Sukiyaki: A popular Japanese dish made with beef and usually containing soy sauce, bean curd, and greens, cooked in a single pot at the table. Simple ingredients cooked together without added broths to create a unique essence that is truly Japanese.
Django: A cult film considered by many as one of the best examples of the spaghetti western, with a stirring musical score, gunfights, and a quiet anti-hero who famously drags a coffin.
Taking these definitions from some of the promotional material I've read for Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django saves a lot of time in trying to explain this eclectic film. As the title metaphor implies, it's a mixed pot of flavors. There's a bit of the West, a bit of the East, and even a cameo appearance by Quentin Tarantino.
Loosely speaking, it's a western action movie. It features a Clint Eastwood-style man with no name (played by Hideaki Ito), a lone gunfighter who's playing two rival gangs against each other for his own purposes. As director Miike explains in a making-of featurette, you already know this story, so skip trying to understand it and get straight to enjoying it.
Miike is best known in the United States for his extremely violent and perverse horror and action films, such as Audition and Ichi the Killer. Yet he's one of Japans most prolific filmmakers, with over 70 films, TV specials, and videos to his credit. He?s worked in a number of different genres and styles, and that range is profoundly evident in Sukiyaki Western Django.
One of the most fascinating things about watching this movie is how familiar everything is, yet how strange it seems. Miike has his Japanese cast speak English as best they can, imbuing clichéd lines that we've all heard thousands of times with strange rhythms. The costuming is based in westerns but given a punk edge. There are gunfights and swordfights and mixtures of the two that blend the traditional iconographies of spaghetti westerns and samurai epics into a unique style.
And style is really what the film is all about. For some, it will be off-putting,a film so impressed with its own inventiveness that it fails to draw them in. For others, it'll be a sublime mixture of the pop culture of multiple eras'a high-speed, full-color Frankenstein messiah for genres that have long since ceased being innovative. While I could endlessly pick apart and analyze its idiosyncrasies, I'll take a page from Miike and just say that it's a pretty damned cool ride. But it really all depends, I suppose, on how you like your sukiyaki.