Love and Honor
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 07/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On February 26, 1936, a day noted for the thick snow that had fallen, a group of some 1400 soldiers, primarily from the Imperial Japanese Army's First Infantry Division, led by a group of junior army officers influenced by the radical philosopher Kita Ikki, whose philosophy evolved from a socialist to a pro-fascist perspective, attacked prominent members of the Japanese government and even killed a number of them, including Finance Minister Takahashi Korekiyo and Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Saito Makoto. Attempts were also made on the lives of other prominent political figures such as the Japanese Prime Minister Okada Keisuke. The instigators of the Ni-niroku jiken (the February 26th Incident) wanted to eliminate corrupt politicians and to truly put Emperor Hirohito as the center of the nation in order to purify the corruption in its various branches. The uprising received a bit of support when it occurred, but many, including the Emperor himself, saw it as nothing more than an uprising. The event petered out by February 29th and a number of the young officers were executed.
It is this historical backdrop that forms the setting for Mishima Yukio's first and only film that the prominent novelist directed: Yukoku (Patriotism). Lt. Takeyama Shinji, a member of the same group that initiated the February 26th Incident, was not involved in the siege because, unlike most of his compatriots, he is married and his love for his young wife Reiko knows no bounds. However, when he learns that he is to attack his fellows, Takeyama is caught between his loyalty to his fellow young officers and the Emperor. Instead of betraying either, he decides to commit hara-kiri (seppuku, ritual suicide by slitting the belly open), and is overjoyed when he learns that Reiko will follow him into death. What follows is an intense and sensual lovemaking scene and then a gruesome, albeit sensual, depiction of hara-kiri. A scene that will remain in the viewers mind long after the film comes to an end.
Unlike many of his other works which Mishima allowed directors to make filmic adaptations of, the noted novelist, short story writer, playwright, and body builder was reluctant to allow another man to bring Patriotism to the big screen. Instead, he went to producer Fujii Hiroaki who wholeheartedly supported Mishima's desire to direct the film. Instead of using a normal set depicting the shabby home of a low ranking officer, Mishima worked with Noh master Domoto Masaki to create a set that looked like the stage for Noh theatre, including the raised platform and three pine trees covered in cotton snow. The stark whiteness of the set represents the purity within the hearts of Takeyama and his wife Reiko and the purity of the act that they commit.
Mainly intended for a foreign audience, the film was first shown in France and Mishima created scrollwork for the intertitles of the film in English, France, and German, Patriotism was to make Mishima a renowned man around the world. The film did quite well, but after Mishima's suicide in 1970, he committed hara-kiri, legit copies of the film were locked away in a tea cabinet by Mishima's widow, Yoko. But after her death, the film resurfaced and world film audiences can now see this beautifully gory and tragic film by one of Japan's most prominent postwar writers."
Patriotism foreshadows Mishima's Suicide with Artistic Visio
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 05/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Controversial Japanese playwright and novelist, Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) (who is perhaps best known in the U.S. for writing The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea), viewed his own life as a work of art. He was a prolific writer who, before his death at age 45, authored 40 novels, 18 plays, 20 books of short stories, and more than 20 collections of essays. On November 25, 1970, Mishima committed public "seppuku" (samurai-style suicide by disembowelment), thereby merging his life and art. Based on a short story written four years before Mishima's death, and co-directed by Domoto Masaki and Mishima, Patriotism (Yûkoku) was Mishima's only effort in filmmaking, and the short (27-minute) feature film foreshadows Mishima's final act of self destruction.
The Criterion Collection's simultaneous release of Patriotism and Paul Schrader's truly splendid 1985 film, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (which chronicles Mishima's public, private and literary lives in four black and white "chapters") is a big event for Mishima's cult following. Patriotism tells the story (with graphic gore) of a dishonored Japanese arm lieutenant (Yukio) who, like Mishima, commits seppuku. All prints of the film were reportedly destroyed by Mishima's wife Yoko after his death. However, in 2005, 40 reels of the original film negatives were discovered at the late author's residence in Ota Ward, Tokyo in "pristine condition."
The Criterion edition of Patriotism features a newly restored digital transfer of the Japanese and English versions (with optional Japanese or English intertitles); a 45-minute audio recording of Yukio Mishima speaking to the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Japan; a 45-minute making-of documentary, featuring crew from the film's production; interview excerpts featuring Mishima discussing war and death; and a new essay by critic and historian Tony Rayns, Mishima's original short story, and Mishima's extensive notes on the film's production.
Mr. Eddie | New York, NY | 07/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a Mishima fan, of which I would say I am an on-again off-again kind of guy, this is an incredible film to see. Even if you aren't, "Patriotism" is one of the more compelling depictions of violence put to screen.
Obviously, if you know anything about Yukio Mishima's life that will color your viewing of "Patriotism." But I think it is important to see this as a film from 1966 and encapsulating the fetishistic mindset of a monomaniacal artist and his lifelong obsession. I personally have always found Mishima's writing to be the very definition of tedious, but at the same time compelling in its attention to detail. This film is similar in that it isolates its narrative and savors each moment of its dramatic development. But even more, I do think that Mishima tapped into some of the deepest emotions of Japanese tragedy and "Patriotism" is a very powerful film for it.
Criterion has released this disc more or less in conjunction with their reissue of Paul Schrader's biopic "Mishima". Nothing could make me happier as I intensely dislike that cloying film. It is a cafe-culture charade which apes this work at every step and fails miserably. Yukio Mishima was in his own way a purist and that comes through in this short film. He might have wound up being a better filmmaker than writer."