Harakiri ★★★★½

I’ve always found it strange that Harakiri is the fourth-highest-rated narrative film by Letterboxd members. (Only The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and Seven Samurai rank higher.) I’ve looked at countless “greatest films of all time” lists, and Harakiri isn’t on any of them. This has nothing to do with my review, of course, but I just don’t understand it. If any more knowledgable cinephiles, of which there must be thousands, would care to educate me on this incongruence, please do so.

Harakiri is a doleful and artful tale of family, loss, revenge, and samurai pride—which is, indeed, proven to be a facade by our principal character, ronin Tsugumo Hanshirō. Miyajima's camerawork is quietly exact, and the sets are ethereally beautiful. I've never seen a movie so suited for black-and-white. It’s a stark stylistic masterpiece (re-visit specifically the samurai duel, its framing, its howling wind, and its agonizing pace). What’s most impressive to me, though—in a movie filled with stern notions of Japanese pride and petty ritual—is the realistic humanism of the film that conjures in its audience a true sense of empathy, despite Kobayashi's reserved style.

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