Friday, July 17, 2009
By Eric Jessen 7/16/09
Let me first explain, Patriotism is a short film directed by the renowned Japanese play writer and author Yukio Mishima. In it, Mishima and actress Yushiko Tsuruoka perform a seppuku, also known as a harakiri, which literally means stomach cutting. This film foreshadowed Mishima's actual death in which he and four understudies locked themselves in the Tokyo headquarters for Japan's Self-Defense department, tied up the commandant, made a speech to Japanese soldiers which was intended to inspire a coup, then committed the ritual suicide including the final beheading of Mishima. Mishima had foreshadowed this event in many of his books and plays. The short film is available on the Criterion Collection. You can also learn more about Mishima's life by watching the fantastic film Mishima: A Life of Four Chapters.
Now I'll tell you what I think of the short film.........
Patriotism is extremely well made with beautiful black and white photography. The high contrast photography accentuates the abstract and organic shapes of the human body. It is a vivid and fascinating portrayal of the ritual suicide. Though perhaps unintended by Mishima, who wanted Patriotism to show how romantic and noble a seppuku is, Patriotism exposes flaws in a feudalistic, militarist society. There's is also an interesting strangely erotic nature to the ritual suicide in Patriotism........But..........Call me naive......... I hate how Yukio Mishima exploits the film medium. He used Patriotism as a publicity stunt to increase his fame in 1966 and to increase his legend, making it a piece of the puzzle that foreshadowed his own suicide. Mishima was a genius at marketing himself. He wore funny clothes, dated famous women, appeared in gangster movies (only if he died in the movie) and did outrageous things all to increase his fame. He thought he would receive a Nobel prize for literature if he increased his notoriety overseas. So, he decided to make an eye-popping short film (you can learn all of this, as I did, in the text that comes with the Criterion DVD of Patriotism). Other than winning a Nobel Prize, everything worked out the way he planned. Patriotism was nominated at prestigious short film awards, his fame increased throughout the world, and his eventual suicide drastically increased his legend. He did it all because he's a self centered, ego maniacal lunatic. What's more selfish than killing yourself to further your legend? And I hate that it all worked. Be cynical, tell me every director makes movies only out of self interest, fame, legend, and I'll ignore you. I like to think otherwise.