432-433 Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters & Patriotism

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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zedz
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#101 Post by zedz » Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:36 pm

cdnchris wrote:Mizoguchi visiting an old priest, who is played by Ryu.
Now that's what I call a deleted scene! (And we thought it was just Mishima's estate that was pissed off about the film.)

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#102 Post by TheGodfather » Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:40 pm

cdnchris wrote:I completely used the wrong word. What I meant is it has a metallic sheen over it.
ah ok ;)
miless wrote:the Teshigahara box is embossed.
I don`t own that one so I didn`t know.

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#103 Post by Morgan Creek » Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:53 pm

domino harvey wrote:It's foil-stamped, look in the Cover Art thread, there's pics of the whole package there
Photos don't really do justice to how striking the entire package of this set is - every element of it is beautifully conceived and executed (and despite all the early complaining, it doesn't read at all as psychedelia). Another design by Neil Kellerhouse, who did the Varda and Teshigahara, among many others.

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#104 Post by Cronenfly » Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:04 pm

That there was an English V/O recorded for the film by someone other than Scheider (even if it was "only" a guide track; Criterion has seen fit to include it, though, so there must be something more to the matter/some noteworthy differences between the two) I think makes the issue of the multiple English V/O worth further investigation (but only if anyone else is still interested...I give up).
cdnchris wrote:But I'll ask this, then: Was the sky behind the character sort of a dark red? This is something I don't recall.
Cronenfly wrote:Memory fails me...I believe it was red, but not a really dark red. I'm not certain, though; hopefully someone with the disc on hand can chime in.
kinjitsu, who has the Warner disc on hand (a serious leg up on my no longer having the Warner DVD/my Alzheimer's), told me in a pm that:
kinjitsu wrote:Facing him the sky is deep blue, followed by a reverse shot of the sunset behind him, which is deep red, almost burgundy.
Last edited by Cronenfly on Fri Jun 20, 2008 5:00 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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#105 Post by cdnchris » Fri Jun 20, 2008 10:53 pm

I'll be taking screen grabs tonight and I'll get one of that sequence and post it. But I'm sure Gary will have comparisons up soon, though, and he'll at least clear it up.

If there was an alteration, though, it wasn't an issue to me. The image transfer, otherwise, was exceptional.

EDIT: I just got a message that the sky was actually blue in the shot, also noted above in Cronenfly's post. So, yes, it has been altered. The sky is now a dark red, or burgundy, to match the shot of the sun. The commentary was recorded in 2006 and it appears no alterations had happened by that point.

Edit #2: Having now gotten through the whole commentary it's confirmed that not only is the conclusion of the film altered but the conclusion of the Runaway Horses has also been altered. He complains about the day-for-night shots and then one shot of a blue sky that ruins it. He mentions how he wants to change the colour of the skies and hopes Criterion will be able to help him do that (they're obviously watching a version with the old skies.) The skies were changed to red as well to match the feel of the sequence.

End of Runaway Horses segment
Image

Final sequence
Image

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#106 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Sat Jun 21, 2008 4:27 am

I just got it along with Patriotism. I totally agree with the others about the package. It is great. It has a golden-metallic glossy feel (the background colour is gold, not greenish-yellowish like in the published cover art) and it is very impressive. :D

But I want to note that the booklet is also very impressive.
Of course, most of Criterion's booklets are quite good but this is something else thanks to the photographs of Ishioka's sets. These are some of the most interesting and beautiful photos I have ever seen in a DVD booklet. (And I have to admit that I usually consider it a waste of space when I see stills or production photos in booklets. I prefer they use the space for more essays.)
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#107 Post by Cronenfly » Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:59 am

Do the people who have already received Mishima and Patriotism get it from DVD Planet?

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#108 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Sat Jun 21, 2008 11:32 am

Not me. I bought both of them from a store here in Athens that pre-orders and always gets them 7-12 days before their release date. (we are talking about Criterion discs here. For other companies there is a different time frame.)

P.S. Obviously the release date only applies for the stores in the US.

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#109 Post by Cronenfly » Sat Jun 21, 2008 1:29 pm

Fan-of-Kurosawa wrote:Not me. I bought both of them from a store here in Athens that pre-orders and always gets them 7-12 days before their release date. (we are talking about Criterion discs here. For other companies there is a different time frame.)

P.S. Obviously the release date only applies for the stores in the US.
Makes sense; Morgan Creek seemed to suggest he has a copy too (of Mishima at least), though, so I thought maybe there was some way of getting early copies of the two of them that I'm missing (outside of review copies and situations like the one Fan-of-Kurosawa described, of course).

And thanks for the altered Criterion cliff scene caps, Chris; I never minded the more naturalistic look of the scene before, but I thought that Schrader's tweaking might have gone further than it seems to have based on your caps, so I'm not too perturbed (although I might feel differently after having seen it in action...).

Beaver on Mishima and Patriotism.

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#110 Post by What A Disgrace » Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:44 pm

I hope Criterion's windowboxing stays like Patriotism's; since they probably aren't going to get rid of it altogether.

Eagerly awaiting my copy.

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#111 Post by cdnchris » Sun Jun 22, 2008 4:08 am


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#112 Post by Tommaso » Sun Jun 22, 2008 5:06 am

Great reviews, Chris. But why do you think that "Patriotism" is "nothing more than a general curiosity"? I would agree that this might have also been included with the Schrader disc (making it a three-disc-package), but in my view the film is extraordinary both in the revelations it includes about Mishima and in its intrinsic cinematic qualities. With its use of Wagner's music (completely OTT, of course), its ritualistic character and unashamed 'decadent' eroticism it fits somewhat obliquely into what was going on in Japanese cinema at the time (think, for example, "Onibaba", and I even thought of some Oshima here), but it is also a one of a kind film. A great and very beautiful piece of art, whatever you think of Mishima and his politics. And with those extras plus a 70-page-booklet the price is a steal.

Can't wait for these discs to arrive....

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#113 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 22, 2008 5:42 am

in my view the film is extraordinary both in the revelations it includes about Mishima and in its intrinsic cinematic qualities. With its use of Wagner's music (completely OTT, of course),
Absolutely. The Mishima was a revelation to me. Even more visceral than the first book of his I read ("Forbidden Colors".)

To me Yukoku invokes Genet, and much of the "formally polished" avant garde of the 50s, rather than the informally polished 60s (OTT of course.) There are dualities galore in this - western and eastern sensibilities relfected in the mise en scene, the dual sexualities, including the explicit homoeoriticism/narcoeroticism of which the wife "seems" not to be aware, but is, at least a witness to. And the whole smell of sex and death. It has a very fine formal power that I think I might ultimately find dispensible, but the constant invocation of Mishima's "masks" such as they are, is all here. It's very impressive.

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#114 Post by cdnchris » Sun Jun 22, 2008 10:49 am

Tommaso wrote:Great reviews, Chris. But why do you think that "Patriotism" is "nothing more than a general curiosity"? I would agree that this might have also been included with the Schrader disc (making it a three-disc-package), but in my view the film is extraordinary both in the revelations it includes about Mishima and in its intrinsic cinematic qualities. With its use of Wagner's music (completely OTT, of course), its ritualistic character and unashamed 'decadent' eroticism it fits somewhat obliquely into what was going on in Japanese cinema at the time (think, for example, "Onibaba", and I even thought of some Oshima here), but it is also a one of a kind film. A great and very beautiful piece of art, whatever you think of Mishima and his politics. And with those extras plus a 70-page-booklet the price is a steal.
I wasn't trying to knock the film in any way. I actually rather enjoyed it, thought it had some wonderful images and loved the use of the score. I guess I was thinking more along the lines that I don't know if I'd go through the disc again, which may be where that statement came from.

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#115 Post by Tommaso » Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:28 am

No problem, Chris. I actually think that the replay factor of "Patriotism" is pretty high, considering that I watched my old bad-looking copy of this several times in the last two years, but that may be just me. I'm a long-standing fan of Mishima's writings. Glad to see it in a pristine transfer again soon in any case.

And David, I also thought of Genet's "Chant d'amour" here, especially in the formal tightness and concentration (content quite aside). I nevertheless think that the sexuality in "Patriotism" is just one side of the coin; after all Mishima believed that he was dying for 'Japan' and his conception of the nation, something that I believe would be alien to Genet (haven't read anything by him, though). Thus, the literary companion for me wouldn't be "Forbidden Colours" or even "Confessions", but rather "Spring Snow" and "Runaway Horses". I've been re-reading "Spring Snow" recently to 'prepare' myself for the two discs, and I find it quite amazing how the doomed and probably 'innocent' love affair in the book is constantly related to the grander issues of Japan being torn between the old and the new. Mishima seems to indicate there that the old values cannot be really rejuvenated, i.e. the sacrifice in "Spring Snow", "Patriotism" and in his real life would be worthless (I think he basically says the same with "Runaway Horses", which I remember only imperfectly at the moment). Still he celebrates it in the film, against 'better knowledge' so to speak. Well, perhaps the extras on the discs will shed a little more light on his contradictions and motivations. In any case a fascinating and disturbing character, which is one of the reasons why I welcome these discs and their extras so much.
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#116 Post by Cronenfly » Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:39 am

From Chris' review:
other is the original English voice-over narration track read by Roy Scheider without subtitles, the first time it has been presented on DVD (according to the menu description.)
(As a note: The previous Warner DVD did not contain the Scheider track, instead it contained an alternate English narration track as well as the Ogata track. Schrader does mention the Warner DVD briefly in the commentary but doesn’t touch on the alternate English narration on that disc, only talking about the Ogata track. By the sounds of it he wasn’t happy with the Warner DVD, saying it was a mess, and this is probably why we’re getting a Criterion disc.)
This confirms my previously held suspicion that the Warner DVD English V/O is not Scheider, but the "Test Track" Chris describes in his review performed by someone else (not Scheider). Kudos to Criterion for including both in what amounts to a very strange situation indeed; this makes this release an essential one, in my opinion, even to those who don't appreciate all the extras, etc in the CC package (assuming one is okay with the Schrader-mandated sky replacement, of course).

EDIT-Hmm...
The first disc also contains an “Alternate English Track” or “Test Track.” According to the description this was a track recorded for editing purposes and then was used by Scheider as a guide for when he did his voice-over. I didn’t listen to the whole track as the voice was very drab, almost bored, and the dialogue sounded the same as Scheider’s in the places I compared. It’s an interesting extra, though not necessary. At first I assumed that maybe it could be the English track from the Warner DVD, but after checking a review on DVD Times for the Warner DVD, which compares that English track on that DVD with the original Scheider track on the VHS, this is obviously not the case.
So there have been (potentially) 3 released English voiceovers produced for Mishima??? Pretty impressive for a(n) (un)fairly marginal film...

A couple of months back I discussed at length the differing English V/Os with kinjitsu, and he was of the mind that the Warner DVDs V/O was more complete/updated in terms of its translation of Mishima's writings compared to the Scheider VHS/theatrical one, but given that Schrader calls the Warner disc a mess on the CC commentary, it would seem that the reinstated on the CC disc Scheider track (and the more or less identical in text [according to Chris] Test Track, as opposed to the different Warner one) is the one that Schrader wants heard...It's really too bad that the reasons for the creation of the different Warner V/O aren't covered on the CC disc (kinjitsu postulated that it may have been for legal reasons), but I'm thinking that its exclusion from the CC disc closes the book on the matter (though it makes the Warner disc worth holding on to for completists, between the different V/O and the untouched cliff climax sky), at least as it applies to Schrader's preferences for the film.

For reference, here's the DVD Times review Chris mentions; the relevant portion is under the Audio heading.

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#117 Post by kaujot » Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:37 pm

DVDTalk on Patriotism.

The reviewer's "stars" don't really seem to match up with his thoughts, but whatever.

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Talk about the 'body politic'!

#118 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:08 am

I haven't watched through the second disc yet but watching the film for the first time in a decade I connected with the film much more - the red sky is a great change made in the spirit of the film (it isn't as if Schrader wanted to exchange all the swords in the film for walkie talkies :roll: ), keeping the stylised atmosphere of the stories. Also, it might seem a very minor change, but hearing the Scheider narration rather than the 'guide track' I was more familiar with was also a revelation. I like very much the way that the English narration is removed somewhat from Mishima's own voice, yet still speaks his words. It struck me as being a little similar to the later Anatomy of Hell in that the discongruity of the narrator draws attention to the filmmaker's (at least attempted!) distance from the subject matter that is being spoken of. Whether it was intended as such may be debatable but in a way that is not particularly important!

However, I also found Ken Ogata's narration also to be interesting. This track perhaps plays more into the feeling of narcissism that I talk about further below - that Mishima is speaking about himself in the third person through his novels as a sense of preparation for his real life action. The only reason why I prefer the Scheider narration to Ogata's is that with the words being spoken by the same actor playing Mishima in the 'final day' section, there is a greater weight placed on the narration being 'definitively' Mishima speaking about himself through his art. With the more detatched Scheider narration we are provided with his art and his life and are given more leeway to decide for ourselves how much we want to link the two together in a 'cause and effect' way, if that makes any sense!

I think therefore that the choice of narrations is less about which narration is better or more appropriate but instead I guess it comes down to a more personal audience preference.

[EDIT on 1st July: The second disc really gets into the ideas raised by the film, including the suspicion of guilt about not having fought in the war and the gist of Mishima's final speech. Again, and this is a common praise for Criterion, I am very impressed by the many different points of view we are given on the film and the man himself. I haven't checked to make certain but doesn't this also mark John Hurt's entry into the Criterion Collection with his readings from Mishima's work in the BBC documentary?]

I hadn't realised that the film has still not been officially shown in Japan - has is been shown since the commentary was recorded or is there any possibility of this changing in the future?

Interestingly the film reminded me of a couple of modern Hollywood films. It puts criticism of the varying plotlines of The Fountain into context as it has a much more complex, yet clear, structure of inner and outer worlds running through it! And the private army staging acts of political violence reminded me a little of Fight Club!

I'm still not too familiar with Mishima's life and work so I'd be very interested to discuss whether I'm on the right track with the following comments on the film:

I was fascinated by the suggestion that for a 'cult' to be successful and to live on metaphysically their charismatic leader/creator figure needs to die so their spirit invests itself in the work or acts that remain. Perhaps that is what people mean when it is said that someone has left behind a "body of work" - that an act of transubstantiation has occured?

The death becomes a prism through which everything is then viewed (it therefore makes it ironic that according to the commentary Mishima's widow tried to divorce his work from his life) - there is the sense in the moment of hesitation (or steeling themselves) before the final act of seppuku that the shocking act is necessary to bind together the various strands of Mishima's life. You have to take the paradoxical acts that might just be seen as posturing and then ally that to the fact that Mishima felt strongly enough to die for his ideology.

That 'transubstantiation' could also be seen in the mythologising Mishima tries to do of himself in his yakuza films, in Yukoku and in his posed photographs (which reminded me of the photos Jimmy Cliff's character was posing for in The Harder They Come, playing at being a gangster vs the wretchedness of his life at that point and inglorious death hunted down like an animal at the end of that film). I was also wondering whether that discharge from the army so he (supposedly) couldn't fight and die gloriously was a source of guilt for Mishima? Did exaggerating his illness show to him a fear that he spent the rest of his life trying to overcome through becoming strong and hyper-masculine in physique and political stance? It was interesting listening to the commentary that Schrader talked about John Wayne as a touchstone for Ken Ogata's performance as wasn't there some talk about Wayne being touchy about his non-participation in World War Two that seemed to be sublimated into Wayne's films where it often seemed as if he was fighting and winning the war single handed?(!) And then Wayne's adoption of the Vietnam War in The Green Berets as almost being just an extension of a conflict that he didn't actually fight in the 40s than an entirely different war. Could the idea of Wayne becoming more right wing perhaps due to a deep seated guilt at not having 'done his part' and wanting to prove his masculine credentials in a more extreme way be applied to Mishima at all, or is that too simplistic a comparison to draw?

The way that Mishima's past is presented in black and white in the film, as well as being a good separator for audience understanding, could also be suggesting that life holds little interest to Mishima - or little interest compared to the vividness with which even his older writings are shown, still full of potency and relevance.

I like the way that the film creates the stylised world of Mishima's work, a perfect world which is a servant to the author's imagination - only objects, characters and themes that are chosen and fit Mishima's worldview are allowed. It is beautifully insular but at the same time creates a feeling of inevitable danger as it feels as if Mishima is retreating into self-destructive fantasy that will inevitably move into his real life as the boundaries between them are blurred - reality is less interesting or coherent than art (you might visit Mount Fuji, but there's no guarantee in reality that you'll be able to see it on the day of your visit!); art feels much more relevant, urgent and necessary than reality.

Interestingly the 'final day' sections seem to be slightly undermining Mishima's attempts to bring his writings into the real world - not getting the chance to say goodbye to his wife because she has already left and taken the children with her; travelling to their destination packed into a generic car that lends a sense of absurdity to the splendor of his army's uniforms; the General they take hostage seeming to be a sympathetic character; the first attempt at jumping the General being scuppered when he wanders off to his desk to get his own 'polishing cloth' for the sword; the jeering crowd ignoring Mishima's requests for silence; the pulling back (a la Life of Brian!) to a crowd-level perspective from which we can barely hear what Mishima is saying; and, from the information in the commentary, the messy, rather than glorious, deaths.

That makes the film more of a masterpiece for me - it is not ignoring that the reality won't always go completely to plan, but at the same time it is impressed with the attempt at trying to write the ending of your own story "signed with a splash of blood". And in the end the act of seppuku itself is what people remember first, rather than the difficulties surrounding it, as other people then work to mythologise that day in history.

(I was very interested to find out through Chieko Kurosawa's interview that apparently Akira Kurosawa was a director who had approached Mishima's widow about making a film of his life. That is a fascinating piece of information in light of some of Stephen Prince's commentary tracks for Kurosawa's films, in which he talks about the way that Kurosawa shied away from depicting ritual suicide in his films and that this reticence might have been because of his brother's suicide, as well as his own unsuccessful suicide attempt. Perhaps Mishima struck a chord with Kurosawa, and perhaps Kurosawa felt that this would be the one film that would have allowed him to explore this subject, and maybe his own reaction to suicide, in a sublimated manner?)

The film is full of paradoxes - having a wife and children yet at the very least being bisexual; finding things so beautiful that it is better to destroy them rather than see them slowly fall into disrepair and decay, the power that gives the person who destroys as you have been the one to remove that beauty and potential from the world and therefore you are inextricably bound into the fate of that object or person, whether it is burning down a temple, firing arrows into St Sebastian or shooting John Lennon! Then the move from wanting to destroy the outside world to making yourself into an object of respect, power and beauty in order to make a final statement by deciding to remove yourself from life before you are destroyed first (either in reputation or by disease etc).

To me that seems a narcissistic act though also one of deep anger and condemnation, as in a sense all suicides are ("look at what actions you have driven me to have to take")

But I think the film seems to show that Mishima was fully aware of the paradoxes in his writings as well, and accepted them.

It is the final, ultimate paradox that cutting yourself open could be seen as being akin to using a needle to sew the different threads of your life together into a cohesive whole. It is the end of the production process of Mishima's story, and the beginning of his new life as an icon. I love the transition from Mishima's real death (and I actually find it fitting that according to the commentary the reality of the situation was apparently not as slick and without a hitch as in Mishima's story) back through the various endings of the stories and the final seppuku in Runaway Horses - the idealisation of a glorious patriotic death, the music rising and then abruptly ending as the sun's link with the horizon is severed and the credits rolling as the orb rises like a life essence to take its place in the heavens for everyone to view in awe and wonder.

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Re: Talk about the 'body politic'!

#119 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Tue Jul 01, 2008 1:45 pm

Good lord, man, and you say you haven't seen the film in awhile? I'm impressed. Thanks for posting your thoughts because the excerpts above are most helpful as it has been a few years since I last watched it.

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#120 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Jul 01, 2008 2:41 pm

Thanks, Jean-Luc! I posted yesterday the day after watching the first disc and listening to the commentary and added the bit about the narration earlier this afternoon after going through the second disc last night. But before that I had only seen the film once before on a UK TV screening in 1998 with what the Criterion DVD calls the narration 'guide track' (I finally realise why I was confused about why it didn't sound like Roy Scheider was speaking!) I have to admit though that watching it the last time when I was 18 the film went completely over my head so I'll probably count a couple of nights ago as my true first viewing of the film!

Maybe it was for the best that it did though, it may have made such an impression that my life might have taken a drastic turn into right wing politics and bodybuilding! :shock:

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Re: Talk about the 'body politic'!

#121 Post by Tommaso » Thu Jul 03, 2008 7:26 am

Yes, great post, Colin!
colinr0380 wrote:Interestingly the 'final day' sections seem to be slightly undermining Mishima's attempts to bring his writings into the real world - not getting the chance to say goodbye to his wife because she has already left and taken the children with her; travelling to their destination packed into a generic car that lends a sense of absurdity to the splendor of his army's uniforms; the General they take hostage seeming to be a sympathetic character; the first attempt at jumping the General being scuppered when he wanders off to his desk to get his own 'polishing cloth' for the sword; the jeering crowd ignoring Mishima's requests for silence; the pulling back (a la Life of Brian!) to a crowd-level perspective from which we can barely hear what Mishima is saying; and, from the information in the commentary, the messy, rather than glorious, deaths.
This is exactly what I thought when I watched the film yesterday; and I wonder why Schrader decided to do it this way. Probably this is all based on historical accounts, and if so, it would only underline how 'absurd', how out-of-touch with reality this act was (and by implication, Mishima's political thinking in general). I still have a problem with this approach : an unsuspecting viewer in 1970 seeing the TV reports of the event would have gotten a different impression of Mishima, and only this different impression (also furthered by his already established public image in the films in which he acted and the photographs that were made of him) would have been able to create what I'd call - for want of a better term - the Mishima 'mystique'. Just compare the event in Schrader with the footage of the real event in the documentary on disc 2. The difference is furthered (throughout the film) by Ken Ogata. I would say he's a fantastic actor, but he falls short of conveying that unhealthy fascination and charisma that exudes from the real Mishima. In Ogata's performance, Mishima almost becomes a 'likeable' character, a person with whom I could easily imagine spending a nice evening out. Admittedly, Mishima apparently also had that side to him, too, but I feel that Ogata ultimately fails to convey the fanaticism and determination the real Mishima obviously possessed.

All this may be a result of Schrader's concept of emphasizing Mishima the artist over Mishima the ideologist. But as a result, the film doesn't really offer an attempt at explaining how exactly this aesthete became the ultra-conservative he was. The only 'explanation' after the film would indeed be the attempt of unifying life and art, and the young Mishima's own personal problems (the stutter, the need to deal with homosexuality). But seeing these as the reasons for the outcome of the story would be almost equal to saying Pasolini staged his own death ( a point which in fact has been made, see the documentary on the "Teorema" disc).

And Pasolini offers a good comparison in many ways, I think. Both were gay, aesthetes with a stance of uniting life and art, and much interested in archaism and an older, pre-capitalist lifestyle. But they ended up with diametrically opposed political standpoints. So, again, the decisive question what made Mishima take the position he took isn't answered by these biographical explanations; and perhaps it cannot be answered. But for me Schrader's film remains onedimensional in this respect.

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#122 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 03, 2008 8:04 am

I would agree but suggest it was one dimensional in such a way as to suggest the alternative points of view on the man. In a way we are seeing the idealised view of himself through his writings (if we want to totally subscribe to what the artist wrote completely equalling his beliefs. I've not read much of Mishima so I don't want to be presumptious on that point) and cherry picked moments of his past that are almost as idealised as his novels, perhaps making the point that these sections are just as much recreations from Mishima's writings as the fictional novels were, just from his autobiography instead.

In the fascinating interview with John Nathan and Donald Richie they both talk about feeling of control Mishima exerted over his life and other people within it: Nathan talks about the way different parts of his life were kept compartmentalised (so the bodybuilding world didn't mix with the writing world, which didn't mix with his political work) in the perspectives of the various groups of people he interacted with in reality but all were linked inside the man himself and it was only with his final act of destroying his sculpted body inside a military base in a manner similar to characters from his novels that he tied his life together for others to understand. They also talk about Mishima making you a character in the drama of his life if you encountered him - which sounds superficially fun with the excitement of being considered important enough to be part of something, but on reflection a little disturbing in its refusal to allow people to be individuals with control over their own lives and reactions. It is what makes Mishima so charismatic and yet so disturbing at the same time.

However in the final day section we see people around him who aren't directed by Mishima and they act more naturally, more unpredictably to his actions. This allows some of the outside world to enter into the film and causes Mishima to seem more self-deluded and disturbingly single minded in his drives to the exclusion of all else than he did when he was describing situations from his past which are all composed, of course, subordinate to his perspective. It seems as if Mishima is already living totally in his perfect recreation of this event, even while small things around him show that not everyone is so 'in the moment'! (Even his followers, understandably, look nervous and seem to be having second thoughts)

Perhaps the final irony is that he created a perfectly structured story of a complex, fascinating life and even gave it a powerful ending (the first media death?) and many people still didn't understand what the hell he was doing!

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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#123 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:24 am

This may be minor, but was anyone else less than satisfied with the commentary? Schrader never really discusses how he directed the actors. For instance, I was really hoping for details on how Ogata oriented himself for the speech in the final day. Instead Schrader just talks about the making of the movie the whole time and doesn't get into too much analysis. He'll point out an actor and discuss their previous history then stop there. Most of the commentary was about Mishima's books and I found it curious he spent so much time discussing Mishima rather than the movie at hand. I mean, he seems rather nonchalant for a guy who made such a gorgeous film.

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tavernier
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#124 Post by tavernier » Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:01 pm

Buried in Hoberman's Village Voice review of the Japanese film United Red Army is his less-than-enthusiastic take on these discs:
Soon after the Red Army Faction orchestrated its first hijacking (not shown in United Red Army), another Japanese fanatic—namely writer Yukio Mishima—led an apparent coup attempt, taking a general hostage and then committing ritual disembowelment in the guy's office. Criterion has recently released a deluxe, director-supervised, suitably academic DVD of Paul Schrader's 1985 Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. It's certainly the most ambitious movie Schrader ever directed—so dutiful, respectful, and self-conscious that it's a chore to watch (like grading a master's dissertation). More fun is Criterion's nearly as elaborate reissue of Patriotism—a/k/a The Rite of Love and Death—a half-hour short written, produced, and directed by Mishima, who also stars as a junior officer. Made in 1966, Patriotism adapts a key Mishima text celebrating the failed military coup of 1936. Back in the day, this crude, borderline ridiculous mixture of Noh restraint and Wagnerian bombast was shown on a bill with Flaming Creatures or Scorpio Rising; it might also make a suitably extremist short subject with United Red Army.

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colinr0380
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#125 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:17 pm

Jean-Luc Garbo wrote:This may be minor, but was anyone else less than satisfied with the commentary? Schrader never really discusses how he directed the actors. For instance, I was really hoping for details on how Ogata oriented himself for the speech in the final day. Instead Schrader just talks about the making of the movie the whole time and doesn't get into too much analysis. He'll point out an actor and discuss their previous history then stop there. Most of the commentary was about Mishima's books and I found it curious he spent so much time discussing Mishima rather than the movie at hand. I mean, he seems rather nonchalant for a guy who made such a gorgeous film.
Well there is that comment about wanting Ogata to look at the way John Wayne wiggled his bottom when he walked! According to Chieko Schrader in her interview it seems that Paul Schrader left a lot of the dealings with actors up to her and Alan Poul simply because he didn't speak Japanese. She also relates a funny incident when one of the actresses on the film refused to be directed by anyone other than Paul Schrader himself (even though she had translated the script) and the difficulties that caused!

I would agree though that the one area in which the DVD could have been improved would have been some interviews with the Japanese cast members about their experiences on the film, though given the controversial nature of the project that might have been impossible to ask for.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:37 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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