Take one renegade Japanese director, set him to work on a Spaghetti Western, add a cameo by a talkative American filmmaker, and what do you get? First place in the indie four-day weekend box office race. Sukiyaki Western Django, directed by the prolific and extremely versatile Takashi Miike and featuring Quentin Tarantino in a small role, tore it up at the single Manhattan theatre where it opened, grossing $13,100, according to estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo. The version released in the US does not represent Miike's original vision, however.
Distributor First Look edited 20 or so minutes for the bastardized edition currently playing, so this is a muted triumph. *
The light-hearted I Served the King of England had the right stuff to average $8,487 per screen at eight locations. Directed by Jirí Menzel, the film stars Ivan Barnev, Oldrich Kaiser, and the always wonderful Julia Jentsch. Naked Penélope Cruz outdrew mostly-clothed Penélope Cruz, as Elegy bested Vicky Christina Barcelona on per-screen numbers, $5,697 to $5,102. To be fair, however, Woody Allen's latest is playing on nearly 700 screens and cracked the Top 10; it's made more than $13 million so far, though Elegy's $1.7 million is nothing to sneeze at in the specialty field. Right behind came two consistent cold-weather flicks, Frozen River ($5,028 per screen) and Transsiberian ($4,728). The more temperate Tell No One blew past $4 million in total US earnings in its ninth week, averaging $4,480 at 102 theaters.
Up next? Chris Smith's very good drama The Pool opens on Wednesday; Friday will see the release of Chris Eska's entrancing poetic drama August Evening, Jessica Yu's playful comedy Ping Pong Playa, romantic comedy Everybody Wants to Be Italian, thriller Mister Foe, drama Save Me, and the self-explanatory comedy/drama Surfer, Dude.
* UPDATE: A representative for First Look says that the company acquired the film after it had already been edited from 121 minutes to 98 minutes, and further states that Miike did the editing. My apologies for the error.
As a further aside, the original-length version screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2007 and was released in Japan shortly thereafter.