If you’re reading this, I didn’t get a strong enough Internet connection while camping to write this review, so here’s the Wikipedia page for Harakiri: Harakiri (切腹 Seppuku, 1962) is a 1962 Japanese jidaigeki (period-drama) film directed by Masaki Kobayashi. The story takes place between 1619 and 1630 during the Edo period and the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. It tells the story of Hanshirō Tsugumo, a warrior without a lord. At the time, it was common for masterless samurai, or rōnin, to request to commit seppuku (harakiri) in the palace courtyard in the hope of receiving alms from the remaining feudal lords.
Compared to your typical film protagonist, it’s hard to deny adolescence was easy for me. Just look at these general advantages I had: I grew up in the suburbs. I built up a loyal group of friends very on and have maintained those relationships to this day (as this blog proves). I was smart enough that it wasn’t especially hard to succeed in school. My parents were and are married and gainfully employed. Of course, that’s not really my life’s story, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Antoine Doinel’s plight in The 400 Blows.
I recently realized something about myself after watching Legally Blonde and being disappointed with how quickly its final case is wrapped up: I really like courtroom dramas. Nearly every movie I’ve seen that centered around a trial was one I enjoyed, and I don’t think I’m alone in this sensibility given how damn near everybody loved The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story last year. There’s something about seeing America and Americans put to the test, sorting out right from wrong, pleading for justice, that’s consistently engaging. And one of the best representations of that in all of cinematic history is Anatomy of a Murder.
There’s this anime movie, Grave of the Fireflies, that is in a highly unusual class of cinema. Everyone who sees it loves that movie, but almost nobody would list it among their favorite films of all time – in fact, many people claim they could only stand to watch it once. I’ve only seen it once. People have such a visceral reaction to that depiction of poverty, childhood, and tragedy, that it feels like its made its complete impact by the first time the credits roll. What if I told you there was another movie that falls into the same category, but as soon as I was done watching it, I was eager to watch it again? That movie is Pather Panchali.
Did you ever wish that Catfish was an episode of Frasier? That’s The Importance of Being Earnest, a dry, eminently quotable little play (or in this case, film). Before even seeing it, I joked that I would rate the movie “very droll” out of five and that’s about right. It’s a sort of frivolous type of entertainment, obviously out-dated compared to the bombast of comedies today (or even a generation ago) that I was fortunate enough to at least enjoy on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, instead of desperately cramming it in today before writing this review. Now I just wish that we had a post format that would allow me to only list Oscar Wilde quotes.
Aside from the highs and lows of tragedies and comedies, I think one of the most effective emotions for a story to tap into is frustration. At least for me, it’s consistently easy to empathize with characters who are put into helpless situations. It’s why villains like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix‘s Dolores Umbridge and The Mist‘s Mrs. Carmody are so easy to hate. Couple that with some crushing disappointment and you’ve got a recipe for a deeply moving night. Just like the one I had in the wee hours of last night watching Bicycle Thieves!
I’ve seen three movies by the Archers, with years-long gaps between them, and I don’t know why. Every time I’m impressed by the works of the British duo, real names Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who were churning out breathtaking melodramas miraculously during and immediately after the Second World War. I don’t even think Black Narcissus lives up to The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp or The Red Shoes, but once again I feel massively compelled to go pursue more of their technicolor tragedies. But chances are the next time I check in with the Archers, it’ll be a year from now in Criterion Month 2019.