Harakiri/13 Assassins Double Feature (and other ramblings)

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

The other day, after introducing a friend to the world of Kobayashi through his anti-feudalist masterpiece Harakiri, it occurred to me immediately I had just seen a more recent film with similar themes and time periods, so right when Harakiri ended I put in Takashi Miike’s wildly fun and semi-smart remake of 13 Assassins. It actually didn’t take place in the same time period, (they’re actually set 200 years apart) but both are set in ages of peace, both implement hara-kiri as a main theme, and both use the allegory of the time to parallel the emptiness of feudal/political/social honor. So what’s the significance of this mild discovery? Well, at the time none, I guess, other than sharing the wonderfully astute aesthetics of Japanese cinema with a friend based on impulse . . .  it’s just this hilarious coincidence then that Takashi Miike has very recently announced at Cannes 2011 that he’s remaking Harakiri. Trailer below:

So this brings me to a number of ideas. Firstly, double features are badass. Where do they come from? The Great Depression naturally. Apparently, before the feature presentation, there was some sort of combination of the following: live act, animation short, live-action comedy short, a musical short, and/or newsreels. This isn’t exactly a double feature but more of a diorama of media to help the audience escape from the fact they may die soon. Entertainment used to be so selfless, eh? But that was the 1920s. In the ‘30s studios started to block book B-films with A-films; in other words only selling the A-films that make the money if the theater also buys the B-films with it and screens both. This process became illegal shortly after, and so the double feature turned into a thematic jamboree for the few theaters who still screened them. For example, two spaghetti westerns or two spy films, but generally exploitation films became the most screened double features. Nowadays the practice is dead in main theaters, but with films like Three…Extremes and the Grindhouse pair filmmakers may be finding ways around that.

Second matter of discussion: remakes. Ugh. Once population control becomes a sport, people who think subtitles are reading will be in my top 5 on my nihilist blacklist. Why is that relevant? The only reason America remakes so much is because our higher paid writers, which excludes the talented ones, have no original thought, so stealing from other cultures is easy enough since the general public doesn’t even know foreign countries make movies. However, my background in foreign remakes of foreign films is so shallow it may as well be slightly wet sand. Speaking of, the Weinsteins are remaking Seven Samurai, but instead of samurai they’re military contractors, and instead of having a purposeful setting, it’s in modern Thailand. Sounds great. What is the point of remakes? The strongest argument is to get newcomers into the original material but that’s as bullshit as bulls can shit. Another argument is, besides money, to share experiences from other countries with people who don’t know about the original material . . . but then why not just screen the original material? Remakes 95% of the time blow ass, can we not figure this out?

Third topic would be how the two films relate to each other but it’s pretty blatant and I encourage everyone to double-feature them if they can. I will take it upon myself to find more relevant double features and write about the better pairs assuming this paper or bandwidth is worth the discussion. Summer is here, time for metal and electronica records and Bergman marathons. And perhaps more posts here?


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