Book & Film Reviews


Takashi Miike's glorious eastern western is a paen to spaghetti westerns, American westerns, samurai movies and even Shakespeare. Whilst there has been a spaghetti western featuring Tatsuya Nakadai (1968's Today It's Me Tomorrow It's You) and an Italian character in Japan (The Stranger in Japan, also 1968) there's nothing quite like the cinematic mash up presented here.

The Japanese cast speak English and yet even though it sounds stranger than the mangled mid atlantic spaghetti western dubs (which were Brechtian at their best and extremely crude at their worst) it just works. One character even wryly asks "You're not going to pull a Yojimbo - are you?" thus referencing Kurosawa's Japanese A Fistful of Dollars remake. Things go in a very different direction however and the film becomes a truly revisionist take not only on the 1966 Django movie (starring Franco Nero) but also Day of Anger (1967) The Big Silence (1968) and A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) whilst also referencing the Lone Wolf and Cub legacy. The costumes of the reds and the whites (the two clans battling for gold) are anachronistic but very stylish and the colours are rich and decadent (for a western)

There's gunplay, Toto like comic relief, feminist politics, Japanese philosophy, musical interludes and some classic Takashi Miike trademarks (eggs,birds,babies) This is a gem of a movie and I'm very surprised it wasn't a bigger crossover hit which could have easily spawned several sequels perhaps set in Italy itself. Perhaps Miike will get round to it at some point in his (in)glorious career. 4/5

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