Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) – New Cinema Wallpaper of the Day – Takashi Miike

on

New Cinema Wallpaper of the Day
Monday, August 25, 2008

Full production notes and cast and crew info follow…

Over at Ryuganji (view here), Don has a great post on the upcoming US release of Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django along with commentary on its strange US poster and the interview from its production notes. The US poster works fine as a character poster for Yusuke Iseya who plays the leader of the white clad Genji gang, Yoshitsune Minamoto. As an overall poster for the film itself it certainly falls short of what it could have been. This US release seems like it will be a blink and it’s gone type affair so be sure to check and double check your local listings, especially if you live in New York and LA where it kicks off its US run.

Related Coverage:
::: Midnight Madness SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO Intro with Special Message From Miike
::: Review by Todd – Twitch

Japanese Cinema:
::: Jason Gray
::: Mark Schilling’s Tokyo Ramen
::: Midnight Eye
::: Nippon Cinema
::: Outcast Cinema
::: Ryuganji
::: Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow

SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO – PRODUCTION NOTES:
An integration of the Western and the Japanese Tales of Heike…

It can be said that Westerns are the roots of Hollywood films while samurai dramas are the roots of Japanese films. That Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai inspired John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, one of the all-time great Hollywood westerns, is well known. It is also widely known that Kurosawa’s The Bodyguard became the basis for director Sergio Leone’s Italian film Per un pugno di dollari (Fistful of Dollars). The Made-in-Italy-westerns, dubbed “macaroni westerns” in Japan, and “spaghetti westerns” in the U.S, became a worldwide phenomenon from 1960’s to early 70’s.

The man infusing fresh blood into the genre today is Takashi Miike. While paying the homage to spaghetti westerns, Miike has created a unique and stylish action film in this never-before-seen “sukiyaki” world.

Gun smoke drifts in the air and the haunting sound of melodic whistling echoes as you step into a world that transcends time and space, a world where the Japanese shukuba-machi (post station) and western saloons co-exist. From the familiar scenes of spaghetti westerns, to elements from Tales of The Heike, the War of the Roses and the legendary goddess of murder “The Bloody Benten,” anything goes in the Miike world. The climactic scene even extends a nod to the world of the classic western film, Shane (1953). However, this film is by no means a parody. What emerges from the sukiyaki pot, in which all of these ingredients simmer together, is Miike’s magnificent view of the world.

Music…

The word “spaghetti western” immediately brings to mind the melodies of Ennio Morricone. In Sukiyaki Western Django, Koji Endo has created a melancholic score that combines trumpets, ocarinas and whistling. The original theme song for Django (1966), one of the best spaghetti westerns ever made, has been arranged into a new theme tune for Miike’s film. With newly written Japanese lyrics, a haunting new version is sung by Saburo Kitajima, the veteran enka (Japanese blues) singer, known for his powerful kobushi (a vibrato-like vocal technique).

What’s the connection between the renowned blues singer and Miike? In 1996, Miike directed a made-for-video movie Jingi naki Yabou at the Toei Uzumasa Studio. Saburo Kitajima, who was already major star, had been cast as the gambler. For the film, Miike had unsparingly splashed the great singer/actor with artificial blood. Kitajima had mumbled, “I’ve been acting for some twenty, thirty years and I never knew that artificial blood felt so cold!” Miike’s unconventional techniques left a strong impression on the blood soaked Kitajima.

Behind the Scenes…

A red and white rose blooming in the wilderness. Inside the sukiyaki pot live love and death.

Sukiyaki Western Django was filmed on a specially built outdoor set in Ishikura, Yamagata, deep in the mountains of Tsukiyama. A surreal set combining both a western theme and “Jidai-geki” (Japanese period dramas) suddenly emerged in the midst of Tsukiyama’s magnificent mountain scenery.

The logistical difficulties of the shoot made the production a constant struggle primarily due to the extreme weather conditions. The freezing Fall nights of Tsukiyama were severe enough to freeze the food on the plates of the cast and crew. To make matters worse, it rained for a whole month, turning the ground into mud and when the production needed snow, however, an unusually warm winter resulted in almost no snowfall.

For the scene shot at sunrise in the caves of Zao, the crew had to hit the trail on foot at 2 a.m. in the morning in order to arrive at the location by 4 p.m., allowing enough time to make up the actors. Walking in the darkness with only the lights of the lighting department to rely on, more than a few crew members were nearly lost in the mountains.

For one shot, forty horses, brought to the set from the Tohoku area, were required to gallop away at full speed, a stunt rarely seen in recent Japanese productions. Working with such a large number of extras and coordinating the complex gunfights was also challenge. As a result, Miike found the usual calls of “Ready!” and “Action!” were not adequate and he resorted to donning a ten-gallon hat, taking out a Smith & Wesson and firing a blank in the air instead! The unexpected sound of gunshot surprised the extras whose reactions were expertly captured on film by cinematographer Toyomichi Kurita. One could say that the ultimate thrill of the production was the “face-off in the wilderness of Shonai territory” between Miike, shooting his Smith & Wesson, and Kurita, shooting with his Arriflex ST&LT!

Sukiyaki Western Django was shot entirely in English. As with his other English language film, “Masters of Horror – Imprint,” Miike created a unique atmosphere on set. The actors went through a month-long intensive language training under Nadia Venesse, the dialogue coach who has worked with many of the top Hollywood stars in features such as Chocolat and North Country, and with Christian Storms, who translated the Japanese script into English. For Venesse and Storms, Sukiyaki Western Django was their second collaboration with Miike following “Masters of Horror – Imprint.”

Japanese star Koichi Sato’s comment on the experience was: “I realize now how effortlessly I’ve been making money all these years.” The actors not only had lessons in English but were required to learn horseback riding and gun slinging. The actress Kaori Momoi also had the additional challenge of working with flying wires and trampolines as the legendary fighter “Bloody Benten.” At one point her whole body was wrapped in plastic to protect her from the cold, which made even a simple somersault a challenging feat.

Cast & Crew Notes follow…

SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO – CAST AND CHARACTERS

A Wandering Gunman (Hideaki Ito)
An emotionally scarred high plains drifter rides a black horse. Slinging two pistols at lightning speed, this gun-for-hire shoots an arrow in mid-air.

Ito was born on August 3, 1975 in Gifu prefecture. He started his acting career in 1997 appearing in the TV drama “Dessan“. Since then, he has starred in films such as Himitsu (1999), Cross Fire (2000) Blister (2000), Love Song (2000) and Shura Yukihime (2001). In 2001, he reunited with director Yojiro Takita in Onmyoji and played the role of Hiromasa Minamoto opposite Mansai Nomura. Earning 3.2 billion yen, the film became the top grossing Japanese live action movie of the year. In 2003, the sequel Onmyoji 2 established Ito as one of Japan’s top movie stars. In 2004, he played the role of Daisuke Senzaki, the Japan Coast Guard rescue diver posted to the 10th Region Mobile Rescue Unit, in the blockbuster Umizaru directed by Eiichiro Hasumi. Umizaru was made into a TV drama series the next year, which was followed by Limit of Love: Umizaru in 2006 and became a three part film and TV project. Limit of Love: Umizaru grossed 7.1 billion yen at the box office and became the number one Japanese live action film of the year. Ito starred in all of them. Other credits include Kono Mune Ippai No Ai Wo (2005) for director Akihiko Shioda.

The Hard-Nosed Tyrant – Kiyomori Taira (Koichi Sato)
Kiyomori, a.k.a. Henry, leads the Heike gang dressed in red. Clad in European armor, he sprays the village with shots from his Gatlin gun screaming “I won’t die until we win!”

Koichi Sato was born in Tokyo and started his acting career in 1980 with the television drama “Zoku Zoku-jiken“. The following year, he received the Best New Actor Award at the Blue Ribbon Awards for his performance in Seishun No Mon (1981). Since then, he has starred in numerous films including Gyoei No Mure (1983) and Dun Huang (1988). In 1994, he received mulitple awards including the Japanese Academy’s Best Actor Awards for Chushingura Gaiden Yotwuya Kaidan and Tokarefu. His other credits include Junji Sakamoto’s KT (2002) and Bokoku No Igis, “Ah Haru” (1998), Mibu Gishinden (2002), Makai Tenshou (2003), and Uchoten Hotel (2006), directed by Kouki Mitani. In 2006, he won the Best Actor award at the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival and the 60th Mainichi Film Concours for Yuki Ni Negau Koto.

The Proud, Merciless Warrior – Yoshitsune Minamoto (Yusuke Iseya)
The commander of the white clad Genji gang aspires to live a “mononofu” life of fighting instead of a philosophical “samurai” existence. Cruel and heartless, his drawn sword craves a truly worthy opponent.

Yusuke Iseya was born on May 29, 1976 in Tokyo, Japan. In 1998, he made his big screen debut in Wonderful Life, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. The same year, he attended NYU and studied filmmaking. In 1998, he had his first leading role in Kinpatu No Sogen, and he followed it with films such as Distance (2001) and Gaichuu (2002). In 2003, he made his directorial debut with Kakuto, which he also wrote and starred in. The film was screened in official selection at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and received rave reviews. In 2004, he starred in Casshern, directed by Kazuaki Kiriya which became a huge hit. 2006 was a prolific year for Iseya who starred in several features: Kiraware Matsuko No Isshou, Hachimitsu To Clover and Deguchi No Nai Umi among others. In 2006 he starred in Yuki Ni Negau Koto (2006), directed by Kichitaro Negishi, opposite Koichi Sato. This role resulted in Iseya receiving the 1st INVIATION AWARD’s Actor of the Year award at the Tokyo International Film Festival. He most recently completed the features Zukan Ni Nottenai Mushi, Densenka, and Closed Note.

A Crazed Incarnation Of Death – Yoichi (Masanobu Ando)
As the craziest Genji of the lot, Yoichi magnificently wields his deadly bowgun. Setting his sight on his prey, Yoichi’s eyes dazzle.

Ando was born on May 19, 1975 and in 1996 he made his screen debut with a leading role in Takeshi Kitano’s Kids Return which won him numerous Best New Actor Awards including the Golden Arrow Award. He has starred in a wide variety of films including Battle Royale (2000), directed by Kinji Fukasaku, Red Shadow – Akakage (2001), directed by Hiroyuki Nakano, Drive (2002), directed by SABU, Showa Kayou Daizenshu (2003), 69 sixty nine (2004), and Bokoku No Igis (2005). In 2006, he starred in Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Seishun Kinzoku Batto, Hitoshi Yazaki’s Strawberry Shortcakes and his first collaboration with Takashi Miike, 46-Okunen No Koi. Most recently he starred in Akumu Tantei and Sakuran.

A Tender Hearted Hero – Benkei (Takaaki Ishibashi)
Leave the firepower to Benkei who provides the dynamite, the rifles and the machine guns. He is Yoshitsune’s right-hand man and the gang’s hooligan.

Ishibashi was born on October 22, 1961 in Tokyo. In 1980, he teamed up with Noritake Kinashi, his classmate at Teikyo Senior High School and won 10 weeks in a row in the NTV’sOwarai Star Tanjo” ultimately winning the grand prize. Since then, the comedic duo known as Tunnels has starred in countless TV variety shows. In addition to a successful career as comedians, they received the Nihon Kayo Taisho award as musical artists and continue to act in dramatic features. They made their feature film debut with starring roles in Yoshimitsu Morita’s Soroban Zuku (1986). As a solo artist, Ishibashi, who had played for his high school baseball team made use of his skills to star in the Hollywood feature Major League II (1994), and the sequel Major League: Back to the Minors (1998). In Steal Big, Steal Little (1997), he starred with Andy Garcia.

A Flower with a Sad Fate – Shizuka (Yoshino Kimura)
A Genji herself, the man she loved and married was a Heike. When her husband is murdered by Kiyomori, this mother vows revenge for her son Heihachi.

Kimura was born on April 10, 1976 in Tokyo but spent her junior high school years in New York. Her career debut was a leading role in the television drama “Genki Wo Ageru – Kyumei Kyukyui Monogatari” (1996). In 1997, she made her big screen debut with Yoshimitsu Morita’s Shitsurakuen. Her performance received rave reviews which won her the Japanese Academy Award’s New Actors Award. Her credits include Mohou-han (2002), Ashura No Gotoku (2003), Fune Wo Oritara Kanojo No Shima (2002), and Semishigure (2005) for which she won the Best Actress Award at the Japanese Academy Awards. She has also appeared in many popular television drama series, on stage and in numerous commercials. In 2006 she starred in Nezu No Ban and Sakuran. She most recently starred in Dream Cruise (2007) directed by Norio Tsuruta.

A Man Frightened Of Authority And Himself – Sheriff (Teruyuki Kagawa)
A cloud of dust blows across the desolate town of Nebada Yuta. Walking a fine line between the Genji and the Heike gangs, this opportunistic sheriff plays both sides of his personality.

Kagawa was born in Tokyo on December 7, 1965. After a career debut with NHK’s historical drama series “Kasuga No Tsubone” in 1989, he went on to has star in such films as Dokuritsu Shonen Gasshodan (2000), directed by Akira Ogata, for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Award at the Nikkan Sports Film Awards, and Nuan (2003), directed by Jianqi Huo, which won the Grand Prize and for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Last year, he won a Best Actor award for his role in Miwa Nishikawa’s Yureru. His recent film credits include Kisaragi (2007), and Tsukigami (2007). He will next start filming the NHK special drama “Saka No Ue No Kumo,” scheduled to continue until the year 2010. An accomplished stage actor, Kagawa is also a successful author and winner of the Kinema Junpo Readers Choice Awards.

The Brave Leader Whose Code Is Loyalty – Shigemori Taira (Masato Sakai)
Shigemori always serves as a shield to protect Kiyomori, the Heike gang boss but he’s a little too skinny for Kiyomori’s own good!

Masato Sakai was born on October 14, 1973. He started his career in 1992 by joining the Gekidan Tokyo Orange of Waseda University’s drama workshop and starred Eriko Watanabe’sZenmai” (1998), Kouki Mitani’sVamp Show” (2001) and “Mofuku No Niau Electra” (2004). More recently, he starred in “Uwasa No Otoko” directed by Keralino Sandorovich at the Parco Theater. He has also worked extensively on television, starring in the NHK morning drama series “Audrey” (2000), NHK historical dramas “Shinsengumi!” (2004) and “Izumo No Okuni” (2006), the Fuji TV drama series “Dr. Koto Shinryojo 2006” and “Himitsu No Hanazono” (2007), TBS drama “Kodoku No Kake – Itoshiki Hito Yo” among others. Since making his big screen debut in 2000 with Kasei No Wagaya, directed by Taku Oshima, he has starred in many features including Isao Yukisada’s Himawari (2000), Harikomi (2001), Kokoni Irukoto (2001), Mibu Gishinden (2003), Hachimitsu To Clover (2006), and Kabeotoko (2006).

A Tragic Man Of Justice – Akira (Shun Oguri)
Hot-blooded Akira, the son of a Heike family descendent Ruriko, husband of Shizuka and father of Heihach, aspires to create peace in the village telling his mother “The days of Genji or Heike are over.”

Shun Oguri was born in Tokyo on December 26, 1982. He started acting as an extra from the sixth grade. He first gained attention as a deaf mute boy in a TBS drama series “Summer Snow.” In 2001, he played his first lead role in an NTV drama series “Cherry,” which he followed with his first leading role in a feature, Junji Hanadou. His popularity soared in 2003 with Azumi, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura and Robokon, directed by Tomoyuki Furumaya. As one of the leading actors of his generation, he works extensively in film, television and theatre. His other credits include The Neighbor No. Thirteen (2005), directed by Yasuo Inoue, which won the Critics Award at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, and Kisaragi (2007) directed by Koichi Sato. His stage credits include Yukio Ninagawa directed “Hamlet” (2003) and “Taitasuandoronikasu” (2006). As one of the regular members of the Ninagawa team, he will appear in Ninagawa’s “Karigura” at the Theater Cocoon in November of this year. His next upcoming feature is Close Zero directed by Takashi Miike.

A Mythic Gunslinger – Piringo (Quentin Tarantino)
This homeless wanderer dressed in a poncho has a deep knowledge of the oriental spirit. Going by the name Piringo, this man loves sala flowers (women), and guns down the proud and the arrogant.

Quentin Tarantino was born on March 27, 1963, in Knoxville, Tennessee, but was raised in Los Angeles. After dropping out of high school, he held a day job at a video rental store while taking acting classes. He appeared in TV and local theater. In 1991, he directed his first feature Reservoir Dogs in which he also starred. Reservoir Dogs garnered worldwide acclaim including the Critics Award at Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. He followed this success with Pulp Fiction (1994), for which he received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. In From Dusk till Dawn (2006) directed by his friend Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino played the role of Richard Gecko. Prior to that, he had also starred in Rodriguez’s Desperado. His first lead role was in Destiny Turns on the Radio (1995) directed by Jack Baran. Quentin continues to write, direct and act. His most recent feature is Grindhouse.

A Kind Hearted Calamity Jane – Ruriko (Kaori Momoi)
Ruriko, a descendant of the defeated Heike soldiers was one of the early settlers in the village of Yuta. She runs a general store and takes care of her grandson Heihachi. But she hides a great secret – if there is killing to be done, the Bloody Benten is your woman.

Kaori Momoi was born on April 8, 1952. She attended the British Royal Academy of Dance at the age of 12. After training at Bungakuza, she made her screen debut in 1971 with Arakajime Ushinawareta Koibitotachiyo directed by Soichiro Tawara. While becoming an icon of the new generation in Toshiya Fujita’s Akai Tori Nigeta? (1973) and Tatsumi Kamishiro’s Seishun No Satetsu (1974), she won the Best Supporting Actress awards at the Japan Academy Awards and Kinema Junpo Awards for her performance in Yoji Yamada’s Shiawase No Kiiroi Hankachi (1977). Since then, she has had an impressive career winning many awards with such films as Mo Hozjue Wa Tsukanai, TOMORROW/Ashita, Kimurake No Hitobito, and Tokyo Yakyoku. Internationally, Momoi also starred in Rob Marshall’s The Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005) and in the Russian feature Solntse (2005) directed by Aleksandr Sokurov. In 2006 she wrote, directed and starred in Ichijiku no Kao Faces of a Figtree, which won the Netpak award at the Berlin International Film Festival. This film was screened in 12 countries as official selection and received international acclaim. Momoi is a unique and ageless actress who continues to influence women worldwide.

STYLISH VISUALS – THE CREW – From Hollywood to Italy to Japan

Masaru Nakamura – Co-Writer
Masaru Nakamura most recently wrote the smash hit Dororo. Nakamura’s credits include many Miike films such as Chugoku No Choujin, Dead Or Alive 2, Tobosha and 46-okunen No Koi. As a screenwriter Nakamura knows the Miike world inside out.

Toyomichi Kurita – Director of Photography
The Director of Photography is Toyomichi Kurita, who worked as a camera operator for the late Robert Altman (Cookie’s Fortune) and his protege Alan Rudolf. This is his second project with the Miike team following “Masters of Horror – Imprint.” Using his CINESCO super 35mm film, Kurita has created an incredibly beautiful and strong look for this film.

Michiko Kitamura – Costume Designer
Costume Designer Michiko Kitamura created the wacky and ultimately very muddy costumes(!). She has collaborated with the Miike team on numerous projects including Yokai Daisenso and “Masters of Horror – Imprint.”

Takashi Sasaki – Production Designer
Production designer Takashi Sasaki is also a regular member of the Miike team and previously worked on Koroshiya 1 and Utsukusii Yoru, Zankokuna Asa (box), among others. Deep in the mountains of Shounai, Yamagata, Sasaki built an extraordinarily set for the film. Sasaki was previously praised by Quentin Tarantino for creating the Japanese set for Kill Bill.

Rounding out this outstanding crew, are the other regular members of the Miike team: Misako Saka, the CGI producer, Yuichi Matsui, the special make-up/molding artist and editor, Taiji Shimamura.

Takashi Miike – Director
Takashi Miike was born in Osaka on August 24, 1960. He graduated from Yokohama Housou Eiga Senmon Gakuin (now called the Japan Academy of Moving Images). In his early career he worked under such directors as Shohei Imamura and Hideo Onchi. In 1991, he directed his first direct-to-video film Eyecatch Junction. He followed this with many direct-to-video films before making his debut as a theatrical film director in 1995 with Daisan No Gokudo and Shinjuku Triad Society. Renowed for his innovative ideas and edgy directing style, Miike’s popularity boomed with Fudoh (1996), and was further fueled by Bird People of China (1998), ultimately exploding with Dead or Alive (1999). With Audition, that blaze quickly spread overseas and his unique visual style won both the KNF award and FIPRESCI prize at the 29th Rotterdam International Film Festival. He also ranked as the tenth “most promising film directors” chosen by TIME magazine. Since then, Takashi Miike, one of the busiest directors in Japan, directing at a fast pace of a few films per year ranging from “gokudo” films to musicals including The City of Lost Souls (2000), Ichi the Killer (2001), The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), Graveyard Of Honor (2002) and Zebraman (2003). In 2003, Gozu screened at the Cannes International Film Festival, becoming the first ever made-for-video film to be selected as a Director’s Fortnight official selection. In 2004, he directed One Missed Call, which was a major hit at the box office while IZO competed in the official section at the Venice International Film Festival. The Great Yokai War (2005) was another huge commercial success, while A Big Ban Love: Juvenile was screened in the Berlin International Film Festival’s Panorama section. His first English language horror feature, “Masters of Horror – Imprint” was banned in the U.S. for its unexpectedly disturbing scenes.

His upcoming film slate is full of exciting projects including: Bishonen and Yattaaman (Spring 2009). In addition to directing, Miike has starred in numerous films including Kenka No Hanamichi (1996) and Agitator, which he also directed, Kyoufu!! Namamushi Yakata No San-shimai (1997 directed by Takeshi Miyasaka) and Last Life In The Universe (2003 directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaluang), The Neighbor No. Thirteen (2005 directed by Yasuo Inoue) and Hostel (2006 directed by Eli Roth). Quentin Tarantino, who executive produced Hostel, makes an appearance in Sukiyaki Western Django, an exchange of friendship between two film geniuses.

Image Source:
Official stills used in the original international release for the film.

Related Links:
::: IMDb Profile

Leave a Reply