Director Masaki Kobayashi (1916-1996)

Harakiri Kwaidan Samurai Rebellion

The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959)
The Human Condition II: The Road to Eternity (1959)
The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (1961)
Harakiri (1962)
Kwaidan (1964)
Samurai Rebellion (1967)
Inn of Evil (1971)

(Key films outside the jidai-geki genre are listed in gray)

Masaki Kobayashi Masaki Kobayashi is regarded as one of the most politically outspoken filmmakers of postwar Japan. As a pacifist, he refused to fight after being drafted and sent into combat in Manchuria, and was held prisoner in a U.S. detention camp in Okinawa for more than a year. Kobayashi's films are marked by social criticism and indictments against injustice, as typified by his acclaimed World War II trilogy called The Human Condition, inspired by his personal traumas.

Unfortunately, only a handful of Kobayashi's works are available in English-subtitled editions, and those happen to be his few efforts in the world of jidai-geki. He made his debut in historical drama with Harakiri, a masterpiece executed with a degree of skill and perfection exceeding directors with 20 or 30 years of experience in the genre. We can only wish that this genius had blessed us with a few more movies about samurai and swordplay. Since that's impossible, I'll be happy just to see his gendai-geki films released in the U.S. someday. Criterion's 2009 release of The Human Condition made a great start of it.

The Filmmakers

The Jidai-Geki Knights
Cinema