Harakiri ★★★★

Recommended by Too Many Kans of Jam in the Metropolis Roulette.

Harakiri walks an impressive tightrope, especially considering the fact that much of the film relies on a flashback structure to propel its narrative. Information is doled out smartly, with bits and pieces falling into place as characters reveal more about themselves and each other. Kobayashi's direction is relatively restrained, allowing the ethereal set design and beautifully stark black and white cinematography to really shine. Not that Kobayashi isn't doing much, the way he patiently sets up and allows a shot to develop is really impressive. For a movie willing to take its time, it's paced fantastically as well and is entertaining throughout. At times this feels almost elemental, with smoke filled rooms and windswept landscapes setting the stage for tension-filled standoffs where characters are almost too scared to confront each other. If there were any drawbacks, it's just that I didn't find the moralizing and emotional stakes to be as dramatically compelling as I'd hoped. But it still makes for a beautifully made and entertaining film.

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