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"The Big Gundown" Screens at Balboa Theatre, 1/27

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 25, 2016 06:07pm | Post a Comment

The Big Gundown

-- By Brett Stillo

The Spaghetti Western is a paradoxical film genre. Highly imitative and repetitive, hundreds of Spaghetti Westerns were blasted out by Italian movie studios in the 1960s like bullets from a Gatling Gun, carbon The Big Gundowncopies of carbon copies of Sergio Leone’s groundbreaking Dollars trilogy. And yet, the derivative nature of these films is part of what gives them their pulpy charm. We know what we’re in for -- ruthless characters with dirty clothes and sunburned faces shooting it out on dusty streets in some nameless border town (AKA Southern Spain). We not only expect all of that, we want it.

The Big Gundown, from 1966, has all those elements and more. It’s arguably the greatest Spaghetti Western without Sergio Leone’s name in the credits. Ironically, another Sergio directed this film -- veteran Italian director Sergio Solima, who crafts an epic chase film in which the bad guys are pitted against worse guys.

And in The Big Gundown, the baddest of the bad is the one and only Lee Van Cleef, arguably one of the genre’s biggest stars second only to Clint Eastwood. Van Cleef is Satan with a Six-Gun, cutting an intimidating presence with his razor-sharp face and impossibly narrow eyes. Van Cleef’s foil is the dynamic Tomas Milan as a roguish peasant-thief who prefers the knife over the gun.

Solima keeps the action moving rolling along, set to the tempo of an operatic score composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone. This is an impressive restoration of a film that had languished for decades. It will be playing for one night only, this Wednesday, January 27th at San Francisco’s historic Balboa Theatre. If you miss this one, Lee Van Cleef might come looking for you.

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Sukiyaki Western Django

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 14, 2008 11:25am | Post a Comment
Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django
Japanese director Takashi Miike is a freak. Based on ongoing discussions I've held with friends and co-workers I'd say his films seem very either/or; anyone who has seen even one of his films has undoubtedly come to the conclusion that they've either seen one Miike film too many or that they've become Miike movie addicts. I've seen only a few films of his that could be categorized as middling (my favorite is one of these: the wonderful musical-comedy-horror farce Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)), and plenty ofQuentin Tarantino in Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django others I had trouble watching or couldn't finish due to the shocking visual content his stories are often soaked in. Being highly prolific (he has directed over seventy theatrical, video and television productions since 1991 and is credited with directing fifteen productions from 2001 to 2002 alone) and internationally famous for making movies capable of churning stomachs and blowing minds with such outrageous depictions of extreme violence and bizarre sexual perversions in underworld or otherworldy settings that often involve gangsters, outsiders and general sickos, it is no surprise Miike's films caught Quentin Tarantino's eye. It is a surprise, however, to see Tarantino himself all gunslingin' and gussied up in the opening sequence of Miike's latest creation, made available this Tuesday on DVD, Sukiyaki Western Djangoturduckin for thanksgivingI was so not expecting his performance or much of what followed, but I can say that I had a good night of movie magic enjoyment.

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