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Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

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Overview

Japanese auteur Takashi Miike takes an uncharacteristically serious and somber approach to this moody period tale of honor and revenge. In the 17th century, Japan is enjoying an era of calm and tranquility, which is good news for most people but bad news for the samurai, the class of professional soldiers who now find themselves without jobs or a sense of purpose. Hanshiro Ebizo Ichikawa is a samurai who, with no money and no prospects, has arrived at the House of Ii, hoping to use its courtyard as a setting for ...
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Overview

Japanese auteur Takashi Miike takes an uncharacteristically serious and somber approach to this moody period tale of honor and revenge. In the 17th century, Japan is enjoying an era of calm and tranquility, which is good news for most people but bad news for the samurai, the class of professional soldiers who now find themselves without jobs or a sense of purpose. Hanshiro Ebizo Ichikawa is a samurai who, with no money and no prospects, has arrived at the House of Ii, hoping to use its courtyard as a setting for the suicide ritual known as hara-kiri. However, the ruler of the House if Ii, Kageyu Koji Yakusho, has been hearing similar requests often as of late, and he knows most of them are emotional blackmail, attempts to persuade the members of the house to give the samurai money. To show what he thinks of such shameless appeals, Kageyu tells Hanshiro the story of one such warrior, Motome Eita, who had his bluff called and was forced to take his own life with a dull weapon made of bamboo. But Kageyu is unaware of the connection between Hanshiro and Motome, and he underestimates the impact this story will have on Hanshiro. Adapted from Masaki Kobayashi's celebrated 1962 feature Harakiri, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai aka Ichimei was also one of the first 3-D features to debut at the Cannes Film Festival.
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Special Features

Geoffrey Gilmore, From Tribeca Film, Discusses Hara-Kiri, Presented By American Express
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
At one crucial moment during the climax of Takashi Miike's Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, the character Hanshiro Tsugamo masterfully played by Ebizô Ichikowa, sits before the entire House of Li after requesting to commit ritual suicide in their courtyard, and offers the following commentary on the tragic fate of his surrogate son, Motome Eita: "The life of a samurai depends entirely on twists of fate, leading to glory or tragedy." Of course anyone who happens to have seen the 1962 Masaki Kobayashi film that Miike's remake is based on or just about any Miike movie, for that matter, can guess with a certain sense of confidence where the twists of fate lead the main characters in this undertaking. The real surprise -- and the reason why the drama in this particular samurai picture is so profoundly affecting -- is the deeply humanistic portrayal of characters generally seen as stoic and rigidly honor-bound. The setting is 17th century Japan. With peace widespread and no wars to fight, many noble samurai have fallen into poverty and grown deeply despondent. In desperation, some have resorted to a form of emotional blackmail known as a suicide bluff. The process involves an impoverished samurai showing up at the house of a well-known lord, and requesting to commit hara-kiri on their grounds in hopes that the lord will take pity on them, offer up a place in the house or a few mon the currency of the time, and disregard the request. As the practice becomes more widespread, the senior retainer at the House of Li, Kageyu Koji Yakusho decrees that any samurai who makes such a request be bound to their word. When Hanshiro shows up making just such an appeal, Kageyu relays the painful story of Motome -- the last samurai to do so. Forced to commit hara-kiri with a dull bamboo sword, Motome suffered a slow and agonizing death. When the story is finished and the time comes for Hanshiro to end his own life, he shares a tragic tale of his own, in the process revealing his true intentions for requesting to commit ritual suicide in the House of Li. With his 2010 remake 13 Assassins, eclectic director Miike revealed himself to be something genuinely unique in the realm of cinema -- a renegade filmmaker with a firm grasp on classical sensibilities. There's no denying that 13 Assassins had its fair share of bloodshed, but it also managed to catch many longtime Miike critics off guard by showing that a director commonly associated with extreme violence could successfully tell a traditional story with a certain amount of style and restraint. He continues to develop those traits -- and quite effectively -- in Hara-Kiri, a deeply affecting meditation on humanity in which more tears are shed than blood. Miike fans hoping for something resembling the rousing final 50 minutes of 13 Assassins may walk away somewhat disappointed by the marked lack of swordplay in Hara-Kiri, but anyone seeking proof that the director is genuinely as versatile as his eclectic filmography suggests will have a newfound respect for him as a dramatist capable of true cinematic poetry. Reteaming with 13 Assassins cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita, Miike gives Hara-Kiri an elegant look that makes the tragedy of the story all the more impactful. Subtle camera movements, mesmerizing compositions, and confident, uninterrupted shots allow us to lose ourselves in a story that shows how even in times of peace, suffering doesn't cease, while Kikumi Yamagishi's carefully structured screenplay highlights with exemplary artistry the moments of joy and sorrow woven throughout the film. None of this would amount to much without an actor capable of carrying the movie, and as a character who has endured unimaginable suffering, Ichikowa is a revelation. His skills are nearly matched by that of his strikingly gaunt co-star Eita. Meanwhile, possessed of a classical sensibility befitting of a contemporary work set centuries on the past, the score by composer Ryûichi Sakamoto The Last Emperor, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is both exquisite and timeless, making Miike's latest foray into more traditional storytelling one of his absolute strongest achievements in a long and varied career.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/22/2013
  • UPC: 767685282397
  • Original Release: 2011
  • Rating:

  • Source: New Video Group
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Time: 2:06:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 27,746

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ebizo Ichikawa Hanshiro
Eita Motome, Young Ronin
Hikari Mitsushima Miho
Naoto Takenaka Tajiri
Munetaka Aoki Hikokuro Omodaka
Takashi Sasano Priest
Baijaku Nakamura Jinnai Chijiiwa
Koji Yakusho Kageyu
Technical Credits
Takashi Miike Director
Kikumi Yamagishi Director, Screenwriter
Tetsuya Fujimura Associate Producer
Yuji Hayashida Art Director
Nobuyasu Kita Cinematographer
Noriko Koyanagi Co-producer
Kazuko Kurosawa Costumes/Costume Designer
Shigeji Maeda Producer
Toshiaki Nakazawa Producer
Koji Omura Makeup
Olm Rakueisha Co-producer
Ryuichi Sakamoto Score Composer
Misako Saka Producer
Jeremy Thomas Producer
Kenji Yamashita Editor
Shinya Zenda Production Manager
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2013

    This is an exceptional remake of a Mifune movie. Cinematogrpahy

    This is an exceptional remake of a Mifune movie. Cinematogrpahy has greatly imporved since the original and Miike uses such masterfully to create a visually stunning portrait awash with brilliant color however, never garish.
    The actiing is capitvating, like a ballet that draws the viewer in as it moves smoothly through this tragic tale of the era.
    If you are looking for a typical samuria, sword and slash movie, lacking in plot then you will be disappointed. There is action in the final scene / chapters however, it is the story itself that is the movie.
    This film is a delight to the eye and a joy to the heart that out shines the original. It is hoped that you will enjoy it as much as this one did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews