In 17th Century feudal Japan, master-less samurai Hanshir? Tsugumo requests to commit harakiri at the manor of Lord Iyi, but he is dissuaded when he is told the story of another soldier who made the same request.
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Why in the world would you remake this film? It's almost perfect, aside from the tentativeness that Tatsuya Nakadai had from using real swords. A practice that was later banned. The lighting is masterful, and the suspense just built and built. We got to see him be more than just an avenging angel. He was a bit like Columbo with those, "And another thing .."
Really really genuinely one of the best Japanese films I have seen. Of late I have seen many and this is the best out of the 25 odd I have seen in the past few months. It is nearly perfect, a sublime film.
Like Kwaidan my issues with Harakiri rested in its pacing. Kobayashi veers from an excruciatingly slow pace to a really tense and quick one that's too all over the place. Also he veers from being very stagy to intensely cinematic. However, the film still gripped me and it was an engaging ride all the way through. I can safely recommend this to any samurai fan.
Between this and "The Human Condition", I think it's safe to say that Kobayashi was Japan's most fluent director in combining style and substance, making statements challenging the irrational double standards of authority through fascinating stories with incredible cinematography and shot arrangement.