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Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (The Criterion Collection) (1985)

Ken Ogata , Paul Schrader  |  R |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ken Ogata
  • Directors: Paul Schrader
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese, English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: July 1, 2008
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016AKSOG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,647 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Paul Schrader's visually stunning, structurally audacious collagelike portrait of acclaimed Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima (played by Ken Ogata) investigates the inner turmoil and contradictions of a man who attempted an impossible harmony between self, art, and society. Taking place on Mishima's last day, when he famously committed public seppuku (ritual suicide), the film is punctuated by extended flashbacks to the writer's life as well as gloriously stylized evocations of his fictional works. With its rich cinematography by John Bailey, exquisite sets and costumes by Eiko Ishioka, and unforgettable, highly influential score by Philip Glass, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is a sincere tribute to its subject, and a bold, investigative work of art in its own right.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the director's cut, supervised and approved by director Paul Schrader and cinematographer John Bailey
- Optional English and Japanese voice-over narrations, the former by Roy Scheider, the latter by Ken Ogata
- New audio commentary featuring Schrader and producer Alan Poul
- The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima, a 55-minute BBC documentary about the author
- New interviews with Donald Richie and John Nathan, collaborators and friends of Yukio Mishima
- New interviews with Bailey, producers Tom Luddy and Mata Yamamoto, composer Philip Glass, and production designer Eiko Ishioka
- A new audio interview with coscreenwriter Chieko Schrader
- A video interview excerpt featuring Mishima talking about writing
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Kevin Jackson and a piece on the film s censorship in Japan

With Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Paul Schrader constructs a puzzle-box portrait of the controversial author (1925-1970) who turned his life into a work of art. Presented by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, Schrader outdoes his benefactors in sheer audacity alone. In the opening sequence, which weaves throughout the film, Yukio Mishima (riveting Shohei Imamura regular Ken Ogata) prepares for death as the director cuts to pivotal moments from his past. Shot by American Gigolo's John Bailey and designed by The Cell's Eiko Ishioka, stately black and white footage alternates with eye-popping color sequences. With an assist from Leonard and Chieko Schrader, his brother and sister-in-law, the filmmaker blends Mishima's fiction into his biography, and splits the whole four ways: beauty, art, action, and harmony of pen and sword (the brothers also wrote Sydney Pollack's Japanese thriller The Yakuza). Encouraged by his controlling grandmother, Mishima becomes a conflicted figure, torn between mind and body, pain and pleasure--men and women. As he states, "All my life I have been acutely aware of a contradiction in the very nature of my existence." (This collector's edition includes separate voice-over tracks by Ogata and Roy Scheider.)

The first disc houses a gorgeous transfer of the film, the theatrical trailer, and comprehensive commentary from Schrader and producer Alan Poul; the second offers a making-of featurette (with Bailey, Ishioka, and composer Philip Glass), audio and video interviews (including translator and biographer John Nathan), a 1966 chat with Mishima for French TV, and a 1985 John Hurt-narrated documentary for the BBC. Unlike Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima, which found favor in the East, Paul Schrader's risk-filled endeavor resulted in a ban in his subject’s home country--and the director's crowning achievement. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
191 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars paul schrader reply October 23, 2004
Someone pointed out to me confusion about the change in the narration. Here's the story. I originally intended to have Mishima's narration in English outside Japan to cut down on the surfeit of subtitles. (The US version of Diary of a Country Priest has French dialogue and English narration.) I asked Roy Scheider to read a transdlation of the Ogata/Mishima narration and we mixed this into the film at Lucasfilm. The Japanese distributor was to be responsible for mixing Ken Ogata's narration into the Japanese version. However, there never was a Japanese version since the film was de facto banned in Japan. Consequently, it was never possible for non-English speaking Japanese viewers to see the film entirely in Japanese. When the DVD was issued we went back to Lucasfilm to fix this, allowing either a Japanese-speaking viewer to hear the Ogata narration or a non-Japanese-speaking viewer to hear the Scneider narration. In recording both Ogata and Scneider an equal effort was made to keep the narrative flat and matter-of-fact. Paul S.
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Unlikely Hollywood Film Ever March 30, 2008
This was a film financed by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola,distributed by a major Hollywood studio, that but for some narration by Roy Scheider is entirely in Japanese, and is told in a fragmentary narrative style which oscillates between wildly contrasting stylistic modes; the widow of the film's subject signed away life rights to her husband's story conditioned upon the film's not dealing with his none-too-secret homosexuality, which the film proceeded to deal with, albeit obliquely, and she then fought production in Japan tooth and nail. Mishima himself, Japan's most famous post-war novelist, attempted a paramilitary coup d'etat in 1970, in which his private army took over the Ministry of Defense, and committed a highly public hari-kiri. He was and is a subject of vast controversy in Japan, a consensus society, who since his death have preferred not to be reminded he existed. Given the artiness of the film, the foreigness of it's subject matter, and the Japanese blackout/ban, it is amazing "Mishima" got made at all.

Even without the sheer strangeness of the work and improbability of its existence, this is an awesome film. "Mishima" is one of the best movies about an artist ever made. Mishima sought to make his life into a work of art, and his bid for violent political action and self-martyrdom was his terminal masterpiece.
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A biopic that is even more impressive than its subject October 20, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
Most biographical films of artists (Immortal Beloved, Amadeus, etc.), even if they are well made, hardly live up to the greatness of the people they describe. This film is a notable exception, one which outdoes its subject. Mishima was an accomplished writer, one whose works deserve to be read, but no single work of his stands out as an unquestionable masterpiece of world literature. This film, on the other hand, is without doubt one of the masterpieces of world cinema.
The film is broken down into interlocking "modules": those which depict Mishima's life and those which recreate episodes from his books. The literary recreations are done in a highly stylized manner which captures (and at times, outdoes) the mystery and poetry of the original texts. The biographical segments feature a fine sense of both drama and poetry. They capture the essence of Mishima's passion in a way that even he himself was unable to do.
The score by Philip Glass is one of the finest film scores ever written, and it turns the film almost into a kind of opera. It is far superior to any of his other compositions.
I was born a few years after Mishima committed suicide, but I am friends with two people who knew him personally, both of whom have excellent taste in both film and literature: they both recommend this film highly. The film may take some factual liberties, but it represents the fundamental nature of the man with infallible accuracy.
Whether your interest is great cinema, great literature, Japan, or Mishima himself, do yourself a favor: see this film.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the Voice-Over confusion..I think it's the same January 10, 2005
I'm rather confused about all these discussions about the voice over narration being "changed", and apparently, so is Paul Schrader himself.

I have not seen the film at the original release, but as for the difference between the fromer VHS editions of the film and this new DVD... the only difference about the voice over is...that Ken Ogata's narration in Japanese can now be heard, which is great. The English-narrated sound track is...the SAME.

I first saw the film in an old VHS in a university class, and THE ENGLISH VOICE OVERS WERE ALREADY THE SAME AS IT CAN BE HEARD ON TRACK ONE OF THIS DVD: "flat and matter-of-fact" as Mr.Schrader describes.

As a matter of fact, I did not recognize that it was Roy Scheider, though it was certainly his voice. This is very good for the film, since we are supposed to be listening to Mishima's inner reflection on his own life. It cannot be "acted out" loudly, since Mishima that we see in the film --especially in the main narrative line of it which is Mishima's last day ending with his suicide-- is always acting himself, rather flamboyantly. So the director Paul Schrader's choice of asking the actor not to "play" it, but making an "effort was made to keep the narrative flat and matter-of-fact" was very suitable for the mystery of the film.

Personally, I first did not like the narration being in English, then I started to feel that the very flat narration in a different language may be representing another dimention of Mishima's split personality that Schrader is exploring in the film.

But watching the film with Ken Ogata's narration was a revelation. The film definetely looks more complete with the Japanese narration.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I would recommend this film/documentary
Very informative. I would recommend this film/documentary.
Published 2 months ago by Kimberly Rachal Cone
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie
Great movie!
Published 3 months ago by Sean J. Malloy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Movie
This is an incredible performace by Ken Ogata as Mishima and his stories. The play and contrast of his works intertwined with his life is really just great and powerful. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Keith Griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully done film about one of Japan's greatest authors
This is an excellent film for any fan of mishima and his work or for that matter for those interested in Japan and its general cutlure or especially its literary culture do... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Josh Dollins
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film on the life and art of Yukio Mishima
An excellent and successful attempt to engage the extraordinary life, death, and artistic sensibility of Yukio Mishima (1925-1970). Read more
Published 13 months ago by an acquaintance
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Film
Intitially saw this film in the mid 80's for the Phillip Glass score and was glad I did. Beautifully staged and filmed, it recieved little fanfare after its first release and I... Read more
Published 16 months ago by wabbit
5.0 out of 5 stars criterion collection
purchased for my son's book collection
delivered in perfect condition
no problems
part of son's collection
better than expected
would recommend to anyone
Published 20 months ago by nanagain
4.0 out of 5 stars great collection
a must read and watch if you like Japan. Mishima represents the country and culture in so many levels: love of the external, without caring for skin-deep real issues. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Geraldo Faria
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling !
It's impossible to stop this film and return to it later. You must see it all the way through in a single sitting.

The first 95% is best. Read more
Published 22 months ago by S. T. Munro
4.0 out of 5 stars mishima
the product came promptly in good condition as specified. It shows very nicely and my family is happy with it. I will be happy to do same business in the furure.
Published 23 months ago by fernando
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