XL Popcorn – Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 900/1009Title: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
Director: Paul Schrader
Year: 1985
Country: USA

Film 900. It’ll be a while before I celebrate only having double digits to go, but this is a major landmark number and so I wanted to find a suitably interesting film for it. I mean, an American made film about the odd life of one of Japan’s treasured writers… who ended up committing seppuku after invading a government building with his militia as he disliked the capitalist path his country was on after the Second World War. Classic story, right?

Like the name of the film suggests, this is a film told in four parts. The first three show Mishima’s life and each is intertwined with a different adaptation of one of his many novels. In doing this, Schrader is really able to show how much of his life that Mishima brought to his fiction – his eventual suicide, attempt at insurrection and obsession with being a living piece of art being some of the more obvious shared themes.

This is an odd way to make a film, but it is such an interesting way to do so. Like when we look at the work of a writer in a class, we often look at some biographical details – so why not do it the other way around? Especially when is means the creation of some beautifully unique sets that are almost build as if being presented as part of an immersive theatre project.

Given that Schrader chose to depict Mishima’s attraction to men, and other such things that cast aspersions on the character of much respected author in his native country, this did not receive a general release in Japan. This therefore makes this an interesting film that is American, yet in the Japanese language and with a lot of Japanese style… that didn’t come out in Japan. I understand the wish to protect your icons, but this man was known to go to gay bars and became a radical who wanted to storm the government.

What can I say, people are complex It’s just that some people are a labyrinth and Schrader did a great job of guiding us through the twists and turns of this man’s odd life and seeming mental collapse. Glad he didn’t show how bad his attempt at seppuku went wrong. That would have been… that would have been awful.

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