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Monday, January 19, 2015

Harakiri (1962) d. Masaki Kobayashi

Movie Review
Harakiri (1962)
 d. Masaki Kobayashi
Criterion Collection #309

  There are a good number of Criterion Collection titles I've already seen, but not written about.  If you add that amount to the 231 films I've covered here, I'm probably closing in on 400 films watched, and that is almost half the collection. Of the films remaining that I haven't written about here and haven't seen already, about half of them are available on Amazon streaming video and the other half... Maybe from the library?  I'd need a DVD player?  That's really the "end game" portion of the Criterion Collection project.

 The reason I bring up all the films I've already seen is that they are without a doubt the "easiest" films on the list- mostly Hollywood pictures- Robocop, Brazil, etc.  That means that a disproportionate number of the films I've written about here- the ones I've actually watched as part of the Criterion Collection project, are the 'difficult' Criterion Collection titles.  It really gives a distorted view of what the Criterion Collection is about, because I'm leaving out all the "fun" movies.

  SO when I say that Harakiri, the 1962 movie by Masaki Kobayashi is about the practice of Japanese Ritual Suicide, I don't want people thinking that EVERY Criterion Collection title is about a Japanese dude falling in love with a ghost, or a 17th century historical drama centered around Seppuku (Japanese Ritual suicide.)  In case you are wondering: No, Kobayashi does not employ any techniques to lessen or otherwise mitigate the intensity of a man killing himself by disemboweling himself and in fact heightens it by having a character kill himself using a BAMBOO sword.

  The featurette of Japanese film scholar Donald Richie introducing Harakiri is most helpful, and its a reminder about how much those featurettes add to the viewing of a movie you might otherwise not "get."  For example, Richie implies that Kobayashi's use of the informal Harakiri instead of the more formal Seppuku is meant to indicate the critical nature of Kobayashi's attitude towards the Samurai conception of honor.

  Harakiri works as a criticism of government, and government bureaucracy and in this way it is very much a film of the 1960s, and stands out further from the mainstream of social thought (without being radical) in terms of questioning the idea of justice.

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