Posts tagged ‘Masaki Kobayashi’

June 24, 2012

Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai (2011 – DVD)

“Each man has his honour”

Ever since viewing the awe-inspiring, beautiful yet devastatingly violent juggernaut that was Takashi Miike’s ’13 Assassins’ I’ve been looking forward to his follow-up. Like that masterpiece, ‘Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai’ is also a remake of an early 1960s black and white Chambara classic. But in this case I’ve already seen the original thanks to the eye meltingly gorgeous Blu-Ray restoration of Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 ‘Harakiri’ last year from Eureka entertainment. So I can’t help but make comparisons…

The first obvious difference is that Miike has shot his film in rich and vibrant colour. The palette of the film changes subtlety with the seasons and the mood of the characters who are at the mercy of the winds of fate. The performances are devastatingly real and totally heartbreaking and legend Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score is of course evocative. The problem is that Miike’s film is very, very similar to the original but not quite as good, by a mere fraction. It just hasn’t got the same windswept gothic splendour of the original monochrome ‘Harakiri’. Watch the final wordless showdown below and tell me the last time you saw anything so powerful.

For some strange reason Miike’s film is only available as a bog-standard DVD but at the affordable price of £7.99 I’d highly recommend it, especially as the original 60s film retails for close to £20.

March 24, 2012

Ran (1985 – Blu-Ray)

“Don’t cry, its how the world is made. Men prefer sorrow over joy, suffering over peace”

I’ve been meaning to see Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 film ‘Ran’ for some time, in fact since I saw his previous film 1980’s ‘Kagemusha’ a good few years ago.  They are very much companion pieces, both are epic tales of political intrigues and bloody wars between feuding Daimyo and their Samurai retainers during Japan’s Edo period.  Also they both boast the brooding screen presence of Tatsuya Nakadai in the lead roles, who I’ve recently seen starring in Eureka! Film’s eye-popping restoration of  Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 Chanbara film ‘Harakiri’ (If you haven’t already, go get a copy so you can see what Blu-Ray is truly capable of!).  The title ‘Ran’ roughly translates as ‘Turmoil’ or ‘Chaos’ (Both political and mental), as it chronicles how a great clan is torn apart when it’s aging patriarch Hidetora relinqishes his command to his three sons.  Two of his sons scheme and betray him while he banishes his third and only loyal son, a series of events that lead him to madness.  This is of course inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ just as Kurosawa’s 1957 film ‘Throne Of Blood’ had been inspired by Macbeth.

The Blu-Ray transfer is nice but not as striking as I imagine it could be, lacking detail and clarity, but this is made up for by a wealth of extras.   Including  Documentaries about Kurosawa and a featurette about Samurai including a reverential demonstration of a Katana being forged.  The greatest aspect of ‘Ran’ is the cinematography and design with the three warring factions armours rendered in the three primary colours.  This use of colour is used to stunning effect in the first battle scene as nearly all the colour is drained from the faces of the Samurai making them look like cadaverous walking dead  This then magnifies the garish red rivers of blood staining the battlefield which is made even more harrowing by Kurosawa’s choice to play it silent save for Tōru Takemitsu haunting score.  Mieko Harada steals the show as the deadly Lady Kaede who’s ruthless quest for vengeance drives the film.  Of all the Kurosawa films I’ve seen so far (And I’ve only seen about third of his filmography) ‘Ran’ is his masterpiece, which the great Director himself described as “A series of human events viewed from heaven”.