Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai may actually be better than 13 Assassins.

Hard to believe I know, and yes, I love Ichi the Killer too (I even enjoyed the craziness of Izo), but with Hara-Kiri, all the typical weirdness you might expect from a Miike film is gone. Here you have a true master with 90 directing credits to his name showing you how it's done. He's through playing around, and I don't think anyone can ignore his talent. This movie easily ranks up there with Kurosawa's Mifune classics. Heresy you say? I don't think so. True, it's a remake, but does that make John Carpenter's The Thing any less of a masterpiece? No. The way the story unfolds, the gorgeous cinematography, the superb acting, the excellent music, the amazing attention to detail, etc. It's all as good as it gets. When the end credits rolled, I was shocked to discover some CGI was used, because unlike 13 Assassins, which was fucking awesome aside from the really-shitty-looking flaming-bulls near the end (and I could've done without the little naked kid peeing), Hara-Kiri's computer effects are absolutely seamless. Now, I know it's stupid of me to say anything bad about 13 Assassins when that movie is undeniably fucking awesome (I just really hate bad CGI especially in classic-style period films), but my point is Hara-Kiri doesn't have a single thing I can nitpick. It's that good, and yes, I do tend to nitpick. But Hara-Kiri is flawless. It even managed to get to me emotionally, and I wasn't expecting that. Only a few movies have ever done that... yes, my heart is a burning pile of ash.

It just proves you can't pigeonhole a filmmaker. Before 13 Assassins, who knew Takashi Miike could make a film like that? Thankfully, someone was smart enough to trust him and let him show us all we don't know shit about what he's capable of. It's so crazy looking at all the movies he has done and how he makes 2 or 3 almost every year. That's just insane, and yeah, some of his films are pretty nuts, but damn, he's inspiring.

Spoilers. Using the bamboo sword at the end (especially after he says his sword was his most prized possession and then it's revealed he got rid of the blade) has to be the coolest fucking thing ever. And I was told that isn't in the original. What a brilliant fucking idea. He doesn't need to use a real sword. He can humiliate them all with a bamboo one. Yeah, I'm a loser, and I love samurai films a little too much, but Hara-Kiri is fucking awesome.

Some reviewers said it was a little cold and distant emotionally. For me, seeing those two adorable innocent kids who had nothing to eat but some water and the tiniest bit of vegetable really got to me especially when the boy wanted so much to catch a fish for Miho yet you know the awful fate that awaits them. A lot of the film's heart is in the details like Miho's father telling them to go ahead and eat since he's meeting someone, but you know the truth is he just won't be eating and he doesn't want them to know.

I really think that time period is by far the most interesting for the samurai since you had what used to be a rich upper-class caste forced into extreme poverty as the entire country underwent a massive change and the way each individual reacted to such a grim situation says so much about their character. It's perfect for drama, and in some ways, how one deals with such overwhelming adversity, how one confronts the end, reveals the deepest truth of all about who we really are as people. Yep, I'm a loser.

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