Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai a.k.a. Ichimei
Positives:An excellent remake worthy of the original.
Negatives:A bit bland for the eye colorwise.
A man knocks at the door and asks to die. Do you believe him? And if so, do you help him?
TO REMAKE OR NOT TO REMAKE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
“Ichimei” or “Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai” is Takashi Miike‘s 2012 remake of the extraordinary 1962 classic “Seppuku” ( or “Harakiri“ ), that one directed by Masaki Kobayashi. If you feel like this might be a little too ambitious of a project for someone like Miike, fear not. His last project was “13 Assassins” ( which was reviewed right here on AMP ), a similar type of film with parallel themes and a striking resemblance in terms of visuals.
The story goes as follows: A ronin requests an audience with the regent of a powerful samurai clan. Once he is permitted to enter the grounds, the wandering warrior makes a startling demand: he requests the use of the clan’s courtyard in order to perform hara-kiri ( suicide by disembowelment ). Now, this is where the story gets even stranger…
As the conversation continues, the regent reveals an interesting piece of information: this is, in fact, not the first time that an unusual request like this one has been made. In fact, someone of the exact same background as our poor ronin passed through the same gates not too long ago. “Would you like to hear his story?” the lord says. “Please proceed. I am listening.” the masterless samurai replies…
Okay, so the story seems on the right track. But what about the acting? Surely, a remake wouldn’t come close to the original in terms of acting! ( or so you would think… ) Thankfully, and quite unexpectedly, the acting in this one is on par, or at the very least just a couple of hairs shy of that mark, with the 1962 version. Ebizo Ichikawa, the actor who plays the ronin Hanshiro Tsugumo this time around, goes so far as mimicking the mannerisms of the original Tsugumo ( that one played by the great Tatsuya Nakadai ). Having seen both, I don’t feel any shame in liking the updated version as well.
Then there’s the lord regent, Kageyu, portrayed by Koji Yakusho. This marks the second film in a row that Koji Yakusho and Takashi Miike have contributed to, which is always the sign of a good partnership. He’s on top of his game right now, and it shows once again thanks to his acting style: minimal, but sharp as a Ginsu knife. These two characters will consume a large part of the story and dialogue, which is a risky move, but the electricity that flows between them will keep you hooked, no doubt.
As stated earlier, the costumes and set designs reminded me instantly of what we recently saw in “13 Assassins”. A lot of brown and grey and black that doesn’t really catch the eye in any way but somehow that doesn’t completely ruin the cinematography either. If you can snag a copy in Blu-ray, do so, I’m sure that will help. The music, however, really shines here. It fits the mood brilliantly and highlights the dark tones of this story perfectly.
In conclusion, let me start off by saying that I absolutely loved the original. That being said, this movie right here had big shoes to fill. So what’s my final verdict? “Ichimei” is excellent. In terms of remakes it’s almost flawless. Yes, there’s almost nothing new to see here if you’ve already seen the original. But that was a long time ago and most people have not had the pleasure of seeing this little gem. Call the first one a diamond and we’ll call this one a cubic zirconia! Amateurs won’t be able to tell the difference.
TRAILER [SPOILER MEGA ALERT]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29El4phRPawHara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai a.k.a. Ichimei,