The past is the present: Both Masaki Kobayashi’s Cannes-feted Harakiri (1962) and prolific gore-teur Takashi Miike’s contemplative 3-D remake use the tale of a disgraced 17th-century samurai (Kôji Yakusho in Miike’s version) intent on committing seppuku—or so he says—as a pretext to address modern ills. Kobayashi’s brusque period feature was a thinly disguised broadside against the postwar Japanese populace’s longing for hypocritically humble feudal-era traditions that tended to break down along class lines. The poorer you were, the more likely you’d be slicing open your stomach in the name of honor.
That critique is there in Miike’s version, also set in the Tokugawa period, though it has the intentionally deflating feel of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” The biggest change is the treatment of the prior film’s flashback structure—revealing where our cynical protagonist came from—which is played more for melodrama than agitprop. Yet what most distinguishes the redo is the often remarkable use of 3-D: Miike turns the format’s inherent limitations, especially the tendency toward visual murkiness, to his advantage, fully immersing us in a world suffused with moral and ethical rot. Even the cleanest spaces, such as the gleaming courtyard where the samurai unfolds his tale, seem tainted by a corruption that can never be scrubbed away—just pointed out, then covered up for future generations to ignore.
Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich