Big news for Takashi Miike this week as his latest film Hara-Kiri : Death Of A Samurai (3D) is in competition for the prestigious Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes film festival. It is the first time a 3D film has ever been nominated for such a prize and I'm sure it's raised a few eyebrows in the process. Ostensibly a remake of the brooding samurai film from Masaki Kobayashi made in 1962 and featuring a stunning performance by Tatsuya Nakadai, bad boy japanese actor Ebizu Ichikawa takes the lead in a more mainstream Miike film than hardcore fans are probably used to:
"Seeking an honourable end, poverty stricken samurai Hanshiro requests to commit hara- kiri in the courtyard of feudal lord Kageyu's estate. Trying to dismiss Hanshiro's wife to save face, Kageyu recounts the tragic story of a similiar plea years ago from young ronin Motome, but the arrogant lord is unaware of vengeful Hanshiro's bond with Motome..."
Only a 30 second teaser trailer is available at the moment and I can't tell you how the 3D has been used, perhaps in a more subtle manner than big budget Hollywood fare. It might be a simple case of enhancing swordfights with actors and swords close to the camera so that the duelling blades protude toward us. Even Quentin Tarantino confesses if he had known 3D would have made a comeback he may have shot Kill Bill as a 3D film - it certainly would have worked well with the "Master of the Flying Guiilotine" inspired weapon that Go Go Yubari wields against the bride at the end of Kill Bill part 1 (as well as the Crazy 88 fight scene of course) Arthouse directors are now utilising 3D in unexpected ways - Werner Herzog has shot a cave painting movie in 3D and Wim Wenders recently released a 3D film about dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. So the stigma of 3D might be over in the same way talkies were considered a gimmick back in the early days of cinema.
Does Miike have a chance of winning? well look who he is up against - Pedro Almodovar, Lars Von Trier, Nicholas Winding Refn, Paolo Sorrentino, The Dardenne Brothers, Nanni Morreti, Aki Kaurismaki, Lynne Ramsey and Terence Malick (with only the fifth movie of his career) and a whole bunch of less well known directors : Bertrand Bonello, Alain Cavelier, Joseph Cedar, Michel Hazanavicius, Julia Leigh, Maiwenn, Radu Mihaileanu, Markus Schleinzer and Naomi Kawase (the other Japanese director in competition) that's a lot of arthouse muscle. If there is more of a political dimension to Hara-Kiri than some of the other films then it's possible the cinema gods may shine their light upon Mr Miike. If it's existential angst that will clinch it, it may still have a chance though if Terence Malick's Tree of Life is the new 2001 then perhaps not.
Should it have taken this long for Takashi Miike to be universally acknowledged in this way? Should his 1999 film Audition been nominated? that certainly would have raised a few eyebrows even though in it's own way it's as feminist a film as anything made by Claire Denis or Catherine Breillat.
I guess post Hara-Kiri and 13 Assassins (made in 2010, check the five star review on Timeout's film review page and the 8.0 score on IMDB and the 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes.com) Miike could concentrate on chanbara films and just make one film a year or become even more prolific if he wanted to (84 titles and counting according to IMDB) whatever happens it's great that he's got a bigger audience now thanks to these "traditional" swordplay movies hopefully coming soon to a cinema near you.