Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 6

Just one movie last night, but it was a great one. The Kanbar Storytelling award (previously the screenwriting award) was awarded this year to Paul Schrader, and it was pretty cool. Unfortunately, the award was announced after the schedule was released and the program guide printed, so I think a lot of people had made plans to see other shows at that time. At least, that's the excuse I'm using, because the house wasn't nearly full enough for such a great artist.

The interview was good, and Schrader talked about life, writing, directing, etc. In particular he kept moving the conversation back to the movie they were showing afterwards. Which was nice, often the interview gets kind of far-ranging and the presentation is barely mentioned. But he talked about writing with his brother (and then falling out and not talking to him for decades.) And he talked about the odd financing that left it (in his words) a movie made for nobody. Although I do have to give a shout-out to a couple of Bay Area legends--Lucas and Coppola--who got the film made.

Ah, heck, I'm not good at doing or writing about interviews. Let's just get to the film, MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS. Shot in Japan, in Japanese (which Schrader barely spoke) and about the extraordinary life of Yukio Mishima. He was arguably Japan's most celebrated 20th century author. As a child, he learned the force of words before he learned the force of his own body. He was a sickly child, and that sickness kept him out of WWII. But despairing at the post-war consumerism of Japan, he became a right-wing traditionalist leading his own paramilitary unit to fight for the emperor. The movie starts with scenes from his final day, which you can read about here. Oh, what the heck, it's enough of a well known event and foreshadowed so much that spoilers no longer count (also, the movie is 30 years old.) He eventually took over a military commander's office, addressed the gathered soldiers from the balcony, failed to win them over to his cause, and committed ritual seppuku. But that comes at the end of the film, in fact in the fourth chapter. The others--his childhood, his post-war years, his narcissistic bodybuilding obsession, etc. are told in three chapters, interspersed with adaptations of three of his his works--The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko's House, and Runaway Horses. The adaptation scenes provide a fascinating counterpoint, riffing of some of the same ideas in his life but through brightly colored, staged versions of events--comparing and contrasting reality with fiction. An amazing, fascinating movie, and I wish I hadn't been so exhausted (it bodes poorly that I'm struggling to stay awake and it's only halfway through the festival.) So I've already got the Criterion DVD on order, because this is one worth studying a few times.

Running Time: 121 minutes
My Total Minutes: 394,266
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