Monday, February 13, 2006

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (movie review)

A real joy on this DVD is director Paul Schrader's commentary, which frames what's already a multi-level puzzle box of art about art. The film weaves grayscale memories with color-themed theatrical excerpts from Mishima's works, within the outer frame of the artist's final performance, a kind of paramilitary maneuver and homage to bushido culture.

Mishima was a great post-WWII Japanese writer who, with the rise of film and television, morphed into a media celebrity and cult figure. He used his prominence to make a statement, signed with the blood of his own surreal and spectacular suicide, along with that of his adjutant, on November 25, 1972.

Scharder's postmortem commentary in November 2000, at the Lucas Skywalker Ranch, provides insights into the intricate dynamics behind the making of this 1985 film, which resulted in its being temporarily suppressed in Japan, where Mishima, survived by his widow, remained a controversial figure. Just making this film took guts, especially if one were Japanese (the foreigners were expected to be insensitive and reckless).

My thanks to Trevor Blake for putting me on to this film, and to Netflix for making it easy to come by.