Monday, May 21, 2012

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei • 一命 (2011)
Genre: Drama
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Eita, Ebizô Ichikawa, Hikari Mitsushima
Language: Japanese
Duration: 126 min.
Rating: 6.7
An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him, things take an unexpected turn.
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a remake by Takashi Miike of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 classic Harakiri. It premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Miike, one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, quickly follows up his wildly successful blood splattered remake of 13 Assassins, with another retelling of a 50 year old picture. Whereas that one was a little known obscurity, this time he makes the bold attempt of updating an undisputed classic, some would even say masterpiece.

To his credit, Miike shows some excellent restraint, leaving the original story intact while also resisting the urge to turn it into something it isn't. There were plenty of opportunities for him to exploit the 3D effects to gore it up and go for maximum shock effect, something he has been known to do in the past; and while he does make a few interesting changes to small details here and there, overall he wisely stays true to the subtle and sombre tone of the original.

The film also looks fantastic, with a good mix of static compositions and slow gliding movements. It's shot on RED digital giving it that super crisp look, with colors that pop out, and a great light contrast that comes as close to replicating the same feeling of the monochrome original as possible.

Even the acting is solid all around. Kôji Yakusho, who also starred in 13 Assassins, brings his usual strong presence, this time to the role of heartless clan lord Kageyu; and Ebizô Ichikawa in the lead role of Hanshirô Tsugumo, had the impossible shoes of legendary actor Tatsuya Nakadai to fill, and while he may not possess the same level of simmering intensity or charisma, he never falters in the many long and steady closeups. 

On its own, this would be a pretty damn good film. The problem is, aside from a more modern look, it simply doesn't add any significant artistic or dramatic value to the original. Sure at the end of the day it's a faithful remake, but beyond that it doesn't really provide anything compelling to justify it's existence. Good but pointless.
Bonjour Tristesse
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai • Ichimei (2011)


d_4 said...

Well it sounds cool, but.. then I guess so does the original. Which is the one I'll keep on the list.

Sub Radar said...

Quite a bold move, trying to modernize a film that many hold dear. From the look of it, it looks like he doesn't disappoint.

David Zou said...

There are some films that just are un-remakable,Harakiri is one of them.

FrontRoomCinema said...

I HAVE SEEN THIS!!! Not very often can I say that when I pop in here BT.

I saw it last year at a festival and I quite enjoyed it. The opening scene was a hard watch mind. Also I quite enjoyed the 3D aspect which brought the film alive in the final act.

The original is better though... with out a DOUBT!

The Angry Lurker said...

I enjoyed the original and would probably give this a go just for that and the director!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Definitely see the original. It's superior in every way that counts.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah that was a poor choice by Miike and his producers.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I love how excited you are about that. :)

I didn't see it in 3D, but in 2D you can still tell what he was trying to do with the set geometry and it works for the most part, except for the falling snow, that seemed overly artificial to me, also I imagine some of the details of the dark interior scenes would have been very difficult to see with those glasses on.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah that's the same reason why I gave it a watch. It's worth a look for curiosity sake.

Chip Lary said...

Thanks for referencing the original. I've seen that one and when I saw that it had been remade, my first reaction was "why?" It's interesting to see that it's not just Hollywood that is remaking the classics from the past.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yep, unfortunately producers everywhere have caught the nasty remake bug. There are some classics that are so good that they don't need to be retold, and this one really should have been left alone.

Jason Miyamoto said...

Nobody beats Nakadai .. those eyes...

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