When a ronin requesting seppuku at a feudal lord's palace is told of the brutal suicide of another ronin who previously visited, he reveals how their pasts are intertwined - and in doing so challenges the clan's integrity.
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, Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai) 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. Tsugumo thus sets in motion a tense showdown of revenge against the house.Written by
Kevin Rayburn <email@example.com>
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #302. See more »
After Motome's seppuku, when Omodaka steps forward and chops Motome's head off (supposedly), he visibly stops his swing before striking Motome's neck (naturally, since real swords were used). See more »
Does to the Samurai genre what Wild Bunch did to the Western!
Having seen this film the mind becomes clouded with the innumerable things to say about it. Only praise comes to mind. Kobayashi has crafted The great samurai film for the rebel generation and he mixes a deftly handled criticism of authoritarian hypocrisy with a very touching piece of human drama.
The plot is deceptively simple: an old samurai (touchingly portrayed by Tatsuya Nakadai of "Ran", "Kagemusha" and "Sword of Doom") arrives at a clan castle to commit seppuku in their yard, and then tells his tale, seemingly trying to gain time at first. What seems to be the rambling of an old man soon turns out to be a grieving account of how this man (and, more significantly, his loved ones) was wronged by the clan. Then comes the violent revenge (this is where you think "Wild Bunch with katanas", though they do up the ante toward the end with guns...).
Kobayashi's direction is masterful, keeping an unbearable suspense during the mostly talky film, handling the touching scenes with care and maturity and giving us a sweeping fight to top all that. The 133 minutes running time never feels half that long! At the heart of it all though, is Nakadai, who, despite an excellent CV, delivers his greatest performance ever. His Tsugumo evokes a wounded panther, grieving an grieving until it gives in to fury. Nakadai's performance alone marks the film as essential viewing.
If you're open to samurai flicks, this will rank among the finest films you've ever seen.
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