heike and Genji clans arrive to battle.

As stunning as Sukiyaki Western Django is to watch, there are a few problems. First the characters in both clans are just rivals like the Hatfield and McCoys that are already in the middle of fighting each other. There is no back-story as to why the feud is going on. It would have been interesting if Miike inserted a flashback or used dialogue to flesh out the two lead rivals. Miike does do a good job telling the story of the prostitute and her son, the mute boy. Even Tarantino has a back-story as you see him in the beginning as a young man and at the end as a old man. Props to the makeup department for Tarantino's old man makeup.

Some of the action shots are well done and fast-paced that every good Western should have. However, others are long and drawn out with exaggerated attempts at humor that are not that funny.

In one scene, a Heike clan member is being shot several times and never seems to die. Despite numerous life-ending shots, the actor does a series of exaggerated dying gestures without ever dying and appears healthy and alive later. The dying scenes look about as well as any child playing Cowboys and Indians could perform. The weakest aspect of Sukiyaki Western Django is the plot which is barely present. Basically a prostitute wants revenge, an unnamed gunman comes to help, and rival clans fight each other in a small Japanese village designed to look like the Old American West. If the characters were better developed, then the lack of plot would not be so bad. However, without much of a plot and clan members that you never care about; there is not much happening.

On the positive side, you do empathize with the young mute boy and the boy's mother, the prostitute, and to some extent the gunman.

Taking as a whole, Sukiyaki Western Django is a flashy red Lamborghini lacking a good engine. This movie is definitely worth a look as a rental. Repeated viewings will not reveal any hidden truths or enjoyment. That is not to say Miike is a bad director, only that this is a minor work. To see a good Miike movie, check out Audition.

2 Stars out of 4.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.