Harakiri ★★★★★

Sunday Morning Review!

Film Club May 24th - May 26th

Feudal Japan bathed in crisp black and white. Wind whistling through fields of tall grass. Sporadic plucking of strings in the background. A sudden cymbal crash. Drums slowly beating. Two samurai stepping slowly towards each other with swords drawn. A man kneeling in a courtyard before a dozen armed men, boldly telling his tale.

And he promises to kill himself at the end.

This, is Harakiri.

I finally had an excuse to watch this monumental film this morning. And I can say without a doubt that Harakiri is a classic in every sense of the word. A truly perfect film that earns its prestige humbly. Like a samurai bowing in front of you after victory, Harakiri shows impeccable amounts of discipline. It could've easily turned into giant monster of a film. But it remains calculated and methodical. While you are transfixed on the characters dialogue and the films events unfurling themselves before your eyes, you get a feeling like the film is watching you from the shadows. It's one of those films that feels like its ready to burst at the seams with a quick spout of violence, but it pays that urge off satisfyingly by giving even more delicious exposition and planning its moves carefully. The setup for the film involves a lonely unemployed samurai who wanders into the gates of a wealthy and powerful lord's temple. The older man, Hanshiro, wants audience with the men in power and all their retainers to watch as he tells them his story. He also came there for another reason. He claims he is going to perform the ancient act of Harakiri (or Seppuku) on himself with the permission of the Lord in command. The act of Harakiri itself was seen as an honorable way to die in ancient Japan. A death suited for any warrior or man with great honor and grace. It takes tremendous willpower to slash yourself back and forth across your belly until death, so we know early on that Hanshiro is a man of classic traditions and extreme humility. As Hanshiro's story unfolds and his heartbreaking past is uncovered, the film is moving pieces in the background. Waiting to strike. We learn that Hanshiro was not the first to do this, and the man before him befell an even more gruesome end. What's in store for Hanshiro? What has he got up his sleeve? Is he planning an attack? Is there a reason for all this? How is it all going to end?

As much as I would love to gush about this movie, I do not have the heart to go any further into the plot from there. Harakiri simply must be seen with a clean slate. Anything more than a simple plot summary would harm your viewing experience. Let Hanshiro wander into your life and tell you his story, and show you what he has seen. The resulting experience puts honor, family and politics on trial for everyone to see. Hanshiro is the voice for every mans soul. A devout and undying support of codes in the face of hypocrisy and injustice. It's all photographed amazingly by director Masaki Kobayashi and co.
Shots have perfect symmetry, the camera movements changes with the mood, (slow zooms during dialogue. quick cuts and oblique shots during action) and the lighting/shadows cut straight through the black and white frames like a tantō blade. Picturesque scenes include a duel in an empty field and perfectly recreated temple interiors filled with murals and lanterns. Harakiri is a beautifully haunting film. And immensely moving.

If I wasn't still high off my Love Exposure viewing, I would be inclined to say that this film has one of the most fully realized and emotionally invested arcs in all of film. The ending is simply perfect in every sense of the word.

If you have yet to see this, (as much as I hate to use this) you are doing yourself a massive injustice.

You might as well.... Ya know.

Commit hara- fuck it. Not gonna say it.

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