Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Movie A Day, Day 72: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Yesterday's movie was the recently re-released 1985 film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, another one I missed when it came out and have been wanting to see for a while. It was actually in my Netflix queue, but when it showed up at Anthology Film Archive I decided to see it there instead. I'm glad I did, since sitting right in front of a big screen made it easier to succumb to its odd mix of intensity and abstraction, chaos and control.

Paul Schrader, who directed the movie and co-wrote the script with his brother and sister-in-law, gets the setup out of the way with a couple of title cards, telling us that Yukio Mishima was one of Japan's most popular postwar writers, the author of scores of novels, short stories, essays, poems, and plays. This may be a biopic, but it avoids every cliché of the genre, roaring past boilerplate like courtship and marriage and eschewing psychobabble like the childhood trauma that explains everything. Instead, Shrader uses Mishima's own writings to construct four chapters ("Beauty," "Art," "Action," and "Harmony of Pen and Sword") centered around cornerstones of Mishima's philosophy. Together, the four trace the evolution in his thinking that led him to take his own life, gathering the young acolytes in a paramilitary group he had formed and driving onto a military base to commit seppuku. Read the rest on The House Next Door, Slant Magazine's blog.

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