Excruciating story of poverty early in the Pax Tokugawa

Miike’s remake in color of “Harakiri”


hara-kiri

(3/5)


Pros: actors

Cons: trying to improve on a perfect movie

I think that Mike Takashi’s 3-D color 2011 “Hara-Kiri” is a pointless remake of Kobayashi Masaki’s very great (1962 b&w) version of Takiguchi Yasuhiko’s novel Ibun rônin-ki. I was surprised that it was shorter than the original (128:133 minutes). Both have prolonged scenes of immobile samurai talking, before the final explosion of violence. I thought that Eita was excellent as Motome, the son-in-law raised by Hanshirô (Ichikawa Ebizô, who is good, but not as coiled or as charismatic as Nakadai Tatsuya in Kobayashi’s version). (Ishihama Akira was also very impressive as the gentle teacher, a samurai who had no experience of battle.)


The basic story is excruciating, but IMO Kobayashi’s movie did not seem also to be excruciatingly, boringly slow. In Kobayashi’s version, Hanshirô is shot after the retainers cannot handle him, and the shogun praises the House of Li for its handling of the ronin suicides. Kobayashi aimed to show the hollowness of the “code of honor,” about which Miike seems more equivocal, though certainly he also shows the suffering of the former warrior elite with the coming of peace (the pax Togukawa that began a decade before the farthest reach of flashbacks in the movie, though there are allusions to Hanshirô fighting in the decisive 1600 Battle of Sekigahara).

Hara-kiri2Sakamoto’ Ryuichi provided a strong musical score (as is his wont; Kobayashi had the services of Takemitsu Toru). And Kita Nobuyasu’s cinematography is as good as for Miike’s previous movie, the 2010 “13 Assassins” (Jûsan-nin no shikaku).

Both versions are harrowing (as was the “Human Conditions” trilogy with Nakadai directed by Kobayahsi). I prefer“Samurai Rebellion” (“Jôi-uchi: Hairyô tsuma shimatsu”, 1967), in which Kobayashi directed Nakadai and Mifune Toshiro in an adaptation of another novel by  Takiguchi Yasuhiko (and with one of Takemitsu’s best movie scores).

2 thoughts on “Excruciating story of poverty early in the Pax Tokugawa”


  1. Wow…Miike must be losing his touch as he ages. Considering the guy made some of the most manic and utterly wacko films I’ve ever seen, I never thought I’d hear anything he made be described as boring.

    Of course, I’m not sure why exactly he or the producers would have felt the need to fund this remake in the first place. Thanks for the review; guess I’ll be skipping this one.

  2. It’s positively decorous in contrast to his earlier (indeed “manic”) movie. Remaking “13 Assassins” was one thing — hardly anyone had seen the original. But Kobayashi’s movie is justly venerated and readily available here on Criterion Collection blu-ray and, earlier, DVD.


    Despite being a bit bored in the middle of Miike’s version, it’s not a bad movie, and knowing what was coming with every painful twist (of story and bamboo blade) may be why I was impatient.

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