Until film directors or writers can transmit information telepathically, I believe it's a complete waste of time to try to make a movie based on a novel like Mishima's "Temple of the Golden Pavilion". This movie is basically only a sequence of episodic occurrences without any explanation of the thoughts, feelings, and obsession that drove Mizoguchi to his final, self-destructive act; the novel, on the other hand, is almost completely dominated by such explanation, and the episodes depicted in this film serve in the novel essentially as jumping-off points for Mizoguchi's expostulations on beauty, deformity, isolation, etc. The very essence of his story is exactly what's missing from this film, and its absence renders the movie incomprehensible to those who haven't first read the novel. I watched it within a couple of weeks of having read "Temple of the Golden Pavilion" and so had a good idea of the story; my wife had not read it and found the story frankly puzzling, and I was at a loss as to how to explain to her Mizoguchi's motivations for his actions. The episode of his defacing the scabbard of the naval cadet's scabbard, for example, comes across in the movie as just a peevish act of petty revenge for the other students mocking his stammer. Completely absent from the movie are such central issues as his feelings towards his father and, especially, his mother (including the traumatic experience of witnessing his mother's adultery, which passes almost invisibly in the movie); his feelings towards the Superior and his need to rouse the old man to anger and condemnation; his relationships with Kashiwagi and with Tsurukawa (the latter missing entirely from the movie); and above all, his overarching obsession with the Golden Pavilion itself and all it symbolizes to him. From the movie alone, one gets the impression that the almost completely inarticulate monk just suddenly decides to burn the temple down for virtually no reason, whereas in the novel, he explains frequently and at almost exhausting length what the Golden Pavilion means to him and why he comes to decide that he has to destroy it. Where, for instance, in the movie is even the hint that his obsession with the Golden Pavilion renders him essentially impotent? By his telling in the novel, that is one of the main factors of his desperation. This movie is only a paltry shell of the work on which it was based. If you must watch it, read "Temple of the Golden Pavilion" shortly before you do, or you'll be completely at sea!
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