Harakiri (Masters of Cinema) DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Produced in 1962
Main Language - Japanese with English subtitles
Filmed in gorgeous black and white 'Scope, Harakiri is at once a demolition of national mythology and a compelling thriller. It's one of the very great Japanese films, says James Oliver.
It’s 1630; in feudal Japan, impoverished ex-Samurai Hanshiro Tsugumo arrives at the house of a nobleman with a request; he wishes to die honourably, by ritual suicide in the noble’s courtyard. The request is cautiously granted: as he prepares to do the deed, Tsugumo recounts the events that led to his decision. What follows is a tale of heartbreak, tragedy and bloody vengeance.
It’s no exaggeration to say Harakiri is one of the very great Japanese films, at once a monumental demolition of national mythology and a compelling thriller. From the earliest moments, Kobayashi creates a powerful tension that grips ever more forcefully as the film hurtles towards the inevitable bloodletting.
At its heart is Tatsuya Nakadai, a remarkable actor who manages to radiate violence even when sitting quietly on a mat; his close-ups are as murderous as the slashing sword fights. As one would expect from the director of Kwaidan, Harakiri is also a staggeringly beautiful film, as gorgeous as only black and white CinemaScope can be.
Not to be missed.
James Oliver on 26th August 2011
Author of 149 reviews
A visceral, mesmerising film that attacks the cruelty and inhumanity perpetrated by authoritarian power.
In a magnificent performance, Tatsuya Nakadai (Yojimbo, The Face of Another, Ran) stars as Hanshiro Tsugumo, a masterless down-and-out samurai who enters the manor of Lord Iyi, requesting to commit ritual suicide on his property. Suspected of simply fishing for charity, Hanshiro is told the gruesome tale of the last samurai who made the same request – but Hanshiro will not be moved.
With its intricate structure and pressure-cooker atmosphere, Kobayashi's first period drama is a full-scale demolition job of samurai ideals and feudal hypocrisy, filmed with artistry and precision, and scored by celebrated composer Toru Takemitsu. Released in anticipation of the new 3D film adaptation of the same source novel by the infamous director Takashi Miike, entitled Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, the original – winner of the 1963 Special Jury Prize at Cannes – still stands as a startling moment in Japanese cinema.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 133 mins
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen
Format: DVD+Blu-ray B&W
Released: 26th September 2011
Cat No: EKA70034
- 2 discs
- New, officially licensed, Shochiku high-definition transfer (1080p on Blu-ray)
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Original theatrical trailer
- Excerpt from a 1993 Directors Guild of Japan interview with Masaki Kobayashi discussing the film with director Masahiro Shinoda
- An illustrated 28-page booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Philip Kemp, a 1963 interview with Kobayashi, and rare archival production stills.