Mishima: a life in four chapters (15)

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The Independent Culture

Paul Schrader's 1985 biopic of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima is a brave but flawed attempt to tell a sensational story in a formalist manner. The author's last day in November 1970 – when he committed ritual suicide after addressing an army garrison – is interspersed with black-and-white flashbacks to his painful boyhood and dramatic excerpts from his novels, remarkably visualised by the designer Eiko Ishioka. Yet the cerebral cool of Schrader's perspective sacrifices emotional connection to its subject: Mishima's life will always be a mystery, but the careful layerings don't give much of a clue as to why he became an object of cult worship to the Japanese.