Paul Schraders "Mishima A Life In Four Chapters" takes it upon itself to mix the fact, fiction and exaggeration of Yukio Mishima into a biopic of that Japanese cultural icon. However, where most biopics of artists simply tell the story of "the person behind the art" and relegate their works to bullet-points in their biography or at best give a glance at their inspiration, A Life In Four Chapters wisely realizes that an artist an his art are extensions of one another (or as Mishima put it "Creating a beautiful work of art and becoming beautiful oneself are identical.)" That doesn't mean that the Artist-Art continuum is necessarily free of hypocrisy or contradictions- and indeed, Mishima and his work put together were beautiful, stark and at times utterly batshit insane. Realizing this, Schrader has given himself the freedom to jump between an almost documentary depiction of Mishimas most shocking moment, biographical scenes in black and white and vivid vignettes adapted from his novels. This collage technique allows the viewer to take in both the facts of Mishimas life as well as a significant part of his personal vision. His philosophy may not have always been very sound, but it was interesting and his aestheticism was impeccable. The film makes no effort to decry his ludicrous and jingoist political views that ultimately cost him his life. It trust the viewer to make that observation for himself- though it does make an effort to clarify how such an intelligent person could come to crave the banal sentimentality, brutality and stark rigidity of nationalism. The part of the public (Japanese nationalists and nationalists in general) that may want to use this movie as a shrine to a like-minded literary genius are thankfully put off by the candid portrayal of Mishimas homosexuality and their own homophobia. As it stands, Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters is a tour de force in characterization and personal insight depicting a very interesting and at times confounding subject. It's done with masterful style, never bores and has a lot to say about the psyche of Mishima as well as human identity in general. The whole thing is graced by one of the most fitting film-scores in cinematic history. Think of the man whatever you want, but "A Life In Four Chapters" is a veritable gem. And, sadly, a publicly under-appreciated one too.
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