Thursday, 7 June 2012


A stately period drama which, although touching on the traditions of the samurai, Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai (3D) is an almost 180 degree change of pace from Takashi Miike's previous feature, 13 Assassins (which played at SFF last year).

When retired samurai Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa) arrives at the house of his feudal lord requesting a ritual suicide (the Hara-kiri of the title), the lord (Koji Yakusho) recounts for him the tale of a young ronin who recently came to the house making a similar request.

The film then flashes back to explain how that young man, poor and newly-fathered, came to meet his death. That young man, Motome (Eita), also happens to be Hanshiro's son-in-law, and Hanshiro is seeking revenge for the wrong that has been dealt his family.

A tale of revenge, Hara-Kiri is also a study in the corruptive and corrosive power of rigid compliance to a way of life, in this instance the samurai code. Rather than turning Motome away with some money (which is what Motome had expected, having heard rumours of fake suicide requests having been met with a financial hand-out), the lord decides to make an example of the man, calling his bluff and enforcing the suicide.

Motome is forced to perform the ritual suicide without, shall we say, the appropriate hardware resulting in one of the most horrid scenes of the film year thus far (if not graphically, then certainly aurally). Seriously, I had my hands over my 3D glasses during this scene but I could still hear what was happening.

Thankfully, this scene occurs early in the first act, and Hara-Kiri proceeds as a period drama from then on, although the climax will sate those hankering for some samurai action.

It seems strange to me that Miike, a noted genre-hopper, would choose to shoot Hara-Kiri in 3D, the first such film to compete in official competition at Cannes (2011): 13 Assassins with its impressive action sequences seems like a more perfect fit for the medium.

A beautiful looking film is a beautiful looking film, in 2D or 3D, and Hara-Kiri (shot by Nobuyasu Kita) would lose nothing without those glasses. Admittedly, there is one scene where rain ever so gradually transforms into snow which almost justifies the use of the third dimension.

Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai (3D)(distributed by Icon Films) opens in Australia October 18.

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