Now playing at the IFC Center after a Cannes premiere, it is a remake of the 1962 film Hara-Kiri, directed by Masaki Kobayashi (The Human Condition, Samurai Rebellion). Where the original has all the symbolic directness and tightness of stage drama, evoking Sophocles as much as Noh and kabuki theater, Miike's alterations to the story make moral and aesthetic nonsense out of the material. Miike clearly intends this remake of a Japanese arthouse classic to give a patina of improbable respectability to his career, like if Quentin Tarantino were to remake a Merchant Ivory picture. But instead of putting a decisive stamp on the material, or simply paying homage, Miike overwrites and muddies it.
But, as the Whitney show amply illustrates, Kusama's work can bear the weight of all this mythologizing. The retrospective is less exhaustive, more representative, accounting for Kusama’s major keynotes and obsessions, her idiosyncratic but rigorously-executed practice, and her development as an artist. Like Kusama’s best pieces, the show—which arrives in New York after stops in London, Madrid, and Paris—is animated by the energy of simultaneous oppositions.