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|Index||25 reviews in total|
19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
MISHIMA: A Troubled Life in Four Chapters, 3 April 2001
Author: irajoel (firstname.lastname@example.org) from new york city
One would think that a film based on the life of the Japanese author Yukio Mishima would be a daunting if not impossible task. However Paul Schrader has indeed made a film "about" Mishima that is both superb & complex. While it is not a literal biography, Schrader & his co-screenwriter Leonard Scharder (his brother) have taken several incidents from his life, including his sucide and crafted what can best be described as incidental tableaus that are visually sparse and stunning. Mishima's homosexuality is almost not there, due to legal threats from his widow, but in spite of this, the film is still terrific, and one of the best films I saw in 1985. I should also mention the important contribution of Philip Glass who did the score, which adds an additional texture to the film, and is superior to the one he did for Scorsese's Kundun. Also notable is John Bailey's fine crisp beautifully colored cinematography and the great production design & costumes by Eiko Ishioka who went on to do the memorable costumes for Coppola's Dracula for which she received a well deserved Oscar. Hopefully this film will soon be available on DVD.
18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Magnificent, 21 February 2003
A story told in four chapters and in three levels. Flashbacks of Yukio
Mishima's life, dramatizations of his written works, and the events of his
final day of life.
If Mishima was a fictional character, I doubt if anyone would believe or accept such a creation. But he was a real, flesh and blood, human being, which makes the film all the more incredible. Granted that some of the facts have been dramatized or "enhanced" for the screen, but the story is quite factual.
A man of many contrasts: A devoted family man who kept a gay lover. A writer who saw his words being "not enough". A patriotic man at home in the present who yearned for a return to Imperial Japan's past glory. A man who struggled to unite movement with action, and saw everything he strove for fall apart at the most critical moment.
The film is lovingly made, magnificently acted, painstakingly edited and the musical soundtrack by Philip Glass will stay with you for days. The film's tight budget doesn't show at all.
Now available on DVD, this film is a worthy addition to the collections of true cinemaphiles.
My rating: 10/10
14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Stunning, 9 July 2008
Author: ametaphysicalshark from prejudicemadeplausible.wordpress.com
"Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" is one of those films which is
extremely hard to write about simply because it hit me on such an
emotional level and stunned me with its artistry to the point where
writing a review or comment on the film seems trivial and useless.
Hence, this will be rambling and poorly-written, but I'll give it a
The easiest thing to talk about when discussing "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" is the technical elements of the film. The narrative is superb and fairly original with a fine script by Chieko, Leonard, and Paul Schrader and Schrader's decisions as director are pretty much faultless. Every stylistic turn the film took, every sequence which took a risk, and pretty much the whole time the camera was in motion I was utterly enthralled and fascinated with how well the film works as a film. Paul Schrader may not be as great a storyteller as some of the great directors are but in "Mishima" he proves that he is more than capable of being a wonderful storyteller if necessary. The film moves at an extraordinarily fast pace and one barely notices the passing of the two hours.
I have to say, despite being a literature buff to an extent, I have never read anything by Mishima. I knew one or two things about Mishima, including the big ending to his story (which I won't reveal, to keep this spoiler-free) prior to seeing the film, but not much else. Perhaps this is why I felt, contrary to some others, that the film got progressively stronger and ended with a breathtakingly brilliant final act. I also found it completely refreshing how this biopic took no position on Mishima or the final act of his life- it is simply a portrait of a man, not a comment on his life.
The Phillip Glass score is utterly brilliant. There is very little of this film that doesn't prominently feature it, which can come off as the result of a lack of confidence from the director, but in this case it is used superbly well in the film. The score is original, vibrant, interesting, and memorable- much like the film itself.
"Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" is a film that is certainly ripe for interpretation and analysis. I am not going to attempt to provide either of those, mostly because I'm not really in a position to, and also because I found this a profoundly emotional experience, a film of such artistry that it is a film that everyone should experience without preconceived notions of quality or content and one that everyone should attempt their own analysis of. It's that special. It's that good.
14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Amazing, 4 July 1999
Author: Reel07 from Illinois, USA
Mishima is one of the greatest films ever made. Now I think Paul Schrader is the greatest screenwriter of all time, but I don't really like the films he's directed of what I've seen (with the exception of this and Affliction), but this is an amazing, disturbing, and highly 3-dimensional character study. It follows the life of Yukio Mishima, Japan's most celebrated writer, combining the last day of his life with flashbacks and his stories. I don't know how, but Paul Schrader manages to combine all of those in a very artistic way. The acting is great, so is the photography, and a perfect score by Philip Glass. Although confusing the first viewing, this is one of the few films that becomes richer with each viewing. Truly an underrated gem of a film.
16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant, Magnificent -- But Not Flawless, 24 June 2004
Author: Dan1863Sickles from Troy, NY
Someone else put his finger on where this magnificent film falls short
when he said, "Mishima has already said it all, the film simply
repeats." Ultimately, Schrader has made a movie which refuses to
comment on Mishima one way or another, and which becomes somewhat
lifeless and stilted in the final segment as a result. Because he is
bending over backwards not to criticize Mishima, Schrader simply
refuses to examine the uglier implications of his public suicide.
Ironically, this approach hurts the film precisely because Mishima himself was capable of much more perceptive self-criticism. In the first two chapters -- "Beauty" (THE GOLDEN PAVILION) and "Art" (KYOKO'S HOUSE) Schrader's work is nothing short of brilliant. With great subtlety, he interweaves black and white scenes from Mishima's early life with lush full-color scenes from his early novels. What makes these sections so haunting are the subtle, suggestive differences between Mishima and the people he is writing about. For example, Mizoguchi, the acolyte who destroys the Golden Temple, is not a homosexual, nor is he a talented writer. His stammering could be a metaphor for those things, or it could be a metaphor for nothing at all. The mystery of creation and imagination, wordless and inexpressible, really seems to come to life here -- particularly in the dissolve where the schoolboy Mishima "morphs" into the slightly older Mizoguchi.
The problems start in the third chapter, "Action." Here Schrader films scenes from Mishima's RUNAWAY HORSES (one of my personal favorites) as if they are not just similar, but absolutely interchangeable with Mishima's militarist activities with the Shield Society. Schrader seems to assume that the hero of the novel, Isao, is simply a stand in for Mishima. How can you tell? Because Schrader cuts out precisely those sections of the novel in which Mishima actually analyzes Isao's emotions and his illusions. The Isao of this movie is merely a straw man who spouts platitudes about the emperor and Japan's greatness. The Isao of the book is a courageous, unselfish, but very human teenage boy, whose callous and narrow-minded parents are unable to love and who plainly have had a crushing effect on his psyche. Mishima, whether consciously or not, included some truly vile scenes of parental cruelty and manipulation in this book precisely because he understood on some level that Isao's decision to end his own life was not entirely unselfish. The connection between the sordid ugliness of Isao's loveless home and his desire to die a violent death is clear enough in the book. But it is absent from the movie. Oddly enough, Schrader thinks he is protecting Mishima in the last section, by not moralizing about the suicide, but he is actually diminishing him as an author.
The RUNAWAY HORSES section is by far the weakest of the movie. The final scenes, in which Mishima at the moment of death attains "oneness" with his heroes, really are quite exhilarating. But they would have been still richer if Schrader had taken a more nuanced approach to RUNAWAY HORSES, instead of just viewing it as a "blueprint" for the last events in Mishima's life.
This is unquestionably a brilliant, inspiring film, but it's not quite flawless.
11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Harmony of Pen and Sword, 24 April 2006
Author: Galina from Virginia, USA
The film, original and hypnotizing depicting of the fascinating
Artist's life through his writings, works, especially in the first two
chapters, "Beauty" and "Art". They are nothing short of perfection if
you ask me. Amazing blend of three different styles - quasi documentary
of the last day in his life, black-and-white flashbacks of his earlier
days and exiting and stylish color sequences of his novels "The Temple
of Golden Pavilion" and "Kyoko's House" helps to understand the
constant and tragic search of Mishima's protagonists for beauty and for
meaning of art. Two last chapters, "Action" and "Harmony of Pen and
Sword" seem weaker than the first two. Two hours are not enough to
explore the figure of such complexity but the attempt is very
interesting and adds to my interest in Mishima - a great writer, actor,
director, a military man, a man who felt that he knew where the future
of his country lied and who did not hesitate a second to die for his
11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
A beautiful work of art, 22 October 1999
Author: david-345 from Charlotte
Movies are something you see on Saturday night and forget by Sunday morning. Motion pictures are works of art that stick with you forever. Mishima falls into the latter category. This is the type of thing that should win Academy Awards, a brilliant, visual peice of film that is both depressing and uplifting. Instead of doing a straightforward look at the life of Yukio Mishima, director Paul Schrader interweaves three adaptations of the author's stories into a look at his past and final day on Earth, the day he tried to lead the Japanese military into rebellion in the name of the Emperor. Failing to do that, he commits ritual suicide in an ending that hits you like a ton of bricks. The three short story adaptations allow a look into what led him to this and are presented in an experimental way that makes them appear to be filmed stage plays. Ken Ogata is magnificent as Mishima. Despite his eccentricities, he comes off as very sympathetic, a man who is quite willing to die for his beliefs and does. This makes the ending that much more devastating and the sense of loss more meaningful. Of the three story adaptations, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko's House and Runaway Horses, it is the last that is the strongest and most emotional. It also is the story that most closely matches Mishima's mood in his final years and illustrates what truly led him to the events of November 1970. This review cannot be complete without a mention of Philip Glass' striking musical score. Not since 2001 has a film score been such a perfect compliment to it's visuals. Paul Schrader crafted one of the most beautiful movies of the 1980s or any other decade for that matter. Have the hankies at the ready because the ending will leave you in tears. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters reminds you that sometimes film can still be an art form and as art it is brilliant.
8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Highly stylized, rewarding film for thoughtful viewers., 12 January 2007
Author: ags123 from Atlanta, Georgia
It has taken several viewings for me to fully appreciate this film. Initially, I was struck by the stylized sets, but found the rest slow going and dull. I thought that such a sensational subject needed the Ken Russell treatment to take it way over the top. I now find the enforced restraint (placed on the production by Mishima's widow) to be an asset. Some of the more lurid aspects of Mishima's life are reiterated and dramatized by corresponding themes from his novels. I think it helps to be familiar with the novels - that's what finally made the difference for me. Still feel the film overall could be a little tighter and warmer, but it's genuinely unique, and deserves serious attention. Love the fact that the Japanese characters speak Japanese - not English. The Philip Glass score is mesmerizing.
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Complicated but still easy to watch, 17 May 2002
Author: Jeremy from Denver, Colorado
There are very few films that are able to tell such a complicated story on so many levels as well as Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. One of the most difficult aspects of story telling is the ability to flashback and forward without losing the pace of the film. This film not only flashes back and fourth with the greatest of easy, but it also flows through some of Yukio Mishima greatest stories. This film exceeds in every aspect and is a joy to watch. Not to mention the incredible Philip Glass Soundtrack.
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Like A Boy At A Window Or A Sword In A Sheath, 11 August 2008
Author: Joseph Sylvers from United States
The only pure life, is one that ends with a signature in blood.
So says Mishima anyway, a young sheltered boy who becomes a celebrity author. The life of one of Japans most celebrated literary voices, is told from three perspectives, his life just before he and four members of his private army take over a Japanese military base and commit ritual suicide(shown in color), flashbacks(shown in black and white), and scenes from his novels(shown in a kind of dreamy Technicolor set design somewhere between traditional Noh Theater and "the Wizard Of Oz". These stories are often told at the same time, but are edited to reinforce, the slow fusing of Mishima's life with his fictions, until the end(or the beginning) when like the ancient samurai he so admires, he will be at a balance of pen and sword (when his words and actions are the same, and he is a full and "pure" being).
Paul Schrader wrote the screen play for "Taxi Driver", and directed "Cat People"(a bizarre erotic horror film, which left strange impressions on me as a boy), and in Mishima, he comes closest to making a really excellent film.
Whats interesting is to watch the poet, the homosexual, the shy and awkward man with a low body image who overstates his Tuberculosis to get of of WW2 (of which he seems forever ashamed), become a body building, samurai obsessed, a-sexual, media phenomena, all the while still writing prolific amounts of novels, plays, and short stories.
A short and sweet version is to say Mishima has no father, and becomes obsessed with masculinity, beauty, sex and self destruction, in some tragic attempt to feel connected to something bigger than himself, that he was always missing. Watching him with his fellow suicidal cadets, you see him happy, delivering his big paternal speech, giving orders, and loving the control...until the speech itself, the point where pen and sword meet? Of course, this ignores the subtlety of the story telling craft here which makes this transformation so natural and remarkable.
Though the story, fascinating at times, really isn't this movies greatest success. The cinematography, performances, editing,music(by Philip Glass), and set designs, are really what make this worth seeing, and more than a traditional bio-pic.
One day I will pick, up a Mishima book, he does seem to have an ear for prose, and for staging ideas, but for now I'm satisfied with the film.
Those interested in Japanese Literature, and post-war culture, should check out. Fans of inventive combinations of facts and fictions, should enjoy as well.
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