Harakiri ★★★★★

Considered a landmark in the Japanese jidaigeki genre legitimized by names such as Kihachi Okamoto or, more notoriously, Akira Kurosawa, Masaki Kobayashi’s “Hara-Kiri” is a compelling 2-hour long watch that, instead of glorifying the Samurai code as many others do, questions its ethics and morals.
Set during a time when desperate rōnins used to knock on the doors of palaces to request committing seppuku (or hara-kiri), a traditional suicide ritual, in their courtyards with the hopes that their masters would take pity on them and send them away with a few coins, the film tells the story of Hanshirō Tsugumo, the latest rogue samurai played by the charismatic Tatsuya Nakadai to make such a demand to the prestigious Iyi clan. There, he is greeted with the tale of Chijiiwa Motome, a younger rōnin who attempted to bluff them a few months back only to be forced to live up to his word in the most gruesome and embarrassing fashion. A clear warning to the mysterious Tsugumo, whose fate lies on the veracity of his request.
“Hara-Kiri” unfolds like a magnificently paced mystery surrounding the intentions of the enigmatic protagonist. He’s a total stranger to us when we first meet him, but a stranger we're immediately drawn to. I was eager to get to know him better, understand the man behind the perplexing smirk and what had driven him to make such an incomprehensible decision. Witnessing his true persona reveal itself was tragic, gripping, and, most of all, exceptionally laid out. By the end, I was completely sold on this character, this symbol of family values, this rebel of the cold-hearted code that valued tradition over humanity.
Take a bow, Tatsuya, because your performance is at the center of this lesson on the dark side of mankind, a recurrent theme in Kobayashi’s filmography as his “Human Condition” trilogy concluded only a year prior to this film’s release. “Hara-Kiri” is deserving of all the praise it had been receiving for the past 60 years and easily makes its way to the top of my list of favorite movies of all time.

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