Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters ★★★★★


Absolutely flawless. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters takes a man who yearned to be an work of art and transforms his life into that very idea, constructing a stunning biopic of immense beauty that flows right alongside his hopes, dreams, desires, and realities. Split into four chapters (obviously), Paul Schrader builds a testament to Yukio Mishima (his pen-name) and his never-ending quest for successful nationalism by enriching moments from his multiple novels.

These segments, which make up most of the first three parts, feel universally personal in spite of their gorgeous and operatic flavor, exploding and crumbling in various ways that evoke the visualization of fleeting memories. While Mishima focuses on many important plot points like other traditional biopics, the brilliant twist is that nothing feels told out of necessity. The viewer learns about Yukio Mishima in a fluid and enveloping fashion, and it's this urgency that propels the film into a level of deep-rooted nostalgia and understated intimacy.

Ken Ogata's narration and performance in the final and most devastating segment is a work of art, much like Mishima himself and his frenzied focus on transcending human limitations. His performance is shockingly personal and majestic in its purity, and he seamlessly flows into the character that has been built up by multiple other actors of different ages.

Paul Schrader's direction is by far the finest work as a director that I've seen from him, raising the theatrical intensity and flavorful colors to a vibrancy that cannot be described in simple words. Walls break, moods change, neon glows, and it's all fucking marvelous. Schrader's focus changes throughout the film, going from expressionism to documentary realism and through multiple visual tones, and it never feels jarring. Of course, John Bailey's cinematography aids in establishing this confident visual style, especially in moments of incredible staging and emotional potency. I don't think I've ever seen sunsets look so artificial and yet so warming at the same time.

And topping this scrumptious feast off is the soundtrack composed by Philip Glass, and it's simply one of the best that he's ever done. Many films nowadays go for a minimalist touch in regards to their music, but there's nothing like an overpowering score to liven the imagery flowing out of the screen. It's an poetic score for a poetic film, and it couldn't be more perfect.

The greatest biopic of all time, and one of the finest films ever made. See it. Please.