Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters Screen 7 articles

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

1985

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters Poster
  • The point of all this mad organization—which is like a term paper outline prepared by a Dexedrine addict—is to hide an almost complete lack of content. The film doesn't only fail to put forward a point of view on Mishima (it's chilly and impersonal—just the facts, ma'am); it also fails to suggest any sense of the flamboyant, complex personality that made Mishima a cult figure in the first place.

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    The Globe and Mail: Jay Scott
    September 12, 1985 | Great Scott! (pp. 204-206)

    With equal parts integrity and demetia, Mishima intransigently moved toward his fate and predictably found himself stranded in the cul-de-sac at the end of the romantic road. Schrader's film follows him each sturdy step of the way and becomes in the process a metaphor for one of the salient paradoxes of the age, expressed personally by Mishima's seppuku and globally by the Bomb: the insane need to authenticate existence by eradicating it.

  • The idea of self-fashioning—of deliberately taking the raw materials of one’s body and mind and transforming them into a work of art—has been with us at least since the Renaissance. Yet no one, not even Oscar Wilde, has so rigorously pursued that grail as Mishima. . . . Schrader’s beautiful, complex, and at times even thrilling film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is intent on exploring that arduous path to self-transformation: it is a work of art about a man who tried to become a work of art.

  • An outstanding instance of collective creation between at least seven exceptionally talented collaborators — Schrader as writer and director, his brother Leonard and sister-in-law Chieko as co-screenwriters, cinematographer John Bailey, production designer Eiko Ishioka, the pre-ubiquitous Philip Glass, and Ken Ogata’s muscular embodiment of the lead role — ultimately stands, for all its startling force and clarity, as a strikingly designed précis rather than a work of art in its own right.

  • Schrader’s Mishima collaborates with Mishima, symphonizing a life conceptualized as a total work of art—the infamous narcissist would approve (though he would’ve preferred to play himself). The author’s last moment is uncritically staged just as Mishima visualized it: as his masterpiece, a moment of complete synchronicity that makes his self-slaughter sublime.

  • 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... This movie never promises to deliver its subject to us neat, complete, and tidily explained. Instead, it turns a hot, bright light on just one part of his life (his love affair with death) and leaves the rest alone, enigmatic and ultimately unknowable.

  • A film which should be studied classically in film schools for its style, organisation, use of staged theatre, flashbacks, mixture of black and white with colour, and more. . . . The film has a formal structure that lends the classic beauty of a Japanese play to the depressing and ultimately effete subject matter.

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