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11.25: The Day He Chose His Own Fate (2012)
"11·25 jiketsu no hi: Mishima Yukio to wakamono-tachi" (original title)

 |  Drama  |  2 June 2012 (Japan)
6.2
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On November 25th 1970, a man committed ritual suicide inside the Tokyo headquarters of the Japanese Ministry of Defence, leaving behind a legacy of masterpieces and a controversy that ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Arata Iura ...
Yukio Mishima
Shinobu Terajima
Hanae Kan
Hideo Nakaizumi
Toshiki Masuda
Kiyohiko Shibukawa
Suzunosuke
Katsuyuki Shinohara
Shin'nosuke Mitsushima ...
Hissho morita
Tomori Abe ...
Zenkyoto student
Motoki Ochiai
Kazuki Tsujimoto
Takatsugu Iwama
Yuto Kobayashi
Seiroku Nakazawa
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On November 25th 1970, a man committed ritual suicide inside the Tokyo headquarters of the Japanese Ministry of Defence, leaving behind a legacy of masterpieces and a controversy that echoes to this day. The man was Yukio Mishima, one of Japan's greatest and most celebrated novelists. With four members of his own private army - the Tatenokai - Mishima had taken the commandant hostage and called upon the assembled military outside the Ministry to overthrow their society and restore the powers of the Emperor. When the soldiers mocked and jeered Mishima, he cut short his speech and withdrew to the commandant's office where he committed seppuku - the samurai warrior's death - tearing open his belly with a ceremonial knife before being beheaded by one of his colleagues. What was Mishima truly trying to express through his actions? And what did he witness during his final moments? Written by Production

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2 June 2012 (Japan)  »

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11.25: The Day He Chose His Own Fate  »

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Runaway forces
7 June 2012 | by (Japan) – See all my reviews

In Japan, this film is being positioned as the last installment of director Wakamatsu's "Showa Trilogy", "Showa" being the name of the era covered by the reign of Hirohito (1926 - 1989), and tells the Mishima story in the context of the tumultuous "Showa 40s" (mid 60s - mid 70s). As in "United Red Army" and "Caterpillar", the two previous installments, Wakamatsu sprinkles his opus with plenty of newsreel footage about mainly political incidents leading up to his climax, which in this case means violent demonstrations in central Tokyo against the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the Vietnam War, the occupation of Yasuda Hall at the University of Tokyo, and the Red Army hijacking of a commercial flight, among other things. But Wakamatsu wisely opens with an event that took place a bit earlier: the 1960 assassination of the leader of the Socialist Party by a right-wing youth who later hangs himself with a torn bed sheet after scribbling characters meaning "Seven lives I'll give for the country! Long live the emperor!" on the wall in his own blood, presumably. This, in turn, leads him further back, to what is known as the February 26th Incident, an attempted coup led by self-styled "patriotic" young officers in 1936. The Incident is no less than an archetypal model of ultra-right ideology and action in the modern period, and is still presented in a romantic light in Japan. Wakamatsu correctly discerns the thread linking these two events with Mishima's and, indeed, all the other right-wing lunacy that followed and is still sporadically occurring.

This, however, is precisely the problem with his film. Wakamatsu focuses exclusively on the political strand, and so ignores the many other strands that went into the complex and conflicted psyche that was the real Mishima - his homoeroticism, his narcissism, his flamboyance, his taste for rococo and admiration of Greece, his delicacy, his fecund imagination. Granted, Wakamatsu did not set out to make a bio. But as a result, Mishima appears in only his last incarnation, whose makings we are told nothing about. He has about as much depth as cardboard, and is about as interesting. Ditto for the character of Morita, who comes off to me as a simple-minded fanatic. Viewed in a purely political light, their "thought" is beneath consideration and doesn't deserve the term, for it is nothing but sentimentality proceeding from wrong-headed, and dangerous, notions about bushido (the way of the samurai), the emperor, and above all, Japanese identity. Indeed, the last day is, obviously, best construed not as a political act but as spectacular (I would say stock as well) theater by an author and playwright stepping into and playing out in reality the persona he had come to idealize, following an anachronistic script complete with all the de rigueur elements, right down to the oaths written in blood, swordplay, headbands with heroic slogans ("Seven lives..." again), the rousing exhortation, death poems, and of course the belly-cut itself.

Another thing that bothers me is the way Wakamatsu seems to fall for these trappings himself. The camera dwells lovingly, it appears to me, on the formulaic death poems of each member. And in a burst of pure bathos, it cuts to a scene of petals fluttering down from cherry blossom trees at the moment of decapitation. I audibly groaned at the resort to this incredibly hackneyed cliché of Japanese cinema. (At least no petals fell on the paper on which the death poems were written.) Do we really want more romanticizing of this sort of ironically self-indulgent behavior?

Arata Iura and Shinnosuke Mitsushima (as Mishima and Morita, respectively) emote like crazy, but in a losing battle, for the film per se is extraordinarily ill-conceived, and the script, tedious. (One little thing - I did wish Arata had hit the gym more and pasted some hair on his chest for the part, for his physique did the real YM a dishonor.) I would recommend this film only to viewers who are interested in seeing a re-creation of the events leading up to and on the fateful day, for these were reportedly well-researched. For a portrait of Mishima, all would do much better to see the 1985 film "Mishima - A Life in Four Chapters", directed by Paul Schrader and starring the late Ken Ogata, a first-rate actor who is much missed in Japan. And for those curious about Japanese fanaticism, by all means see the real thing in the documentary "Yasukuni", the 2007 stunner directed by Li Ying.

I saw "Mishima" in a theater in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, the scene of some of the rioting depicted in it, on the very first day of its run. Given the pervasive political ennui in the country, it was hard to believe things were once so overheated. The movie ends with Mishima's widow asking a former member sitting at a bar counter what the militia had bequeathed. He offers no answer, but merely unfolds his hands, holds them palms up (empty, in other words), and turns to the camera. Wakamatsu seems to be looking for an answer from the audience. But judging from the fact that the theater was barely half full, the question is apparently of little concern to the theater-going public. One can only conclude that there is a resounding lack of interest in either Mishima or Wakamatsu, or both. If that is their reaction to Mishima as portrayed by Wakamatsu, anyway, I think it is the right one, and a good thing, too.


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