“All my life I have been acutely aware of a contradiction in the very nature of my existence.”
Scenes from three novels by controversial Japanese writer Yukio Mishima (Ken Ogata) are interwoven into a reflection on his troubled life and infamous suicide by seppuku.
Paul Schrader’s Mishima remains one of cinema’s most uniquely conceived, visually evocative biopics. By weaving strategically chosen vignettes from several of Mishima’s novels — The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House, and Runaway Horses — into the background of his unconventional life, viewers are given an unprecedented glimpse into this warrior-poet’s heady sensibility: we bear witness to his past as a stuttering youth, his ambiguous sexuality, his obsession with bodybuilding, and his determination to die while young and beautiful. What’s most immediately memorable about the film is its stunning palette of vibrant colors, put to work within a series of gorgeous stylized sets used during the “fictional” elements of the film; see the stills below for merely a glimpse of what’s to come. Indeed, the film’s visuals are so captivating that it might be easy to overlook the fine performances by Ken Ogata and others in the supporting cast (most notably Reisen Lee as a butch, domineering lover in “Kyoko’s House”). Meanwhile, Philip Glass’s pulsating score seems like the only logical choice for a film this audaciously original. Time Out‘s reviewer labels Mishima a “breathless plunge into the creative soul”, and this is an apt description: we may not like Mishima-the-author very much, but we can’t help watching his life as portrayed here with fascination.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- John Bailey’s varied cinematographic palette
- Eiko Ishioka’s vibrant set designs
- Ken Ogata as Mishima
- Reisen Lee as Kiyomi
- A unique and spellbinding approach to a biopic
- Philip Glass’s pulsating score
Yes, as a one-of-a-kind cinematic treat, and a cult favorite. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.