Reviews of Harakiri
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The first thing that comes in mind when i think about this movie, is the mindblowing performance of Tatsuya Nakadai. His eyes crushed me, the face, and that slow and tired voice. I think he did a very serious phisical work. I mean you see that he’s not passsing through good times he’s thin, almost starvin. When the movie goes ahead, you see perfectly how the things affects him and drive him to do what he does.
Then the direction work is amazing, with a very elegant and calm camera work. I love the way we see those big house landscapes from the wealthy house and the little dark rooms of the little house where Hanshiro Tsugumo lived with his family.
This movie for my looks like some kind of social cinema, where we see how things where in that period of time, and how a poor ronin could be more honorable than a wealthy family.
and my big question raise: how come Masaki Kobayashi become the lesser known japanese director,overshadowed by Kurosawa? only by seeing this truly epic masterpiece,i already fall in love with his great cinematography skills,and brilliant storytelling. Though i never get the idea of Harakiri itself,but i got to admit,this is a true timeless classic epic story.and that last finale?whoa.now i know where Yang Zhimou’s Hero and Tarantino Kill Bill The bride vs Crazy 88 inspiration comes from..
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Masaki Kobayashi’s HARAKIRI has less in common with Akira Kurosawa’s period adventure films than it does with the modernist films of the 60s like SALVATORE GIULIANO, IL CONFORMISTA or even John Ford’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. This film is an examination and a critical analysis of both the Samurai ethos and the cold feudal world that seeks to replace the prior order.
Tatsuya Nakadai is one of Japan’s greatest actors and he gives a powerhouse performance as Hanshiro Tsugumo who comes to the house of Lord Iyi asking to commit seppuku but as the film advances and a series of intricate flashbacks make clear there’s more to his mind than ritual self-destruction and as the film climaxes it also raises doubts into his beliefs and his ideas and also his plan which despite being followed according to his ideas bring out results which can be called ambiguous.
HARAKIRI is above all a visual feast, with the powerful use of black and white scope creating a formal beauty that at times looks like Picasso in it’s use of rectangles and frontal arrangements and at others looks like a stylized tapestry.
This underrated masterpiece is overshadowed by Kurosawa’s equally astonishing works. It offers insight into the philosophical mind of the Japanese soul, whole heartedly and pure, and questions the role of honor through straightforward storytelling and brilliant direction. The story is akin to the works of Dostoevsky, exploring the darkest moments of humanity through suffering and redemption in a desperate search for meaning and justice. Intense and beautiful, Harakiri is a true work of art.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
I was very impressed with this movie. Its another one of those great Japanese samurai movies from the 1960s. Its not too long but at 2hrs 10min its not short either. I was spellbound. I didn’t know much about the movie before watching it other than the premise. In some ways I think that helped. I loved how the story unfolds and Tatsuya Nakadai’s performance in the lead role was stunning. There is a delicious tension that filled me while I watched this movie, while I watched the story unfold like an onion, one layer at time.
It reminded me in spirit of Samurai Rebellion (1967) starring Toshiro Mifune. Both movies are about samurais bucking the system, refusing to submit to the authorities simply because they have been told do so, insisting on speaking their peace regardless of the consequences, taking the the law into their own hands when they feel that the authorities have acted reckless or irresponsibly. Both movies are also very quiet and subtle. There is much in the way of visual storytelling and not an abundance of dialogue or exposition through dialogue. There is some action in both movies but not enough to characterize either movie as an action movie. Both are very subtle, slow and subdued compared to most Hollywood movies.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
from my blog of reviews, samuraipandapoetry.blogspot.com
The screenwriter of this film, the famous Shinobu Hashimoto, says that this movie is just a story about a samurai who is going to commit ritualistic suicide and is upset about it, and rants and raves at his harakiri ceremony.
On the surface, sure. But as with all literature, there’s the story, and there’s the underlying message. As with all the Kobayashi movies I’ve seen (which now total two – the other being Samurai Rebellion), there is a very prominent theme, and in both cases it’s been antiauthoritarian. There’s a strong sense of individualism, and sacrificing everything, even life, for personal justice and freedom from tyranny.
There is no better embodiment of this theme than the portrayal of the ronin Hanshiro Tsugumo by the great Tatsuya Nakadai. The film focuses entirely upon this characters request to commit harakiri in the courtyard of the Iyi clan, and through a series of several flashbacks (which would normally destroy a film, but works excellently here as each flashback serves to move the plot forward) we descover that his claim to commit harakiri has really been a ploy. He still intends to commit harakiri, but not before taking down those who forced his son-in-law into the same fate.
Through the first flashback of the film we are witness to a young samurai, who we find out later is Tsugumo’s son-in-law, who has come to the same clan and request to commit harakiri in their courtyard. We also discover that this samurai’s intent was not to commit suicide, but instead was to gather sympathy and respect by requesting to commit harakiri (which was a huge display of honor and discipline in the samurai culture), and in turn reap the benefit of money from charity, or even take on work as a retainer for the clan, as had been a fairly common scheme at the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate. This clan, however, will not be deceived, and force this young samurai to follow through on his word, as well as on his bamboo sword.
The graphic depiction of this suicide is glorious. Tame by today’s standards, but in 1962 this was cutting-edge (so to speak), and European audiences had a tough time with it at the Cannes film festival. To a samurai cinema nut like myself, the grandeur of this violence filled me with Saturday-morning-cartoon glee., and although it made me cringe, I enjoyed ever second of it.
For a samurai film, however, the focus wasn’t on action or swordplay of a typical chan-bara epic, but rather the story of this samurai who’s also come to the gates of the Iyi clan to commit harakiri. The drama is the thrust, and not the sword. That doesn’t make this film any less enjoyable than the straightforward samurai epics of the same time period, such as Kurosawa’s Sanjuro and Yojimbo. The focus on the drama sets it apart from these, and might even make it more enjoyable, at least on an intellectual level.
The film does end with a one-against-all battle, and is gloriously bloody. But instead of close ups of severed limbs and sword swooshes that might populate a typical samurai film of the time, instead we are treated to wide shots, panning with the action, and only get close ups on Tsugumo in key moments, where Nakadai is masterly portraying the emotions of this character. At one point Tsugumo takes up and carries, like a life size doll, a suit of samurai armor. It’s haunting, especially the close up of Tsugumo behind this shell, this metaphor for honor, when the Iyi retainers wield rifles in his direction.
Thinking about it now, it seems almost anti-Shakespearean – instead of nearly all characters dying in the end, only the good die here; instead of one good man left to tell the story, the story of these noble samurai die with them. The journal of the Iyi clan, the victor, is written in a way beneficial to themselves, in what could be discerned as a criticism of revisionist history. It’s not touched on as much as the physical fight against tyranny, but I imagine Kobayashi may have intended to include this aspect of tyranny in his criticism.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I popped Harakiri into the DVD player, and as soon as I learned it was set in 1630 feudal Japan I feared the worst: war, battles, helmets, two hours that would feel like two weeks. What I got instead was a brilliantly-executed drama that gripped me from first shot to last. Working from a superb script by Shinobu Hashimoto (who also wrote Kurosawa’s Rashomon), Director Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 tale of honor and vengeance is a model of precision storytelling that becomes a polemic against military bureaucracy and the glorious lies that perpetuate ideas of heroism. It’s a modern fable set in medieval times, and it may be the most perfect anti-war film I’ve ever seen.
Samurai warrior Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the House of Iyi with a strange request: now that war has temporarily ceased, he is without work, and wishes to honorably commit harakiri in a formal ceremony. The master of the house isn’t impressed; according to him, this has become a popular extortion scheme among the unemployed ronin to gain work or money. In hopes of scaring off Tsugumo, the master tells him (in flashback) about the tragic fate of the last ronin who pulled this trick: Motome Chijiiwa (Akira Ishihama), who was forced to kill himself when the house called his bluff. The story doesn’t faze Tsugumo, and here the plot turns: Motome was his son-in-law. In appearing to seek the same fate, Tsugumo is actually taking one more step toward enacting a most ingenious (and suicidal) plan to bring down the House of Iyi. Tsugumo takes us back into the past, telling us of the circumstances that forced Motome to take desperate measures; in so doing, he pokes through the feudal lord’s constant assertions of valor and bravery to show they are built on little more than thuggery and official lies.
There’s a great deal of brilliant swordplay throughout — first in flashback and later in the present moment of the story — and Kobayashi, too, as a director, comes across as rather a brilliant swordsman in the way the film is shot and edited. He likes to zoom in, linger and cut, accentuated by the sound of a biwa. Then there are the fight scenes between Tsugumo and his foes, either individually or as a group, all of which are masterfully choreographed and brilliantly violent in that Japanese way, where the blood isn’t so much excessive as it is theatrical.