Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri

Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri

Masaki Kobayashi‘s Harakiri is my favorite chambara of all time. I don’t say that lightly. In my estimation it ranks above Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Lone Wolf and Cub, and just about any other samurai film you’re likely to have seen or heard of. I don’t mean that as a slight on those films – rather, it’s a measure of how high I hold Harakiri. And I”m not alone. Remember the shootout at the end of Taxi Driver, where Travis Bickle goes on his insane killing rampage? I have a sneaking suspicion that Scorcese cribbed that from Harakiri – a tight, white-hot firebrand of anger aimed at dispelling whatever myths the viewer might have about the sanctity of bushido. Tatsuya Nakadai, whom most will remember as the gun-toting maniac Unosuke in Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, is Hanshiro Tsugumo – a masterless samurai who has arrived at the gates of the Iyi clan requesting to use their courtyard to commit ritual suicide in the usual manner. What follows is a deconstruction of bushido ethics that unfolds in harrowing, methodical detail. The suit of armor which bookends the film’s opening and closing shots is a powerful symbol of honor and martial spirit at one end and a hollow shell devoid of humanity at the other. Between the two is a beautiful tale of angry desperation – a napalm-hot declaration of war on the power of blind adherence to tradition. And lest you think Kobayashi is a man whose personal convictions don’t live up to his art, consider this: during World War II Kobayashi served in the Japanese Imperial Army; he refused any commission above private to...

Watch Tetsuo: The Iron Man

We recorded Episode 12 of the Yellow Menace Podcast this past weekend, featuring our discussion of Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Haven’t seen it, you say? Well – here you go!

David Sylvian – For the Love of Life

Just so you understand the chain of thought that led me to post this video – Mick Karn, bassist for 80’s synth-pop band Japan, died today…so I went on the usual YouTube clip safari, checking out loads of old Japan videos. Naturally, I started wondering what lead vocalist David Sylvian was up to these days, and lo and behold – I find out that his tune ‘For the Love of Life’ is used in the end-credits sequence for the Monster anime. So there you...

Predator Chambara!

Finally got around to watching Predators this weekend, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, this was a total surprise – a chambara swordfight between Yakuza badass Hanzo and the so-called ‘Falconer’ predator.  Technically it’s spoiler-ish, but I doubt it’d ruin the film for you…seriously, check it...