Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters


Watched Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters from the disadvantaged viewpoint of someone who hasn’t yet read any of his work, and found myself kind of underwhelmed and ambivalent by it. There’s something a little off about the overall direction and/or narrative, causing a story that should have been extremely compelling — the stranger-than-fiction life and death of Yukio Mishima — to never quite dig itself an emotional foothold, despite leading man Ken Ogata’s heroic efforts. This leads to a total sense of anticlimax in the fourth and final chapter, where the author’s explosive last hours seem rather pedestrian, as if the movie’s already decided the interesting part is over, just as most viewers will be expecting it to begin.

In a sense, it’s correct. There’s real meat and beauty in the vibrant dramatizations of three novels (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House and Runaway Horses) woven into the film’s first three chapters. Highly stylized and charged with color and energy, they paint a far more vivid picture of the man and his inner life than the factual sections do. I’ve no idea whether it’s an accurate one, but it really doesn’t matter as far as moviemaking goes: I adore the atmosphere of these segments, which seem to live in a visual world straight out of a ’50s-era Suzuki yakuza epic, and are perfectly married to Philip Glass’s score. It may not be biography, but it’s probably worth a rental for these alone.

More importantly: now I really want to read the books brought to life in the movie, as well as the two I currently have checked out from the library (Spring Snow, which I’ve mentioned before, and the short story collection Acts of Worship, which I haven’t). I may well decide I hate them afterwards, but I guess it means the movie was effective after all. Hee.

tags: books , mishima , movies

  • I've long admired Mishima's writing. A good one to begining with is "the sailer who fell from grace with the sea", and then maybe "confessions of a mask". I also love "the sea of fertility", but I feel in places Mishima's spirit was flagging


  • Would you recommend any in particular?

  • pastilla

    I've found the biographies of Mishima tell the most interesting stories of all.

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