Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Movies, Drama
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

On November 25, 1970, writer-pundit Yukio Mishima and his private militia took over the national army headquarters in Tokyo. The author made a speech to the assembled troops about returning to the glory days of the Muromachi period, then committed seppuku. For Paul Schrader, the idea that this megalomaniacal literary giant would go out the way he did wasn’t surprising; it was there all along, embedded in his past and encoded in works brimming with celebrations of beauty and death. Interweaving scenes from three of Mishima’s books, snippets of his early life and a
ticking-clock buildup to the novelist’s final act, Schrader’s brilliant, baroque biopic comes close to being the filmmaker’s crowning achievement. It’s fetishistic, lyrical, narcissistic and, at key moments, borderline berserk. In other words, the movie captures its subject to a tee.

The director’s collaborators deserve equal credit—especially actor Ken Ogata (Vengeance Is Mine); cinematographer John Bailey and production designer Eiko Ishioka, for the colorful novel sequences; and composer Philip Glass. Yet Mishima is Schrader’s film, and arguably his most personal one to date. Take out the homoerotic, quasifascist notions of might, and it’s easy to read this as his own chronicle of artistic obsessiveness and fascination with supernova self-destructiveness.

By: David Fear

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Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Wednesday December 17 2008
Duration: 121 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Paul Schrader
Screenwriter: Paul Schrader, Leonard Schrader, Chieko Schrader
Cast: Ken Ogata
Masayuki Shionoya
Junkichi Orimoto
Naoko Otani
Go Riju
Roy Scheider