5.7/10
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2 user 3 critic

Kyokon densetsu: Utsukushiki nazo (1983)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Tatsuya Nagatomo
Masayoshi Nogami
Kei Shuto
Kaoru Yamashina
Ren Ôsugi ...
Makio Mitani
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Plot Keywords:

gay sex | asian | army | military | workout | See All (22) »

Genres:

Drama | Comedy

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April 1983 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Beautiful Mystery  »

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A strange, funny, charming, sexy but slightly frustrating movie
21 November 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Beautiful Mystery is a strange, funny but somewhat frustrating movie. It's an absurd but muted early-1980s sex comedy based on the true story of the very successful and highly regarded Japanese poet, novelist and playwright Yukio Mishima (he had been nominated for the Nobel three times by his early 40s, barely missed winning it in 1968), whose story is so bizarre it would be unbelievable as fiction.

He was a right-wing fanatic (the most likely reason he didn't win the Nobel) and a closeted homosexual, who formed a small paramilitary unit that was supported by the army, possibly because he was so widely respected.

His secret goal was to overthrow Japan's democratic government and restore absolute power to the emperor who had led them into WWII. In 1970 he and three of his followers entered the army headquarters building in Tokyo; he went out onto a balcony (there are photographs of him there) and declared his coup to restore the empire.

When the soldiers he had hoped would rally round him laughed at him instead, he and his top aide committed ritual suicide on the spot by disembowelment (hara-kiri) followed by decapitation (photos there too, if you want to see them). He had been rehearsing his suicide for a long time beforehand, which apparently was usual among the Samurai class he admired. (Don't get upset if I've erred in any details - that's the essence of his story, which is enough to put this movie in context.)

It's easy to see how such a story could lend itself to comedy as easily as tragedy. This little 56-minute, zero-budget movie covers a good deal of it, but primarily as an unlikely framework for soft porn. His and his followers' sexual activity in the movie is even more manic than their politics.

The movie changes his name, reduces the size of his band from around 90 to only 10 men (enhancing the farcical aspect of his coup, as if it needed enhancing), covers only the last week or so before the coup (but not the coup itself) and doesn't mention his literary renown in the erratic English subtitles.

It focuses about equally on the political and sexual ambitions of the band's leader (played by a Japanese actor who looks uncannily like James Franco) and on the sexual escapades (and budding romance) of a young recruit and the slightly older man assigned as his mentor. (The movie's abundant sex isn't by any means limited to those two, but theirs is the most erotic and gets the most screen time.)

Since I'm not familiar with Japanese humor, I'm not absolutely sure this movie was meant to be funny, but it is. The frustration I mentioned up top is caused by the total absence of uncovered pen!ses in an otherwise VERY graphic soft-porn movie.

But despite its extremely low budget, its bizarre, tragicomic story and its rampant but puritanically fig-leafed sexual activity, the movie has a surprisingly innocent, naive and gentle touch that makes it much easier to watch than it could have been in harsher hands. I'd grown quite fond of it by the end.

There is nothing on the US DVD (released by Water Bearer Films) but the movie itself, which looks and sounds like a fairly good transfer from video tape.


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