It’s getting quite irritating now with these Samurai Films, as I keep seeing new films which trump my last ‘best Samurai Film I’ve ever seen’ recommendation. While I still hold to the virtues of Sword of Doom and Samurai Rebellion, Harikiri is better on just about every level.
Essentially telling the story of how a conman Ronin was forced to commit Seppuku in the most horrific way possible (with suitably nasty demonstration of how to disembowel oneself with a bamboo sword), Harikiri is a full forced attack on the notion of Samurai honour.
The story, largely told in flashback, is delivered by a half starved and haggard ronin named Hanshiro Tsugamoto (played with a wonderful melachonly by Tatsuya Nakadai). Originally appearing as if he just wants to commit suicide on the ground of the Iyi Clan it soon becomes apparent that he has a vested interest in the forced suicide. What emerges is a battle between humanism and the samurai code as Tsugamoto attempts to explain what drove the young ronin to sell his swords and attempt to con the clan.
Beautifully filmed and staged Harikiri is chock full of graceful moments which really cement Kobayashi as one of Japan’s best directors. The few action scenes, while not spectacular in a traditional sense, have a wonderful sense of realism and vitality to them.
Just a wonderful movie.