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Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

A fictionalized account in four chapters of the life of celebrated Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.

Director:

Paul Schrader

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ken Ogata Ken Ogata ... Yukio Mishima (segment "November 25, 1970") / Narrator
Masayuki Shionoya Masayuki Shionoya ... Morita (segment "November 25, 1970")
Hiroshi Mikami ... Cadet #1 (segment "November 25, 1970")
Junya Fukuda Junya Fukuda ... Cadet #2 (segment "November 25, 1970")
Shigeto Tachihara Shigeto Tachihara ... Cadet #3 (segment "November 25, 1970")
Junkichi Orimoto Junkichi Orimoto ... General Mashita (segment "November 25, 1970")
Naoko Ôtani Naoko Ôtani ... Mother (segment "Flashbacks")
Gô Rijû Gô Rijû ... Mishima, age 18-19 (segment "Flashbacks")
Masato Aizawa Masato Aizawa ... Mishima - age 9-14 (segment "Flashbacks")
Yuki Nagahara Yuki Nagahara ... Mishima, age 5 (segment "Flashbacks")
Kyûzô Kobayashi Kyûzô Kobayashi ... Literary Friend (segment "Flashbacks")
Yuki Kitazume Yuki Kitazume ... Dancing Friend (segment "Flashbacks")
Haruko Katô Haruko Katô ... Grandmother (segment "Flashbacks")
Yasosuke Bando Yasosuke Bando ... Mizoguchi (segment "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion")
Hisako Manda Hisako Manda ... Mariko (segment "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion")
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Storyline

A fictionalized account in four chapters of the life of celebrated Japanese author Yukio Mishima. Three of the segments parallel events in Mishima's life with his novels (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko's House, and Runaway Horses), while the fourth depicts the actual events of the 25th Nov. 1970, "The Last Day". Written by Nick Lopez <ntlopez@fas.harvard.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

On November 25, 1970, Japan's greatest author Yukio Mishima commited an act that shocked the literary world...

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Japan

Language:

Japanese | English

Release Date:

20 September 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mishima See more »

Filming Locations:

Japan See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,378, 15 September 1985, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$437,547

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$518,842
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Has never been officially released in Japan even to this day (2005) theatrically or on video because of the controversy over both Yukio Mishima's politics and the film itself. However, it has been shown on television (albeit with the gay bar scene removed) and the U.S. DVD can legally be imported there. See more »

Goofs

It was Morita, not Mishima, who locked the doors. When he saw that some doors couldn't be locked, Mishima ordered them barricaded. See more »

Quotes

Yukio Mishima (Narrator): I wanted to explode, light the sky for an instant and disappear.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Yukio Mishima is acknowledged to have been a real person, but his acts have been fictionalized by writers. Other persons and events in this film are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons and events is unintentional. See more »

Alternate Versions

The U.S. DVD reissue on Warner Bros. does not have Roy Scheider's narration; it has been replaced with an uncredited narrator, probably due to legal or technical issues. The disc does, however, feature the Japanese-language narration track along with English subtitles. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Truman Show (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

Brilliant, Magnificent -- But Not Flawless
24 June 2004 | by Dan1863SicklesSee all my reviews

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.


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