Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
"In conclusion, this is a brilliant film. By combining Mishima's best works of art: his life and his stories, Schrader has made a rare film that sheds more light onto the amazing man than any formal biopic ever could. This is one of my all time favorites, and it gets my fullest recommendation. "
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
Director: Paul Schrader
Producer: George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and Toho Studios (Uncredited)
Cast: Ken Ogata, Kenji Sawada, Yasosuke Bando
Running Time: 120 min.
Plot: On November 25, 1970, an abortive attempt to overthrow the Japanese government led to the ritual suicide of a writer who cast a global shadow. He was Yukio Mishima, Japan's finest postwar author, and a tortured modern man struggling to find his future in his homeland's imperial past.
Paul Schrader's haunting, lyrical Mishima:A Life in Four Chapters vividly depicts the most paradoxical of men, at ease in Western ways but reinventing himself in the militarism of feudal Japan. The film's visual style shifts between a documentary-like recreation of Mishima's last ay, black-and-white flashbacks of his early years and intoxicatingly colorful episodes from three of his novels. The result is a true cinematic original: an unforgettable portrait of sensual and intellectual passion.
WOODY'S REVIEW: Yukio Mishima strived to make his life a work of art, and I must say, he succeeded brilliantly. Like all good art, Mishima's life was colorful, fascinating, contradictory, and open to much interpretation.
Mishima led a life that is so sensational and strange that no writer could have dreamed it up. Mishima was a schizophrenic homosexual(with a wife and kids, no less) bodybuilding writer, who, along with four member's of his private army, tried to overthrow the Japanese government. The events of Mishima's life had all the ingredients for an exploitative, sensationalistic film. Thankfully, director/ co-writer Paul Schrader was uninterested in making an exploitation film. Instead, Schrader decided to carefully examine Mishima the man, instead of Mishima the headline.
Calling this a brilliant film would be an understatement. To fully give an understanding of Mishima and who he was, the Schrader's combined events from his life before November 25th (filmed in glorious black-and-white), with a color, almost documentary like (and extremely accurate) telling to that faithful day, not to mention beautifully colored, staged portions of three of his novel's, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko's House, and Runaway Horses, each used to illustrate events in Mishima's life.
The film is split into four distinct sections.
Section One, "Beauty", concerns the earlier years of Mishima's life, and his obsession with/ hatred of beauty. The staged scenes in this story come from the novel, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, and they concern a young, stuttering monk, whose obsession with the Golden Pavilion of the title is driving him mad.
Section Two, "Art", concerns Mishima the author, and also explores his philosophies on life as being a work of art. The staged scenes in this section come from the novel Kyoko's House, and they concern a young actor who engages in a sado-masochistic relationship with an older woman.
Section Three, "Action", concerns Mishima the right-wing activist. This section explores the formation of Mishima's private army and his military/political beliefs. The staged scenes in this section are from the novel Runaway Horses, and concern a group of kendo students who plan on assassinating a rich capitalist to send a message to the government.
All three of these sections culminate in Section Four, "Harmony of Pen and Sword", which concerns the last day of Mishima's life, in which he unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the Japanese government. All three staged episodes and Mishima's life (his ultimate work of art) end in this section.
Schrader has created one of the best, most unique, films ever made. Never have I seen a film work so well on so any different levels. The script is original and accurate. The direction is done in a very Japanese style...it's hard to believe an American directed the film. Ken Ogata, the great character actor you may remember as the serial killer in the chilling Vengeance is Mine and from the vampire film My Soul is Slashed, does a great job of capturing Mishima's spirit and personality, even if he doesn't resemble the man that much. Definite kudos must also go to set designer Eiko Ishioka's amazing sets in the staged scenes, Phillip Glass's wonderful score (truly brilliant...I'm looking for it on CD), and John Bailey's grandly realized cinematography. As a matter of fact, all three were awarded for their efforts at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985; they were given a special award entitled "Best Artistic Contribution".
In conclusion, this is a brilliant film. By combining Mishima's best works of art: his life and his stories, Schrader has made a rare film that sheds more light onto the amazing man than any formal biopic ever could. This is one of my all time favorites, and it gets my fullest recommendation.
WOODY'S RATING: 10/10