This is one of my favorite movie scenes ever. Jean-Pierre nails it with his comment on the warrior ethic and the masculine need to sacrificially serve a higher master.
Michael Lonsdale plays Jean-Pierre, a solitary, sagacious retiree who spends his evenings painstakingly painting and assembling a model reconstruction of the legendary battle of the 47 ronin.
Sam, played by Robert DeNiro, is a CIA operative now entangled in a high level scheme to recover a case and its mysterious contents. Sam is recovering from a bullet wound in Jean-Pierre’s home when he comes upon Jean-Pierre at work in his hobby room.
(Jean-Pierre) The ronin, do you know it? Samurai whose master was betrayed and killed by another lord. They became ronin, masterless samurai, disgraced by another man’s treachery. For three years they plotted, pretending to be thieves, mercenaries, even madmen.
(Sam) That l didn’t have time to do.
(Jean-Pierre) And then one night they struck, slipping into the castle of their lord’s betrayer, killing him.
(Sam) Nice. l like that. My kind of job.
(Jean-Pierre) There’s something more. All of them committed seppuku, ritual suicide, in the courtyard of the castle.
(Sam) Well, that l don’t like so much.
(Jean-Pierre) But you understand it?
(Sam) What do you mean, l understand it?
(Jean-Pierre) The warrior code, the delight in the battle. You understand that, yes? But also something more. You understand there is something outside yourself that has to be served. And when that need is gone, when belief has died, what are you? A man without a master.
(Sam) Right now l’m a man without a pay cheque.
(Jean-Pierre) The ronin could have hired themselves to new masters. They could have fought for themselves. But they chose honour. They chose myth.
(Sam) They chose wrong. Seppu… Seppu… what ?
(Jean-Pierre) Yes, seppuku. Disembowelment. The sword goes in here. “Phoooosh”.