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Harakiri (The Criterion Collection)

105 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Peace in 17th-century Japan causes the Shogunate's breakup of warrior clans, throwing thousands of samurai out of work and into poverty. An honorable end to such fate under the samurai code is ritual suicide, or hara-kiri (self-inflicted disembowelment). An elder warrior seeks admittance to the house of a feudal lord to commit the act. There, he learns of the fate of his son-in-law, a young samurai who sought work at the house but was instead barbarically forced to commit traditional hara-kiri in an excruciating manner with a dull bamboo blade. In flashbacks the samurai tells the tragic story of his son-in-law, and how he was forced to sell his real sword to support his sick wife and child.

Special Features

  • Disc One
  • High-definition, digital transfer
  • Introduction by Japanese-film historyan Donald Richie
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • New and improved english subtitle translation
  • Disc Two
  • Rare excerpt of a Director's Guild of Japan video interview with director Masaki Kobayashi
  • New video interviews with star Tatsuya Nakadai and screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto
  • Poster Gallery
  • 32 page booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Joan Mellen and a reprint of her 1972 interview with Kobayashi

Product Details

  • Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Ishihama, Shima Iwashita, Tetsurô Tanba, Masao Mishima
  • Directors: Masaki Kobayashi
  • Writers: Shinobu Hashimoto, Yasuhiko Takiguchi
  • Producers: Gin'ichi Kishimoto, Makoto Naitô, Tatsuo Hosoya, Tsugio Saitô
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
  • Run Time: 133 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009WIE2A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,928 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Harakiri (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
"Hara Kiri" is directly translated as "belly cutting," and is the name best known in the West for Seppuku, a traditional act of suicide that was considered an honorable method of death amongst the Samurai of medieval Japan. To die by Seppuku was a privilege reserved for honorable men, and was formal and ritualized as is common in Japanese tradition. It was an extremely painful way to die, and required absolute will and self-control.

Kobayashi Masaki ("Kwaidan," "Samurai Rebellion"), a master director of Samurai films, uses this ritual as the focus of his film "Hara Kiri" (Japanese title "Seppuku.") The stage is set in the late Tokugawa period, a time when centuries of peace had rendered the warrior class moot, and Samurai without a rich lord to serve had nothing but their honor to sustain themselves. Forbidden by law, culture and training to seek their substance through less-honorable means such as farming or trade, the lordless Samurai were expected to starve and die with no word of complaint. One day, a hungry Samurai by the name of Hanshiro Tsugumo arrives at the gate of a local lord, requesting permission to perform Seppuku and end his suffering poverty through honorable means. And then the true story unfolds.

Probably his greatest film, Kobayashi dissects what it is to be "honorable," and who is the true possessor of this abstract concept. The rigid code of the Samurai is symbolized through the relentless use of straight lines, as hard and unyielding as the swords which are the supposed soul of a Samurai. The code has long outlived its usefulness, and is a contradiction in the world of peace. Both the code and the men are dinosaurs, needing to either change or die.
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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Ernest Jagger on January 1, 2007
Format: DVD
"Hara-Kiri," is an absolute classic. It is also one of the 3 greatest [if not greatest] Samurai films of all time. Not only is this a great Samurai film, it is also an outstanding drama. In fact, director Masaki Kobayashi stated that this film was more of an anti-samurai film, and he is correct. I must tread very carefully with this review, as to write too much of this film will destroy it for those of you who have not had the opportunity to see this MASTERPIECE of cinema. Directed by Masaki Kobayashi, the film deals with ONE individuals attack against the corruption and arrogance of the state. And in particular, one clan known as the House of Iyi, which is representative of the new unified state of Japan.

This is one of those films that transcends borders and nationalities--for it is universal. By this I mean that the films main protagonist, Hanshiro Tsugomo (Tatsuya Nakadai) represents the individual against the powers that be who are in charge. And in Hara-kiri, Hanshiro is about to give this House of Iyi a costly lesson in humility, with a touch of vengeance thrown in--that this clan's own arrogance has brought upon themselves. The period that this film takes place is circa 1630: not too long after Lord Tokugawa has established the Shogunate as the supreme power in the now unified Japan.

However, unification comes with a price. In order to consolidate his power, Tokugawa has purged many of the clans spread throughout Japan of their status. Therefore, many clans begin to fold up, and their Samurai must eke out a living within the confines of a profession befitting a samurai. This was very difficult to do, as farming was not acceptable to their Bushido code.
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74 of 78 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on May 23, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
After Japan emerged from its civil wars in the early 17th century, many clans were banned by the victorious Tokugawa Shogunate. Thousands of samurai warriors who knew the arts of war but precious little else suddenly found themselves thrown out onto the street.
HARAKIRI tells of the chain of events set into motion when a destitute samurai goes to one of the remaining clans and offers to commit suicide according to the harakiri ritual. His real intent was to get a handout once the Iyi clan elder had seen his determination. This clan, however, had been hit up by other samurai in similar straits. The elder praises him and immediately has him prepare for suicide by disembowelment. When the young samurai requests a delay, the elder insists he begin immediately.
I do not want to ruin the picture for anyone by giving anything away. Some time later (though earlier in the film, which skips around with the chronological story), the young samurai's father-in-law -- also a samurai -- shows up at the gate making the same request. This time the samurai is the redoubtable Tatsuya Nakadai. His intention is revenge, and he damned near lays waste to the entire clan to attain it.
Kobayashi's direction of this elegant wide-screen epic may seem to be stodgy and talky at times, but the tale it tells will curdle the marrow of your bones. There is relatively little swordplay until Nakadai produces three small items from the folds of his kimono resulting in an all-against-one battle royal.
This is one of the greatest of all the samurai films. No Jacobean revenge tragedy by Cyril Tourneur or John Webster can hold a candle to it in its ferocity. Kobayashi's film is Shakespearean in its breadth and holds up well to multiple viewings. This is a letterboxed print, so you see ALL the action.
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