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Harakiri, 1962

A ronin named Hanshiro (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the home of a powerful lord where he requests permission to commit harakiri, ritual suicide. The men attempt to dissuade Hanshiro, telling him about another ronin who also showed up with such a request. Suspecting that he was only hoping for them to pay him to leave, they instead (with no small amount of smarminess) decided to force him to go through with the suicide. Undeterred, Hanshiro claims to want to go through with the ritual. But when he is gathered in the court with all of the samurai, it becomes clear that he does have some connection with the previous suicide.

This film is a mix of action, drama, and thriller elements. I really enjoyed it.

The larger theme of the film is to do with honor, and more specifically the hypocrisy of larger institutions. As Hanshiro's story develops and goes more in depth in its flashbacks, it pulls into stark contrast the misery that would drive some people to take such as risky gamble as the fake suicide and also the callous inhumanity of men who would rather force a man to take his own life than have to deal with beggars.

The look of the film is fabulous, both in the theatrical staging of the sequences in the courtyard (which play out almost like a courtroom drama) and the action scenes, including one in which Hanshiro and another man duel in a windblown field of long grass.

I'm still kind of processing the film on an emotional level, but as a narrative it is incredibly compelling. The final 20 minutes or so are brutal and cutting, and a very memorable truth-to-power moment.