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IMPRESSIVE, NON-GLAMOROUS AND DEPRESSING PORTRAIT OF A SAMURAI IN POVERTY.
on 6 February 2015
REVIEWED VERSION: 2012 Revolver Entertainment UK DVD (2D version) (Region 2)
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Munetaka Aoki, Naoto Takenaka, Hikari Mitsushima, Ebizô Ichikawa, Kazuki Namioka, Takashi Sasano, Takehiro Hira, Eita
Production: Japan / UK 2011
Motome (Eita), a ronin (masterless samurai) living in poverty seeks out a Feudal Lord Saitou Kageyu (Kôji Yakusho) with an unusal request: he wishes to use the lord's courtyard to commit seppuku (honorable ritual suicide). However, Motome does not desire to die. Instead he hopes that the lord will send him away with some ryo (Japanese currency at the time). Unfortunately the lord is tired of this form of "begging" and forces Motome to follow through - even when he sees that Motome only possesses a wooden sword imitation.
A couple of days later, another samurai (Ebizo Ichikawa) appears at Kageyu's door also wishing to commit seppuku in his courtyard. Little does Kageyu know of his connection to Motome and his plans...
THE PROS & CONS
Already the title sequence makes one thing clear from the start with the somber, melancholic score: this is not a typical samurai film we are being presented.
Anyone expecting an action-packed, more "traditional" samurai tale in the style of the Lone Wolf & Cub movie series will probably be disappointed: HARA-KIRI is story-driven and features very few scenes of action - it's a drama, not an action film, something to keep in mind. It tells a non-glamorous story of a samurai's life in poverty, one many of us might not be used to seeing.
I like most of Takashi Miike's work, as I really like his style and story-telling. I am a fan of Japanese samurai movies, so HARA-KIRI was like finding the Holy Grail: it features the best aspects of Miike's directing, but is quite different from his previous films. HARA-KIRI "works" mostly because of the unique story and Miike taking the time to tell it properly, including the background story in full detail. It also does not include the humor, typical for Miike's films - HARA-KIRI is dead serious. This is what makes the film so heart-breaking and makes it a masterpiece.
While being far less violent than some of Takashi Miike's previous works (ICHI THE KILLER), HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI manages to take the audience down in a differnt way - a brutal stab in the heart: it's a very powerful, moving and heartbreaking film with a fabulous finale.
There is one particular scene early on in the film, the ritual suicide, while not excessively graphic, it is dragged out and quite sadistic and might be hard to watch for some.
The acting is formidable. Eita gives us a great and believable opening as Motome, Kôji Yakusho as Kageyu is equally impressive, but it is Ebizo Ichikawa who carries the story, giving the film heart and soul with his impeccable performance.
Nobuyasu Kita's cinematography is brilliant, the costumes department did an awesome job, everything looks just perfect as you would imagine Japan being like during the Edo period.
As I mentioned before, the excellent score by Ryûichi Sakamoto (MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE) adds very much to the film's somber and melancholic mood - minimalistic and quiet, but VERY effective.
Overall HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI is one of the best movie experiences I ever had. It left me breathless a couple of times and I had to rewatch it immediately afterwards. HIGHLY recommended! Note: this is NOT 13 ASSASSINS Part 2!
ON A SIDE NOTE
- was the first 3D title to be shown in official selection at the Cannes Film Festival
- remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film Harakiri
Feature running time: 122:35 mins. (uncut)
MPAA Rating: Unrated
BBFC Rating: 18 (strong bloody violence)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Japanese 5.1, Japanese 2.0
Subtitles: English (optional)
Picture quality: 4/5
Audio quality: 4/5
The good and sharp picture and good audio quality is retained in this DVD edition. On the minus: the absolute lack of extras.
The subtitles are optional. There is NO dubbed English audio track.