Sign in to follow this  

Sumo movies you'll never see

Recommended Posts

Upon browsing through sumo-related files on my computer I found some Bench Sumo bout comments that I've made back in Kyushu 2005. They all go by the thought experiment of what would have happened if particular famous movie directors had made a sumo movie. It might be quite funny to some of you, so I decided to post them here.

Feel free to add other movie scenarios.

If Woody Allen would make a sumo movie:

It would be about a small, under-sized, neurotic rikishi (played by Kakizoe) who has a penchant for art movies, philosophy, and women. Focuses hardly on the dohyo action, but shows numerous pre-bout and post-bout interviews where the protagonist and his relatives provide his backstory and worldview. Features endless sessions with a psychiatrist who tries to talk him through his inferiority complex and his inability to cope with losses on the dohyo. Most of the scenes are inexplicably accompanied by light jazz music.

Working Title: Deconstructing oshidashi.

If Sergio Leone would have made a sumo movie:

Would feature a 2-hour livestream showdown. Three nameless outlaw rikishi, only referred to as The Good (Futeno), The Bad (Miyabiyama), and The Ugly (Iwakiyama) unite to fight the evil villain (gleefully impersonated by Roho) and his European gang of sekitori. Focuses very much on the shikiri situation, interspersed with extreme close-ups on the rikishi faces during nirami-ai. The loooong moments of silence, only underscored by that unmistakable Morricone music lead to sudden outbursts of graphical violence on the dohyo. The ultimate Sumo movie!

Working Title: A Fistful of Kensho

If Spike Lee would make a sumo movie:

It would be a biopic about Sentoryu (played by Spike Lee himself) and his constant fight against latent racism on the dohyo and beyond. Follows Sentoryu's career who was born in Japan, raised in St. Louis, returned to Japan, had a sumo career, endured suffering and humiliation, and after a moment of revelation ("Wake up!") finds his peace by joining PRIDE. Lots of shots of Sentoryu directly addressing the camera, and organized into chapters that start with a quote from either Martin Luther King or Malcolm X.

Working Title: Goin' genki.

If David Lynch would make a sumo movie:

After performing in the Las Vegas Koen two rikishi (Kotonowaka and Ama) are involved in a car accident where both lose their memory and identity. They are stranded somewhere in small-town USA, in a neighbourhood that looks clean and tidy on first sight, but is distorted and rotten beneath. They discover that everybody around here is completely weird, and probably has more than one skeleton in the closet. The first half of the movie is very straightforward, but after a dream sequence involving a red curtain (Ama's fear of being demoted to Makushita??) it gets completely confusing. Suddenly Kotonowaka speaks Mongolian fluently, and Ama discovers that he drowned a young woman many years ago, although he has never been to the States before. The fight scenes are very graphic and exclusively feature hefty tsuppari that lead to head and/or brain damage. Gross.

Working Title: Zabuton Velvet

If Michael Moore would make a sumo movie:

A documentary that superficially touches everything that is wrong with Sumo in a simplified, but fun way. We see Michael Moore with a baseball cap trying to buy steroids in the Kokugikan gift shop. We see Michael Moore with a baseball cap stepping onto the dohyo, shoving the gyoji aside, and shouting into the crowd that every woman in the audience should join him there ("If I can go onto the dohyo, why don't you come over?"). We see Michael Moore with a baseball cap offering both Kokkai and Miyabiyama lots of money if they are doing a simultaneous henka at tachi-ai, thereby making complete fools of themselves. We see Michael Moore in a baseball cap trying to persuade Asashoryu to break with all cultural, neo-con habits ("Hey buddy, why won't you take the kensho with the left hand for a change. See how they'll roar!") We see Michael Moore in a baseball cap repeatedly shouting to Hokutoriki between his twelve matta : "Why don't you donate your yaocho money for a fund that protects baby seals, Mr. Hokutoriki?" at the top of his lungs. We see Michael Moore in a baseball cap.

Working Title: Kitanoumi and Me

If Kevin Costner (or Mel Gibson) would make a sumo movie:

About an American cop in his late 30s (played by the director) whose wife died in a car crash which turns him into a depressed alcoholic. One day he tries to hunt down a group of yakuza who terrorize downtown Chicago. Of course his corrupt boss works for the yakuza and therefore suspends him from his duties. Nonetheless Costner (or Gibson) tries to solve the case, but something goes awry, and he is drugged and kidnapped by the yakuza who bring him to Japan. Completely stranded he starts a career in a sumo stable where he is bullied by a heinous oyakata (played by Tomozuna). Numerous close-ups of his torment. When his only friend in the heya, the gentle giant Yamato gets killed on the dohyo, Costner (or Gibson), though being a lowly Jonidan rikishi, takes revenge. He gives up drinking, and in typical Hollywood fashion suddenly faces the evil yokozuna (played by the evil yokozuna) on senshuraku for the yusho-deciding bout. His face will be tsupparied to pulp, he will be tsuridashied, kotenaged, and oshied through the dohyo, but miraculously escapes as soon the tawara is near. Suddenly he invents a new kimarite and thrusts the evil yokozuna into the clay. He identifies the yokozuna as the leader of the yakuza gang, handcuffs the villain, and delivers a 20-minute speech about freedom, moral values, and freedom. Then he takes over the stable and teaches poor street-children to sekitorihood - of course in his own, horse-whisperer style. Running time: 4 hrs 30.

Working title: Dances with the tawara.

If Andrei Tarkovsky would have made a sumo movie:

Would be about a Czech amateur sumo wrestler (ShiroiKuma playing himself) who searches for his soul by fully committing to Sumoudou. Nothing would really happen in this movie, we would see close-ups of the rikishi, loads of fog over the dohyo, mystical appearances, beautiful scenery, and endless moments of silent contemplation about the spirituality of the world surrounding us. Though not a movie for those with a shortened attention span, everyone else will find himself magically enchanted by the beauty of its haunting images. The reflection on sumoudou would win every award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Working Title: Sumoudou

If George A. Romero would make a sumo movie:

Inexplicably, the dead raise from their graves and wreak havoc in Tokyo. A small group of survivors flees into the Kokugikan, but to their horror they witness a basho between zombies (who all look suspiciously like Miyabiyama). The zombies feed on the living, and various extremely gory scenes picture the bouts between the undead, decapitations included. Defenders of this genre will notice the subtle societal criticisms lurking behind the carnage - Miyabiyama as the modern-day sumotori, lacking spirit or mindfulness, just living on primeval instincts.

Working Title: Dohyo of the Dead

If Alfred Hitchcok would have made a sumo movie:

Tells the story about a tall, handsome guy (played by David Beckham) who, in a case of mistaken identity, is abducted by a bunch of Japanese women (all of them blond!) who think that he is Kotooshu. Beckham is forced by a very blond lady to replace Kotooshu. The plot thickens when Beckham learns that the real Kotooshu has disappeared, and that all his next-day opponents mysteriously go kyujo before the bout with him, thus making him the prime suspect in a sumo conspiracy. The movie features the mandatory director's cameo (as Chiganoura oyakata, look at the similarity), and includes three scenes that make film history: 1) The famous oshitaoshi scene, where a real bout between Asashoryu and Kotooshu (duration: 2 seconds) is cut into 90 little splices filmed from various angles; 2) The protagonist, desperately trying to run away from a fast approaching zabuton; 3) A long camera move towards the back of a woman who sits in a chair. Suddenly her head is tilted back and completely horrified we see

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Prefer Woody Allen, but the Michael Moore version fits into our times (Sign of approval...)


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Can I have a Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood versions please...Thanks.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good stuff! Some are quite credible actually...

From you, I would have expected some German directors like Wenders, Herzog or Fassbinder (although maybe that one would have to be censored) to be included. And how about some silent movies by Murnau and/or Fritz Lang?

Funnily enough that reminds me of a spectacular sumo bout between wrestlers going by the shikona "Sergent Brown" and "Mickey" (a Kotomitsuki lookalike?) in Herzog's beautiful recent documentary Grizzly Man. Anybody seen it?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this