The film is split into three parts, opening with down-on-his-luck samurai Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa) begging the House of Li for the use of their courtyard to regain his honour by committing seppuku - ritual suicide by cutting the stomach. Assuming that he's bluffing, Hanshiro is told what happened to the last ronin Motome (Eita) to try such a trick. The middle section is the long, sad melodrama leading up to that young man's fate. The closing reels make up a fight scene even Quentin Tarantino would have thought too one-sided for Uma and her second-hand yellow jumpsuit in Kill Bill.
The first third of the film is (ahem) gut-wrenching. It's incredibly difficult to keep your eyes on the screen and equally hard to tear them away as the helpless Motome seemingly sleepwalks into his horrible fate. But although there's plenty of touching moments, the middle section is overlong, overwrought and just plain baggy. By the time the fighting comes in at the end, your focus has long since wandered. And as the first live action 3D film to play in competition at Cannes, Hara-Kiri highlights why that technology is destined for the scrapheap. Presumably tacked on cheaply in post-production, the gimmick is barely used here - not even for some obvious pointy sword bits. Regardless, those damn glasses still drain the on-screen colours of any vibrancy, making the whole film feel deader than a disembowelled samurai.
> Cannes 2011: Our top ten festival picks
> Read our complete Cannes Film Festival coverage