The other night I wanted to watch a short film. Thus I sat down to watch Yukio Mishima’s short film Patriotism. Patriotism is a beautifully shot short silent film depicting a Japanese Army officer and his wife performing the act of Seppuku. I was a little shocked at the actual graphic depiction of the act, and found myself looking away and shielding my eyes. However the movie isn’t made to shock and scare the viewer, it is to present the act of Seppuku in a light of pure patriotism and conviction. Thus I liked the film and found myself interested in the filmmaker Yukio Mishima.
I decided to watch the Paul Schrader directed film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters and what a joy it was. Eschewing the general accepted idea of what a Biopic is, Schrader portrayed Mishima mostly by what drove his art and how his art affected his life. Mishima is played excellently and by Ken Ogata (an actor who genuinely scared the shit out of me in Shohei Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine). The narrative of the movie is also told not only through flashbacks, but through three highly stylized vignettes taken from Mishima’s novels. This is all punctuated by a chilling and beautiful Phillip Glass score.
With all of this going on in the film it may seem that it is possibly way too much going on. However it flows well and it was always incredibly captivating. It also made me care about who Mishima was although at times he seems very unclear. Mishima was both radically left wing and radically right wing at the same time. The film does a great job at not focusing simply on the political leanings of Mishima but it focuses on the protagonist as simply an intense artist whose art directed his life.
With this movie especially watch this and then let me know how full of shit I am.