Yukio Mishimas bizarre, committed death by seppuku, as the capstone of his misjudged Nov. 25, 1970, coup attempt still overshadows his legacy to some degree, at least outside Japan. Nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in literature, he wrote a truly breathtaking number of novels, essays, poems, and plays in his 45 years. The compact yet inclusive three-film Mishima Retrospective pays tribute to his iconic status as a writer, actor, and subject. A Mishima short story is the basis for Ken, Kenji Misumis stark 1964 drama about the captain of a university kendo club whose impeccable discipline and unwavering idealism are out of step with the changing times. In the stylish Afraid to Die (1960), Mishima plays a young gangster who returns to the life after a stint in prison. Paul Schraders beautiful and haunting Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) is the best-known film of the three, yet still criminally underrated. The impulse to mark the round-number anniversary of a larger-than-life figures death Mishimas 40th, John Lennons 30th is commendable but has the unwelcome side effect of spotlighting the sensationalistic aspects of the persons demise along with their brilliant contribution. Mishima deserves better.
Nov. 26-30, 2010