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Paul Schrader's directorial masterpiece is a classy and imaginative portrait enriched by a stunning score and impressive cinematography. Read critic reviews

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Mishima Photos

Movie Info

Fact, fiction and dramatization illustrate events in the life of controversial author-militarist Yukio Mishima.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for Mishima

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (3)

  • One of the most gorgeous and sophisticated portraits of an artist ever put on film.

    April 9, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A very stylish, if emotionally constrained film.

    February 5, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • "Mishima" tries to make sense of both its subject's life and his work, and ends up illuminating neither.

    January 3, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Paul Schrader's 1985 biopic necessarily guts his controversial life - but the visual style is superb.

    July 10, 2009 | Rating: 4/5
  • Graced with a throbbing orchestral score from Philip Glass and John Bailey's luminous photography, this is appropriately monumental filmmaking.

    July 10, 2009 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • The gorgeous, artsy 1985 biopic Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is the best movie that Paul Schrader has yet directed.

    July 10, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Mishima

  • Jul 25, 2017
    Mishima is one of the oddest yet most compelling biopic films I have ever seen. The movie unfolds as a series of parts, as the title clearly states. Each part has a very different visual style and form. The story of this man's life is told, at first, through a series of his dramatic works. In contrast, the last part tells the story of Mishima's final days in a more grounded setting. Despite the heavy use of abstract sets and larger than life colors, the film feels grounded and accessible. The film is beautiful. Every part is done with a rich color scheme and a fine eye for details that perfectly set the mood of each story. There is a nearly seamless blend between each fictional character and Mishima, creating a sort of continuous narrative explaining one man. I've never seen a more creative and compelling way to tell the story of a person through their work. The first three parts are all highly abstract and surreal, but they reveal the character of the film's subject in the most direct and relatable way possible. You truly feel by the end of this film that you know Mishima's thoughts, feelings and emotional drive in the richest way a film could convey. You leave this biopic not really having any idea where he lived generally, what he ate or who he really interacted with in his life. In the end, however, you leave knowing the man more intimately than any amount of biographical facts would ever reveal. This is the story of a complex man who grappled with his identity through his art and stories. It is only fitting his own work would ultimately explain the man. Outside of its technical mastery, which ages extremely well when I watched this film decades later in 2017, there is a rich brilliant story. I think this film exemplifies a cardinal rule in film making, never tell the audience what they already know. There is compelling and well-handled look at complex themes like sexual identity, artistic struggles and an immediate need to find meaning in everyday life. You can see, through Mishima's art, all of these wonderfully complex struggles in the fewest words and pictures possible. I think that compact simplicity is why this film is so excellent. There is a seamless blend between fictional characters and their creator. I could not really tell you what characters where in each part, I am pretty sure they're all just extensions of the same man. We are not defined by one struggle, but a handful of impactful intense moments . A truly excellent film that works on many levels.
    Shane S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 03, 2015
    Mishima is difficult to characterize. It is something of a biographical essay about purity, beauty, art, idealism, action, and death. The exploration of themes and the direction of the film give a very 60s feeling to it. Mishima is interesting and I may have rated it higher except for the fact that it is also confusing and I found it difficult to tell who was Mishima versus a character from his fiction since it jumped around in time and I was totally unfamiliar with his biography. As someone who dislikes spoilers, I'd nonetheless recommend that others go ahead and read his biography before watching (and I do recommend the film).
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 15, 2015
    It's a triumph for Schrader, using a unconventional narrative for exploring the life and work of such an unconventional man works wonderfully. The highly stylized retelling of Mishima's novels are a kind of avant-garde theatre and this is perfect use of a Philip Glass score.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 26, 2011
    Although at times theatrical and experimental with the camera, yet the composition of the frames are always clear and concise. Whether the dialogue was taken from Mishima's books, written by the Schrader brothers, or a mix of both- it was great. There was very little, if at all any, fluff in this film. It truly felt like what the title suggests "A Life in four chapters". Ken Ogata is brilliant as Mishima, as are all of the actors depicting either real life people or characters from Mishima's writing. There couldn't be a better war to film the life of such a unique, diverse, and controversial person and artist as Yukio Mishima. Paul Schrader must be given the props he truly deserves for his brilliant vision and execution. I thought writing Taxi Driver had been his greatest achievement in film, but despite Scorsese's 1976 film being my favourite, I must say that "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" is Paul Schrader's greatest gift to cinema.
    G S Super Reviewer

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