CANNES 2011 - Competition
Seeking a noble end, poverty-stricken samurai Hanshiro requests to commit ritual suicide at the House of Ii, run by headstrong Kageyu. Trying to dismiss Hanshiro's demand, Kageyu recounts the tragic story of a similar recent plea from young ronin Motome. Hanshiro is shocked by the horrifying details of Motome's fate, but remains true to his decision to die with honor. At the moment of the hara-kiri, Hanshiro makes a last request to be assisted by Kageyu’s samurai, who are coincidentally absent. Suspicious and outraged, Kageyu demands an explanation. Hanshiro confesses his bond to Motome, and tells the bittersweet tale of their lives. Kageyu will soon realize that Hanshiro has set in motion a tense showdown of vengeance against his house... From the director of 13 ASSASSINS, AUDITION and ICHI THE KILLER.
A beautifully crafted story of suffering, sacrifice and vengeance that gradually gains in emotional weight ... The core of the film is a delicately handled family drama with a whiff of a Dickens novel or a Victorian melodrama. Eventually, we are won over by the story when we come to realise what was at stake for both of the men who called at the House of li ... Miike regular Koji Yakusho is a typically commanding presence as Kageyu whilst Ebizo Ichikawa brings a righteous anger to Hanshiro. Miike’s decision to frame both men in lingering close-ups adds to the intensity of the impact they make.
— Allan Hunter, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL
A formally elegant, dramatically faithful retelling of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 black-and-white classic "Harakiri" ... Miike's mournful variation on traditional samurai-movie themes of honor, sacrifice and retribution offers its own rewards, and his latest tip of the hat to Japanese pics of yesteryear should find an appreciative arthouse niche ... kabuki star Ebizo Ichikawa, outstanding ... Considerably longer (and redder) than in the original, Motome's death scene is agony to watch, thanks to sound design that amplifies the gruesome impact of every squirt and squish as blade tears flesh ... A story of desperate deeds in which joy is fleeting, poverty is perpetual and the way of the samurai offers few helping hands to those who, in the poignant words of Hanshiro, are merely living their lives, waiting for spring ... hushed, heightened formality just as often works for the film's intricately nestled stories-within-stories, creating a stagelike space in which viewers willing to contemplate the film's political and moral underpinnings can do so. There's something chastening about being immersed in a feudal existence where family honor means everything and a few coins can make the difference between life and death ... principal actors Ichikawa and Eita seem to have been cast for their resemblance to their 1962 counterparts; still, both turn in passionately charged perfs, particularly the handsome Ichikawa, whose preternatural gravity morphs into a fearsome display of butt-kicking prowess in the final moments ... often-exquisite visuals, such as the stunningly beautiful interstitial shots of autumn leaves ... the manner in which the technology is used to subtly enhance the film's pictorial qualities signifies the helmer's uncharacteristic seriousness, often working in concert with the interior pillars, doorways and veiled curtains of Yuji Hayashida's production design to lend d.p. Nobuyasu Kita's widescreen compositions a greater depth of field. Ryuichi Sakamoto's score makes a crucial contribution to the film's somber tone.
— Justin Chang, VARIETY