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

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Tommaso
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#126 Post by Tommaso » Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:42 pm

colinr0380 wrote: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.
This is precisely the problem. In almost all of his works from his late period I have the feeling of a great clarity about the idea of the re-institution of the 'old Japan' ultimately not being possible; and I miss that clarity in his actions. I thought almost that Schrader wanted to 'de-idealize' these emblematic moments from Mishima's life in places, not just at the very end of the film. This is a completely valid approach, and perhaps we get a much more 'realistic', more 'human' Mishima here than from his public 'mask' that he built up over the years.
colinr0380 wrote: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.
Yes, that makes perfect sense to me; it just again diminishes the political aspect of the whole affair, and makes it a purely private problem in the end. I'm not sure whether I can make clear what I mean; from his writings (at least his late works) I have the feeling that Mishima ultimately looked beyond himself and his private life and was able to analyze what was going on in Japan for himself. That analysis (or rather: the conclusions from it) may have been coloured by his personal inner life, and perhaps that's what led him to act in the way he did (not just the final event, but the forming of the Tatenokai in the first place). And all this ALTHOUGH he knew about the futility and perhaps ridiculousness of it. But it still doesn't mean that his look at contemporary Japan was alltogether wrong because of this.
colinr0380 wrote: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.
Yes, indeed. I've known some manipulative, charismatic persons in my life and would say: once you've seen through their schemes, it's not only disturbing, but also genuinely embarassing. I'm not sure whether I would have liked to be a friend of Mishima, really.
colinr0380 wrote: 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)
Yes, I agree with this, too. And especially because Ogata isn't Mishima (and doesn't have that personal charisma), Mishima in the film in the end almost becomes a tragi-comical character; whereas the real Mishima managed to retain his mask until the very end (though if one hears that his lover wasn't able to cut off his head properly and made a gory mess of it, even in real life it got tragi-comical; but that of course wasn't shown in the news, then).
colinr0380 wrote: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!
Yep. The more I think about Mishima and learn about his contradictions, the less I understand him. But perhaps it's not necessary to understand the person as long as you can come to an understanding of his works. They are much more lucid than the man.

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#127 Post by kaujot » Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:50 pm

A certain presidential candidate is all over this thread.

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#128 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:20 pm

I don't think Hillary has any interest in bodybuilding though! :wink:
Tommaso wrote:It just again diminishes the political aspect of the whole affair, and makes it a purely private problem in the end. I'm not sure whether I can make clear what I mean; from his writings (at least his late works) I have the feeling that Mishima ultimately looked beyond himself and his private life and was able to analyze what was going on in Japan for himself. That analysis (or rather: the conclusions from it) may have been coloured by his personal inner life, and perhaps that's what led him to act in the way he did (not just the final event, but the forming of the Tatenokai in the first place). And all this ALTHOUGH he knew about the futility and perhaps ridiculousness of it. But it still doesn't mean that his look at contemporary Japan was altogether wrong because of this.
That is a good point, the context of the political dimension seems to have been consciously downplayed in the film. It would be interesting to know whether that was due to wanting to focus more on the artistic aspects of Mishima (though, as you say, the political dimension is just as important as the other segments of his life and to seemingly diminish one section unfairly weights the others), or whether that would have made the film a political, as well as a cultural, hot potato that would have upset both Japanese and American investors?

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Tommaso
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#129 Post by Tommaso » Thu Jul 03, 2008 3:01 pm

I think even the simple fact of doing a Mishima biopic was a hot potato enough, if the reactions in Japan to the film detailed all over that CC edition are any indication. It would also have been difficult to make these aspects understandable for a 'normal', non-Japanese audience. In any case, the film seems to have helped for a while to make his name a little better known in the West. Most of the English translations of his works were already made during his lifetime, and only in the late 80s some new translations came out. But I think there's still no translation of "Kyoko's House" apart from a French one; after seeing the film, I'm actually quite keen to read that book.

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Matango
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#130 Post by Matango » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:19 am

Does anyone else see a parallel between Mishima and John Wayne in that they both avoided the draft in WWII and then both went on to fine-tune an apparently compensating "superpatriot" image? Or am I just drinking too much this afternoon?

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#131 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:14 pm

Matango wrote:Does anyone else see a parallel between Mishima and John Wayne in that they both avoided the draft in WWII and then both went on to fine-tune an apparently compensating "superpatriot" image? Or am I just drinking too much this afternoon?
No, sir. Actually, colinr0380 addressed this in his review in the page previous to this one. I was convinced. The film itself also has clues that Mishima felt as much, too.

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#132 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 23, 2008 7:58 pm

This film would have been far more successful if it had expanded the second half a little to feature-length and just discarded the first two parts entirely. Nothing worked for me in the first hour of the film, and even the faint praise I could award it regarding the music and sets are either repeated or bettered in the second half. I can't remember the last movie I saw where one half of the film was so far superior to the other without both halves being mutually-reliant.

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#133 Post by Person » Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:30 pm

Matango wrote:Does anyone else see a parallel between Mishima and John Wayne in that they both avoided the draft in WWII and then both went on to fine-tune an apparently compensating "superpatriot" image?
And like Mishima, Wayne was also a fag. "The hell he was!" He was, too, you boys. :D

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#134 Post by david hare » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:57 pm

:D

Mishima was indeed a fag. And a husband and a militarist and an SMster and a muscle bunny. And he was also nothing but a succession of masks.

I dunno about Wayne but there's always Ford!

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#135 Post by aox » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:36 am

I haven't seen the bio pic, but I did sit down and watch Patriotism. It is now my favorite short film. So beautiful. I didn't think anyone could pull off a story about suicide so wonderfully and fill 20-30 minutes of my attention, but here we are.

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#136 Post by Balthazar493 » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:56 am

Matango wrote:Does anyone else see a parallel between Mishima and John Wayne in that they both avoided the draft in WWII and then both went on to fine-tune an apparently compensating "superpatriot" image? Or am I just drinking too much this afternoon?
Well, Mishima was an intellectual, a novelist, and a homosexual. The more interesting (and plausible) comparison is with Pasolini. Born within three years of one another (b/w 1922 and 1925), both of them had established, albeit controversial, cultural reputations in their respective countries prior to becoming involved, in the sixties, with filmmaking. Both had negative responses to the student upheavals of the late 1960s (although Pasolini's "reactionary" stance could hardly be called militaristic). And both had spectacularly "public" deaths.

As for John Wayne: uh, he had a very different kind of life. Plus, he was born in 1907 (so it's hard to see how he avoided the draft in the 1940s, when he would have been about 35 years old).

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#137 Post by kaujot » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:30 am

Balthazar493 wrote:And both had spectacularly "public" deaths.
I think their deaths are about as different as deaths can be. Mishima's was, absolutely, spectacularly public. It was death as a ritual. But wasn't Pasolini murdered in an alleyway, and his body run over by his car multiple times?

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#138 Post by Balthazar493 » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:16 am

kaujot wrote:
Balthazar493 wrote:And both had spectacularly "public" deaths.
I think their deaths are about as different as deaths can be. Mishima's was, absolutely, spectacularly public. It was death as a ritual. But wasn't Pasolini murdered in an alleyway, and his body run over by his car multiple times?
Well, first of all their deaths – and the way they were treated in the press of their respective countries – are far more similar than the deaths of Mishima and, uh, John Wayne.

Also, you might be interested to read the comments by Pasolini's life-long friend Giuseppe Zigaina about Pasolini's death, which he sees as in some sense "staged" by the filmmaker himself. I myself find Zigaina's claims rather problematic, and would not over-stress the relation between Pasolini's death and Mishima's. But I do think their lives/work intersect in several fascinating ways. This was my main point.

BTW If you're interested in reading it, Zigaina's essay is the first article in the recent collection Pier Paolo Pasolini and Death.

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#139 Post by In Heaven » Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:43 pm

John Wayne and Mishima were both, in very different ways, killed by their own works, though. Be it radioactivity or superpatriotism.

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#140 Post by Cronenfly » Sun Jul 27, 2008 11:31 pm

From Criterion's main page:
Eiko Readying for Beijing Olympics
Academy Award–winning costume and set designer Eiko Ishioka, who won a special citation from the Cannes Film Festival for her stunning visual design on Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, has been chosen as one of five creative directors for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Working under supervising director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern), Ishioka will be in charge of all the costumes for the three-and-a-half-hour opening spectacular, set against the backdrop of the National Stadium. The Beijing Olympics begin on August 8.

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#141 Post by Cold Bishop » Sun Jul 27, 2008 11:45 pm

Balthazar493 wrote:Plus, he was born in 1907 (so it's hard to see how he avoided the draft in the 1940s, when he would have been about 35 years old).
It's not that he avoided the draft, so much that he didn't enlist, the way other major stars of the same age (Gable, Fonda, Stewart, etc.) did.

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#142 Post by TheGodfather » Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:11 pm

I watched Mishima for the first time today and really loved it. The set design and art-direction looked gorgeous, the music was excellent and the acting was great. It did took me a little bit of time to get "into the story" though. I`ll be re-watching this many more times and I think my appreciation will only grow once I see it more often.

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#143 Post by Murasaki53 » Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:59 am

Just thought I'd let people know that Ken Ogata has died (from longstanding liver cancer from what I can gather).

I'll leave this message here and on the Vengeance is Mine thread in the Masters of Cinema section of the Forum.

Of course we all know what a terrific actor he was but my wife (who is Japanese) tells me that his versatility was one of his great strengths. Apparently, he was rather adept at nailing regional accents convincingly.

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#144 Post by zombeaner » Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:50 am

Murasaki53 wrote:Just thought I'd let people know that Ken Ogata has died (from longstanding liver cancer from what I can gather).

I'll leave this message here and on the Vengeance is Mine thread in the Masters of Cinema section of the Forum.

Of course we all know what a terrific actor he was but my wife (who is Japanese) tells me that his versatility was one of his great strengths. Apparently, he was rather adept at nailing regional accents convincingly.
Wow. He was a wonderful actor and he will be missed.

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#145 Post by tavernier » Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:12 am

It was posted a week ago in the Passages section.

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#146 Post by GringoTex » Sat Oct 18, 2008 11:30 pm

I'm uneasy about dismissing this film because I know so little about Mishima, but a few thoughts:

1) I felt a distinct clang of Western treatment and Japanese subject matter. Maybe Japanese really do open their films by melodramatically waking up to a phone and aping into the mirror, but I've never seen them do it in their movies.

2) Are Mishima's novels as artifical and garish as Schrader suggests? Are his fictions a soundstage? Are they cardboard? Do his protagonists eat pink-colored noodles as Schrader has them do?

3) What differentiates Mishima's bodyworship from Riefenstahl's? Is it a coincidence that the two governments they made art for waged the greatest crime of the 20th century?

4) Ken Ogata's the only thing I can remember frame for frame in this film.

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#147 Post by Tommaso » Sun Oct 19, 2008 6:18 am

GringoTex wrote:2) Are Mishima's novels as artifical and garish as Schrader suggests? Are his fictions a soundstage? Are they cardboard? Do his protagonists eat pink-colored noodles as Schrader has them do?
In a word: no. Mishima's writings, different as they are stylistically (which might also be an effect of different translators at work), are basically 'realistic' in the way things are described. Mishima's characters are normally very carefully constructed and have a clear psychology, even though a certain 'decadent' sensibility is often lurking somewhere in the background. Especially his late works (the so-called "Sea of Fertility"-cycle) also contain extended passages of philosophical considerations on religion or the clash of Western and Japanese culture, and these considerations are much more thoughtful than Mishima's real-life actions would suggest. So the sometimes quite artificial rendering in the film is due to Schrader's treatment. For me it works, though; I suppose it would be well-nigh impossible to give a really differentiated account of Mishima's positions and thoughts in a two-hour film.
GringoTex wrote:3) What differentiates Mishima's bodyworship from Riefenstahl's? Is it a coincidence that the two governments they made art for waged the greatest crime of the 20th century?
A damn good question. In both cases, the bodyworship is primarily of an erotic nature, obviously. The combination with fascist politics to me is not necessarily a natural outcome of it, though Mishima obviously embraced right-wing politics, while with Riefenstahl the case is more complicated (i.e. I'm just not fully sure whether she simply ignored what was going on around her or only said so afterwards). Whereas for Riefenstahl it obviously was an erotic object she was admiring, the 'manliness' for Mishima was also something which he wanted to be a model for himself (narcissism) in addition. Nevertheless, I guess the kind of 'fascism' these two authors/directors flirted with is of a different nature; at least nothing in Mishima's writings, as far as I read them, indicates any sort of the racism or the anti-intellectual stance that Nazism has.

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#148 Post by Matango » Sun Oct 19, 2008 6:42 am

As I see it, Riefenstahl's body worship was part of a wider fitness movement in Germany that reached its height in the 1930s, while Mishima's was a personal reaction to his own very puny natural build, and the fun that was made of him because of it.

As for Japan commiting one of the greatest crimes of the century, what would that be? Nanking? You'd have to line up the USA ahead of Japan, I think, with two A bombs dropped and a decade of indiscriminate slaughter in Indochina just for starters.

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#149 Post by GringoTex » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:40 am

Matango wrote:As for Japan commiting one of the greatest crimes of the century, what would that be? Nanking? You'd have to line up the USA ahead of Japan, I think, with two A bombs dropped and a decade of indiscriminate slaughter in Indochina just for starters.
I was referring to the Tripartite Pact, which formally united the aggressors of a war that killed 55 million people.

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#150 Post by Tommaso » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:38 am

Matango wrote:As I see it, Riefenstahl's body worship was part of a wider fitness movement in Germany that reached its height in the 1930s . . .
That is certainly true, but it doesn't quite explain why she stuck to it so much longer. Her 1970s photographs of the Nuba people show, as has been variously pointed out, still the same obsession with the body; perhaps one can argue that the body worship for her was part of a more general search for 'natural' beauty, as can be seen even in her underwater photographs and the "Impressionen unter Wasser" film, not to speak of the mythic landscapes of "Das blaue Licht". Such a general obsession with beauty, then, would align her somewhat with Mishima, again, or at least with the protagonist of "The Golden Pavilion".

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