PATRIOTISM (Yukio Mishima, Domoto Masaki, 1966)

Japanese author Yukio Mishima directed but one film: based on his own short story, Yûkoku. It involves a couple, military officer Shinji Takeyama (played by Mishima) and his wife, Reiko, who prepare for and commit harakiri following a failed 1936 coup d’état—a real event—in which Takeyama participated, and for which he will be expected to execute his comrades. The black-and-white (except for music) silent film utilizes a Nōh stage and the couple, on the floor or in their bed, below a gigantic wall poster whose characters apparently translate as “Wholehearted Sincerity.” The short film predates by four years Mishima’s own ritual suicide, ostensibly provoked by his intense anxiety over Japan’s current social and political state—that is, yûkoku.
     As cinema, Mishima’s film, co-directed by Domoto Masaki, is arty nonsense, appalling drivel. Tenderness flows between the two characters, busting the floodgates of Japanese reserve, all in anticipation of the flood of blood and guts to follow. The closeups of hands on bodies; the tight closeups of faces; the selfconscious lyricism of their intimacy: all this soulfulness, especially as a windup for an obscenely bloody pitch, is sick, slick, depraved.
     Have I forgotten to mention Takeyama’s wearing his officer’s cap at the oddest times, eerily hiding his eyes? But the film is full of hiding. Kimitaké Hiraoka hiding behind his nom-de-plume and reinvented identity, Yukio Mishima. Mishima’s homosexuality closeted behind the show here of heterosexual passion. Mishima’s fierce feudal/reactionary conservatism: who knows to what extent this sought, consciously or otherwise, to divert eyes from his sexual orientation, which Japanese society deemed, at best, a weakness?
     Frankly, because of Mishima’s soon-after suicide, this film gave me a case of the willies. It is sentimental crap that provides little insight into Mishima’s own tormented psyche.


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