Paul Schrader’s visually stunning, collagelike portrait of acclaimed Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima (played by Ken Ogata) investigates the inner turmoil and contradictions of a man who attempted an impossible harmony between self, art, and society. Taking place on Mishima’s last day, when he famously committed public seppuku, the film is punctuated by extended flashbacks to the writer’s life as well as by gloriously stylized evocations of his fictional works. With its rich cinematography by John Bailey, exquisite sets and costumes by Eiko Ishioka, and unforgettable, highly influential score by Philip Glass, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is a tribute to its subject and a bold, investigative work of art in its own right. —The Criterion Collection
Raised in a strict religious household in Michigan, writer/director Paul Schrader studied theology at Calvin College and didn’t see a movie until he was in his late teens. His stern background would fuel many of the themes throughout his career: downbeat stories of characters who violently break down in oppressive situations. Transfixed by the cinema and encouraged by critic Pauline Kael, he moved to Los Angeles and became a film scholar at U.C.L.A. He wrote movie reviews for newspapers, edited the magazine Cinema, and wrote the highly influential critical essay “The Trancendental Style: Ozu, Bresson, Dryer.” After a period of heavy drinking and serious depression, he sold his first screenplay, The Yakuza, a Japanese thriller co-written with his brother, Leonard, and Robert Towne. The next year, Schrader wrote Taxi Driver, the grim tale of urban alienation. Taxi Driver started his successful collaborative relationship with director Martin Scorsese, another… read more
I recently re-watched this in HD, previously only seen it on VHS. From a visual standpoint there were many flourishes I really liked. Eiko Ishioka's production and costume design in particular. Glassy's score actually started to get on my nerves after a while (sacrilege, I know). It ended up becoming quite intrusive in the repetition of the main refraine, and histrionic. But, Ken Ogata is always a commanding geezer.
One of my all time favorite movies. One of the greatest scores of all time, coupled with awesome set design, Schrader's magnificent (as usual) script, great acting, beautiful cinematography - it certainly holds true to Mishima's aesthetic. 5/5. 10/10 if I could.