Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
Paul Schrader's brilliant 1985 evocation/exploration of the life and philosophy of Japanese author Yukio Mishima This is the original WB dvd release, not the later Criterion one.
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Long story short, I bought this film sight unseen and I cannot stop thinking about it. The music haunts me (in a pleasant way), and the images and the ideas of Mishima have been playing in my mind. I had read two novels of Mishima's, so I was familiar with him and his work.
Here is a man, arguably the greatest postwar author Japan has had, who wrote 35 novels, over a dozen plays, several operas, a ballet, over 400 short stories and essays, directed and starred in a movie he wrote, and starred in a few more. And in 1970, at the age of 45, after creating his own army, committed suicide after a vein attempt to incite revolution in the Army. Oh, he was also a body builder.
Just like the deafness in Beethoven, it is the army building and suicide that everybody obsesses about when they study Mishima. It is true for the last decade of his life he tipped to the right in political views to the point of fervent fanaticism, but he still managed to balance his passion with his desire for beauty and existence. In the end he hoped to unify it all in one swift moment that is death.Read more ›
As it turns out, this is one of the most powerful films I've ever seen.
Mishima was a famous Japanese writer who tried to live his beliefs. In the end, he became a character from his own novels, merging art with life.
The film is told by inter-cutting scenes from his life (filmed in black and white, like an old Japanese film), scenes from three of his novels (brightly colored, very theatrically performed) and the final day of his life. The transitions from scene to scene are thematically and cinematically chosen, so that you see how the events of his life were reflected in his stories, and how the ideas in his stories later found expression in his life.
The only movie I can compare this to is Fellini's 8 1/2, although it's quite different from that, of course. But both films are about the thin line separating one's art from one's actual life and both films utilize thematic transitions from the past, fantasy, and "reality."
When you're done watching this movie, be sure to watch it a second time with the director's commentary. His stories about the making of the film and why it was never shown in Japan are fascinating. In the end, as he says, it was a film financed by nobody, made to be seen by nobody.
Damn good flick!
If you haven't read Mishima's novels, I suggest that to get to the heart of the man you read his " The Way of the Samurai: Yukio Mishima on Hagakure in Modern Life " it's a working through of the ancient samurai classic, which poses the question of how to live like one--in a modern Japan inhabited by businessman and golfers.
The answer, though not fully admitted by Mishima, is that there's no way in hell.
Nor is there much hope for artists, romantics, knights or anyone else who follows the dictates of his soul on this planet. Go to college, have kids and be grateful if Sony hires you.
Even though Mishima is not explicit the reader will see this is a suicide waiting to happen. "Why live on and be despised as a bungler or a fool?" (Hagakure)
What this film captures brilliantly in its theme is the essence of a man who suffers through the knowledge that not only has his youth has gone and with it, the hope for better days, but more importantly, the realization that his life has been ultimately irrelevent.
Because, quite simply, it is a mistake to survive the death of one's country. . .
Predictably, as with Mishima's writings, this film has garnered tons of awards but has not proven a tremendous draw among the golfers and businessmen.
They need to dismiss him as a crank: A repressed bisexual with an over inflated view of masculinity, a political radical, a crazy artist, someone in dire need of medication.
In short, anything but a mirror to the world we live in.Read more ›
Schrader does an excellent job of keeping the viewer visually entertained. Even though I was watching it from the viewpoint of English subtitling I was able to feel the emotions portrayed through the actors. I must admit, however, that at times I became lost in where the 'plot' was taking place. (Scenes of his life were played out in black and white while his literary works were played out in color.)
I felt it was a wonderfully developed film. In addition, I should comment about the life of Mishima being caught in an unsual inner turmoil with the schizophrenic disorder (as mentioned in the dvd's special features section). With that, it makes for a perfect blending of the scenes (his real life vs. his work) played out in this film. It's almost as if you can 'see' what Mishima might have 'seen' in his life. The chaotic mixed with variances of a seemingly normal life of a writer.
There is much more to be learned about this man's life. It is a great introduction which helps an outsider discover a new culture within the literary world. I know in my discovery of the film I am going to research more into Mishima's life. Take a gamble and watch the film. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much it pulls you in and keeps your attention.
Most recent customer reviews
A beautifully filmed true story of a writer caught in a sword vs pen dilemma, and his ideologically intense but doomed attempt at action. Read morePublished on Oct. 21 2010 by ConcreteDreamer
Perhaps Paul Schraeder should have kept Mishima's words in mind when he wrote and directed this disaster of an art movie.
The central concept of the movie is an abomination. Read more
It struck me whilst watching Mishima that the film has a very clear, but perhaps unintentional, interpretation of his behaviour in his final years. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2004 by Jonathan Harris
With its multiple timeframes, minimalist aesthetic, and intercut dramatized extracts from Mishima's novels, on paper this film sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Read morePublished on Sept. 20 2003 by Steven Reynolds
What a wonderful film. I initally picked it up because, as a fan of George Lucas, I own every film that Lucasfilm put out. Read morePublished on Dec 19 2002 by Jon Cruz
I had never heard of Mishima before seeing this movie on videotape in the mid-1980's. Since that time I have read many of Mishima's books and have enjoyed some of them thoroughly. Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2002 by K. O. RN
I had never heard of the writer Mishima before seeing this movie on videotape in the mid-1980's. Since that time I have read many of Mishima's books and have enjoyed most of them... Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2002 by K. O. RN
This film is a masterpiece of cinema and by far my favourite film. I have video copies of the English version and the Japanese version (Japanese narration with English subtitles),... Read morePublished on May 13 2002