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Playwright and novelist Yukio Mishima predicted his own suicide with this ravishing short feature, his only foray into filmmaking yet directed with the expressiveness and confidence of a true cinema artist. All prints of Patriotism (Yukoku), which depicts the seppuku (ritual suicide) of a naval officer, were destroyed after Mishima's death in 1970, though the negative was saved, and the film resurfaced thirty-five years later. New viewers will be stunned at the depth and clarity of Mishima's vision, as well as his graphic depictions of sex and death. The film is presented here with a choice of Japanese or English inter-titles.
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The extras are very interesting as well. You'll want to here/see this man speak after watching this film.
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The Criterion version has an 'English Version' in which the scrolls are replaced with English words. It doesn't really affect the actual film... but I still viewed the Japanese version in which captions translate the wording.
The extras are amazing. There are two interviews with Mishima from around this time which are just plain eerie. He discusses Japan's defeat in the war and what that meant to him as well as his views on death. Again... just eerie. There are also several blocks of an audio only Q&A session by the Foreign press in which Mishima answers in very good English. There is one more interview with the surviving crew from the filming.
The film itself is gut wrenching (literally). Filming in black and white was the right choice. The set is arranged in a Noh theater style with sparse settings and stylized touches (such as the snow on the tree). Mishima actually provides a great performance. His Co-star Yoshiko Tsuruoka is also very good.
There is a bit of a graphic moment where Mishima actually opens his belly, but I couldn't Not watch. It's kind of gruesome, but being in black and white gives it the appearance of ink, and as it stretches on the floor like a spilled inkwell.
Even if Mishima had not committed Seppuku later in his life, this film would still be haunting and mesmerizing. The fact that Mishima visited the same fate several years later only adds to the shock of this film.
Also of note: this film was lost and all surviving copies ordered destroyed my Mishima's widow. This copy was found in a tea cellar in 2005 and luckily Criterion got the thumbs up to restore and release it. Something with this much power and magnitude deserves to be preserved and viewed by generations to come.
Granted, this film is not the greatest of Mishima's artistic output (that is his Sea of Fertility tetraology), but it's still absolutely fascinating and holds up quite well today. The music in the film is a bit overdone, but as the film progresses, one adjusts and it becomes less intrusive. The DVD also includes snippets of Mishima interviews, and it's absolutely brilliant stuff. Where many "artists/writers" give interviews today and say very little, Mishima encompasses worlds in the few words he says. His talk about death, heroism, heroic deaths, politics, etc., etc. are very provocative and still valid today. He certainly wasn't shy about expressing his opinions, but as many people shout to express their opinions, Mishima's opinions are ones that mattre and really make one think on a deeper level. There is also a 45 minute documentary on the making of Patriotism, with the original crew and producer assembled. They reminisce about the making of the film (which only took 2 days to film), and how Mishima was pretty well organised for a first time director. It's a very good companion piece to the film. This is a great DVD for any Mishima fan, and for any fan of Japanese and world cinema.
I have been curious about Patriotism since I first saw Paul Schrader’s film back in 1985. I was unaware that Mishima’s widow had all prints of Patriotism destroyed, except for the negative. The film was far more artistic in rendering its subject than I expected. The opening where a ghostly outline of Mishima is caressing his wife was an interesting touch. The lighting is very beautifully handled with beautiful shadings of light and dark. I think that non-Japanese viewers should see the slightly longer English version before viewing the Japanese version. It is advantageous to have read the story written out in English on the scrolls. The new high definition restoration enhances the film beautifully. I was naturally wondering how the act of committing seppuku would be depicted on the screen. It was blood but not unnecessarily gory, and the intent by Mishima was not to shock but treat ritual suicide with some poetry. This is especially true of the final frames of the film where the Lieutenant and Reiko ((Yoshiko Tsuruoka) are shown in a kind of apotheosis, joined forever in death.
The extras are interesting. The 45-minute documentary with members of the film’s production staff provides a lot of insight into the making of Patriotism. The audio only extra of Mishima giving a speech in English to the Foreign Correspondents' Association is interesting in all of the candid comments he provide his audience but also for his command of English. The last extra is a short interview Mishima gave on war and death. The interview was amazing for his comments and also that he did not look directly into the camera, perhaps feeling uncomfortable being filmed.
This set is a must for anyone with an interest in Yukio Mishima but anyone with an interest in art films will find this an amazing film.
This film is a landmark in cinemat. Aside from being a remarkable political film, quite outlandish in concept and execution for a film made in Japan at this time, "Patriotism" is also a sort of an artistic rehearsal for writer/actor/director Yukio Mishima's actual seppuku in November, 1970. Much like the lieutenant in "Patriotism", Mishima was part of a resistance movement protesting political changes in power. He gave a speech on the balcony of the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, and when it failed to inspire a return of power to the emperor, Mishima commited ritual seppuku. In addition to "Patriotism", Mishima had several other films, poems and works of fiction dedicated to the subject of honorable suicide at the time of his actual seppuku.
Mishima's suicide was indirectly responsible for the film retaining such sharp visual clarity in spite of its age. After his death, his widow ordered all copies of the film destroyed. She felt no need to relive her husband's suicide again and again, and kept only one copy of the film sealed in an air-tight tea container. For several decades, the film lingered mostly as a myth, kept alive by copies of copies passed around Arthouse Film circles. Upon Mishima's widow's death in 2005, the mint-condition print of the film was unearthed. Criterion wasted no time wrapping up this gem and packaging it for mass consumption. The Criterion package includes the new, gorgeous transfer of the film, interviews with surviving crew members, and a thin book that contains Mishima's original short story.
I am a big fan of Criterion's bonus features. Whenever appropriate, they include the literary basis for the film in the film's packaging. For "Patriotism" Criterion included the entire text of the original short story. I cannot understate this enough: "Patriotism" the short story is WAY harder to read than the movie is to watch. Watching Yukio Mishima realistically play-act suicide is not as bad as having the experience described in the first person. While the movie is very visceral, it is softened and given meaning by soft classical music and tender cinematography. The short story is brutal and unflinching. I had to take breaks from reading it to let my stomach settle, and I'm the kind of guy who watches films like "Cannibal Holocaust" regularly. It's easily as intense as anything Chuck Palahniuk has written, and predates his nihilist stylings by 30-40 years. If you get this movie, you owe it to yourself to read the short story. It's a unique experience. You can read the text of the short story for free at: [...]
All in all, "Patriotism" is one of the best Criterion treatments of a classic arthouse film yet. The film, the transfer, the special features and the packaging are all top-notch and make "Patriotism" a worthy addition to any DVD library.
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