Harakiri ★★★★★

50 Films to Watch in 2018 (10/50)

A film so patient, and yet never not intense in such brutally slow pacing. A 2+ hour reflection and eventual destruction of everything Masaki Kobayashi's peers glorified and celebrated, with a complete absence of glory or the sleekness in its few action scenes. With each and every edit driving purpose, with every expression speaking of further conflict or struggle, with shots that provide tone only understood through the medium of film, and with the combination of Mizoguchi's patience, Kurosawa's viciousness, and Kobayashi's own perfect pacing for conveying long quiet passages of time without ever boring. A tale of time, one not larger or smaller than those before and after. But what Harakiri does that these other tales, these other films, cannot and will never achieve, is tinting every other story of its subject matter in a new and lesser light. Others might have achieved great glory in their samurai films. Kobayashi teaches us however that the glory of other tales is dishonest.

Once this brutality is so perfectly put into perspective through Harakiri, other films fall to faults of unseen corpses and a convenient and comfortable movement of time. Every second of Harakiri is deathly. And each of those seconds is felt in emotional weight, never breaking the tension with an edit or an exaggeration. Even in cuts from the action, the looming dread of each scene's known outcome builds and builds to the film's final seconds.

Harakiri doesn't allow you to breathe. With a story so drenched in the inevitability of death, there really is no point in reminding yourself. Few films grab a person's attention like Harakiri can, and perhaps no other film has left me feeling as intense. And when the action finally enters the film near its end, the point is not to excite or to fill expectations. It is the force that had driven the film so far in silence. Death can be dishonorable, it can be frightening, but in Harakiri's case it's harder to describe. In an absence, we better understand purpose. Not what something does for us, but rather what it once did that it now doesn't. Kobayashi's vision of death is hard to articulate not because he's at all vague. Death never leaves Harakiri, nor does the feelings that come with it.

Harakiri, as a story, is a series of final breaths. Slow, deliberate, and knowing.

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