Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

1985, Paul Schrader, USA/Japan

Director: Paul Schrader
Producers: Tom Luddy, Mata Yamamoto
Screenplay: Paul Schrader,
Leonard Schrader, with Jun Shiragi
Cinematography: John Bailey
Editors: Michael Chandler, Tomoyo Oshima
Music: Philip Glass
Ken Ogata (Yukio Mishima)
Masayuki Shionoya (Morita)
Yasosuke Bando (Mizoguchi)
Hisako Manda (Mariko)
Kenji Sawada (Osamu)
Reisen Lee (Kiyomi)
Toshiyuki Nagashima (Isao)


Rating: Nudity, sexual references, suicide theme & content that may disturb Runtime: 121 minutes

In 2023, we proudly presented Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in our programme, with a script by Paul Schrader, and one he considers his greatest piece of screenwriting. The film that Schrader considers to be his greatest as a director is Mishima, and this year, we get to see why. Schrader is the internet’s favourite grumpy uncle, never short of an opinion on contemporary film which for him, pale beside the directors he holds up as his cinematic triumvirate – Bresson, Ozu and Dreyer.

On the face of it, this is a film about the life of writer Yukio Mishima, however that’s only a starting point for a glorious collage in celluloid, broken into four parts, with each part given its own colour palette and freely adapted from the author’s own work, most notably Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House and Runaway Horses. Providing a companion for the beauty on screen, is a sublime musical score by Philip Glass, performed by the Kronos Quartet.

An ongoing theme of Schrader’s work is masculinity and characters who need to erase outward signs of weakness. Mishima, who was bisexual, exalted in the beauty of the male form, with the portrait of Saint Sebastian being a notable touchstone. For him, the ultimate weakness was the capitulation of the Empire to Western democracy in Japan, and he resolves to restore the Emperor which brings the film to its shocking conclusion.

“Paul Schrader’s cinematic collage of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima’s life and work, from 1985, is one of the most gorgeous and sophisticated portraits of an artist ever put on film.” Michael Sragow, The New Yorker


Apr 29 2024


6:15 pm - 8:20 pm