179. HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (dir. Miike Takashi, 2011) (Hong Kong International Film Festival)
I have been very vocal about my love for Miike’s previous film, 13 ASSASSINS, which was my favourite film of 2010 and marked a welcome departure for the director into more mature and austere filmmaking. That film showed he could be grand but also throw down a hell of a good fight and brought a rich understanding of and love for the jidaigeki genre. I am also incredibly fond of Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 film Harakiri, and so the prospect of Miike reinterpreting that story had me incredibly excited. That excitement was tempered somewhat upon hearing that the director planned to shoot the film, which essentially revolves around a group of men talking in a courtyard, in 3D. I wasn’t sure exactly what the extra dimension would add to the audience experience, and as it turns out my concerns were justified. While Miike does faithfully retell the story, and brings a rich colour palette to the story that had previously been filmed in high contract monochrome, the 3D brings nothing to the film. The performances are strong enough, in particular Ebizo Ichikawa as the grieving father at the centre of this sombre chamber piece. However, where the original had a satirical bite to it, flagrantly ridiculing the outdated rituals and code of honour by which the samurai govern themselves, this is absent from Miike’s version, leaving the film rather devoid of meaning beyond its surface drama.